LeBron James: The greatest to ever play the sport?

Pierson VanGorp

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LeBron James: The greatest to ever play the sport?

CLEVELAND THIS IS FOR YOU!

The words of an emotional Lebron James after their finals victory over the Warriors in 2016. We all know how the story goes: the 73-9 warriors took a 3-1 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They would then blow the lead as Lebron James led his team to 3 consecutive wins to seal the finals. This was the 3rd championship out of 4 that Lebron won. With all the pressure that Lebron has dealt with in his career, this was his biggest win. He has dealt with this pressure since he was in high school, so to see him succeed like this proves how much adversity he has faced. After this game, the GOAT conversation was a bigger topic now that Lebron had his 3rd ring. A recurring theme in this debate was that Jordan and Lebron were the two players talked about in this debate, but most people believe Jordan is the goat due to the fact that he dominated the 90’s and he has 6 rings. Although that is true, there is way more to the best player ever than rings. There are accomplishments, all-time stats, all-time wins and more. The fact that most people base their opinions on who has more rings is completely unfair. If that was so, then Bill Russell would be the GOAT. With that being said, I believe Lebron is the GOAT. Although Jordan had 3 more rings and has a better finals record, Lebron is the greatest basketball player ever because of his longevity, the pressure he’s faced since a young age and how he’s handled it, and better all-around stats than Jordan. Therefore, Lebron is better than Jordan.

The first reason why Lebron is better than Jordan is because of how long Lebron has been in the league compared to Jordan. Specifically, how good Lebron has been in this past season. In his 17th year, Lebron James averaged 25 PPG, 10.2 APG, and 7.8 RPG. Lebron James averaged a career high in assists per game in his 17th year in the league. The fact that Lebron James is improving in his 17th year just shows how good of a player Lebron is. Jordan did not even see year 17, as he retired after year 15. Michael Jordan got a little bit worse towards the end of his career while Lebron is still improving at age 35. The 10.2 APG is a career high for The Chosen One. Lebron has been known as an unstoppable scorer with a good basketball IQ, but it is a shock that his passing has improved as he has gotten older. A big reason why Lebron has played a while is his long-term health. He spends 1.5 million dollars on physical training to keep his body fit. This has shown on the court as he has played 60+ games in every year but one. That year, he suffered a groin injury that forced him to miss 27 games. Even though he suffered a tough injury, Lebron still played in 55 games that season. The most impressive part about his longevity is how much he plays. Lebron has played above 34 minutes a game in every season of his career which is astonishing. It gets crazier when it comes to the playoffs though. Lebron averages over 40 minutes per game in the playoffs and he has made the playoffs 14 times. In 1,265 games, Lebron James has averaged 38.4 minutes per game. Recently, Lebron played nearly 40 minutes per game while playing in every game in the 2018 season. Longevity has been the key to success for Lebron. 

Translating into that success, Lebron is the greatest player ever due to the ridiculous all-around stats he has. Other than longevity stats, Lebron has more stats to boast. James has had great playoff success, reaching the finals in 9 out of the last 10 NBA finals. Lebron has the most playoff PPG and SPG while second in APG and threes made. Specifically in postseason PPG, Lebron is 1,504 points ahead of second place. Who is in second place: Michael Jordan. Lebron has owned playoff stats in recent memory other than one stat: finals record. Yes, Lebron’s finals record is deficient compared to Jordan’s record, but Lebron has faced much harder opponents in his past finals compared to Jordan. Those opponents were the Golden State Warriors. Golden State started its dynasty right as Lebron was heating up. In 2015, the injury riddled Cavaliers faced the Warriors. This series seemed to be a sure sweep, but Lebron took two games from them with one being on their homecourt. When Lebron got his squad fully healthy in 2016, the outcome was different. Although the warriors took a 3-1 lead, Lebron defied the odds and won his 3rd championship. After the finals win, a top 5 player, Kevin Durant, decided to join Golden State. He had joined already the greatest team ever record wise so Lebron had a lot to deal with here. Lebron would go on to lose the next two finals but he gave it his all averaging 33 PPG, 8 APG and 9 RPG. The 4-6 finals record does not look so bad due to the fact that he faced some of the best teams ever. If fans bring up Lebron’s finals record, then it is fair to bring up Jordan’s first round record. Jordan lost 3 times in the first round compared to Lebron’s 0. Lebron did not struggle in the first round while Jordan had some fits early in the first round. The last stat that shows Lebron is the GOAT is his team’s record after he left. In Lebron’s last year in Cleveland, the Cavs were 61-21 in the 2009-10 season. After Lebron’s departure, the Cavs went 19-63 with the worst record in the league. And in James’ last season with Miami, they went 54-28 ,while in the year after Lebron left, they went 37-45. In both instances, Lebron’s former teams got much worse and missed the playoffs. The year before Jordan retired, the Bulls went 57-25. The year he retired, the Bulls went 55-27. Only 2 games worse than the year before. This shows how good the Bulls teams were compared to how much Lebron carried his teams. 

The last and the main reason why Lebron James is the greatest basketball player to graze the planet is how he defied the odds ever since he was young. When he was a teenager, he had the most pressure imaginable for a kid his age. At the age of 14, scouts and fans heard rumors of a stud in Akron, Ohio who would be next up. He shocked scouts with his athleticism and basketball. At a Nike basketball camp, Lebron and Carmelo Anthony would go toe-for-toe as they traded buckets during a scrimmage. Lebron impressed the host, Sonny Vaccaro, so much that he started talking to Lebron about a future shoe deal. When Lebron was 17, he grazed the cover of Sports Illustrated with the title “Chosen One”. He also had a bunch of national televised games during his last year of high school. Lebron paved the way for national televised high school games. He was getting calls from colleges, the NBA, shoe companies, and other sponsorship companies. The pressure was on. There had been many players who failed to succeed after being in the spotlight. Many were caught up on drugs or gang violence which led them to their downfall. Was Lebron the next one to fail? Would all this added pressure at a young age catch up to him? Would Lebron’s downfall be a result of drugs or gang violence? The simple answer to these questions is no. Lebron entered the league straight out of high school and was taken to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had an immediate impact even though players on his own team were calling him overrated and not needed there. He continued to grow as a player, and as a result, made the all-star team in his second year. Lebron had success in the regular season but missed one accomplishment: a championship. Disappointing after disappointing loss in the playoffs drove Lebron mad which led him to make the decision of his life so far. He left Cleveland in 2010 to go to Miami and form the big 3 with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Lebron was cut short once again losing to Dallas. He said enough was enough and won his first championship in 2012 shutting up all the haters. After another championship win, Lebron felt accomplished enough to leave Miami to re-join Cleveland in 2014. His one promise to Cleveland was he was not leaving without a championship. He was not successful in 2015 after Golden State defeated Cleveland in 6. Then in 2016, Lebron found himself in a similar situation like 2015. They were down 3-1 and their chances were slim because Golden State had 2 home games remaining. Lebron defied the odds once again winning the series in 7. After a game 6 win, Lebron said “ They’re screwed up. Mentally and physically they’re screwed up”. Lebron was more vulgar in his actual statement. After the 2016 championship win, Lebron considered himself the GOAT and so do I. He dealt with legitimate pressure and hate at a young age and throughout his career. Jordan never dealt with any pressure like this. Instead, he was recruited heavily to North Carolina and played multiple seasons for the Tar heels. He never dealt with the pressure in the league either. If anything, he was more commonly praised than hated. Nowadays, Lebron is the most hated player in the league.

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Michael Jordan: The greatest to ever play the sport?