June 2, 2016
Legacy. It is a word that is thrown around a ton these days. But most of the time, it is thrown around too much and at the wrong times.
LeBron James’ legacy has been discussed a lot over the years. But at age 31, we are finally getting to the point where we can really discuss his legacy as a great player.
James is one of the greatest players in NBA history, no question. Depending on how each person ranks their own personal list, he in the top 10 players, top 15 at worst.
Anyone who questions how great he is has to remember that he is playing in his sixth straight NBA Finals. Last season, he dragged an injured and talent-depleted Cleveland Cavaliers team to the finals.
This year, he returns with a healthy team to face the Golden State Warriors for a second straight year. And this years' finals could begin to set his legacy in stone.
James currently has a 2-4 NBA Finals record. People judge him because he went into the league behind Michael Jordan, who went 6-0 in final appearances. Kobe Bryant was 5-2 in final appearances and took the torch as the best NBA player from Jordan.
James took the torch from Bryant but hasn’t had the success that either Jordan or Bryant had on the biggest stage in the NBA. It didn’t help that James lost two of those finals to a great San Antonio Spurs team.
You can make the case that James, when he was with the Miami Heat, shouldn’t have lost to the Dallas Mavericks. On the other hand, you have to remember that he was lucky to win one of his titles against the Spurs after San Antonio fell apart in game six.
There are several reasons the public judges James harshly. His ESPN special, “The Decision,” which talks about him leaving Cleveland for Miami, hurt the public’s opinion of him.
It hasn’t helped that James has a habit of disappearing at times in the finals. He also has a bad habit of becoming a jump shooter, one of his weaknesses, during those times. People remember when he shrinks in the biggest moments.
No one remembers how great you were getting to the finals. They only remember how great you played on that stage.
Things have come around now that James is back in Cleveland. People have returned to the idea that they would like to see a native son bring back a title to city that is struggling and dreaming of one.
James winning for Cleveland would be like the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series. It would change the perception of his titles and his final appearances. Winning a title in Cleveland would mean more than winning a title, period.
With a win, James would up his record to 3-4 in NBA Finals. The win for Cleveland would make it seem like he has an even or winning finals record in the eyes of the public.
If James loses, he falls to 2-5 in NBA Finals at the age of 31. He will still have five to six good years ahead of him, but minutes and injuries will start to catch up.
This years' finals are a pivotal moment for James and how he will be viewed after he retires. His finals record isn’t as bad as Jerry West, who is the figure in the NBA Logo and was 1-8 in NBA Finals or Elgin Baylor who went 0-8 in NBA Finals.
James is currently tied with Wilt Chamberlain at 2-4 in finals appearances. Chamberlain is still considered a great player but not the greatest of all-time. Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics foiled him, as Russell went on to win 11 NBA titles.
A win can change the public's view of James so much in this later stage of his career. A loss would just reinforce the opinion that James is a great player but by no means as great as Jordan or Bryant.
Game one of the 2016 NBA Finals begins at 8 p.m. tonight on ABC.