Should LeBron James be the greatest of all time if the Cleveland Cavaliers win the 2015 NBA Finals?
Dime Magazine’s Spencer Lund thinks so.
In his June 11 article, Lund makes a case for James being the greatest NBA player ever because of his do-it-all performance entering Game 4 of the Finals.
Through three games against the Golden State Warriors on basketball’s biggest stage, James has averaged an astonishing 41 points. He’s not only making mincemeat of Golden State’s defense without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, he’s also doing it on both ends of the floor: In the Cavs’ 96-91 Game 3 win, LBJ had 12 rebounds and eight assists.
Regardless if James goes down in NBA lore as its greatest player or not, we are fortunate to be in the same era as he is.
— Dime Magazine (@DimeMag) June 11, 2015
Because of how so well James has been performing, Lund starts off by labeling each of the all-time greats as “a coddled star how had NBA championships handed to them.”
Lund compares James to Michael Jordan. He argues the latter had many support players (Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman, Luc Longley, John Paxson and Steve Kerr) and the winningest coach in league history, Phil Jackson.
In contrast, LeBron hasn’t had much support. All he has to lean on has been Aussie backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova. Plus, his head coach, David Blatt, is a rookie, per Lund.
On the other hand, Lund says Larry Bird had guys such as Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and “the coach of the Rockets” (Kevin McHale). When the Boston Celtics beat the Houston Rockets for the NBA title in 1981, the former had a Hall-of-Fame-caliber coach in Bill Fitch.
When the Celtics won the NBA title again in 1984 and 1986, K.C. Jones was their head coach. He won two NCAA championships during his college career in San Francisco and also earned eight NBA championship rings as a player. Blatt doesn’t come close to both Fitch and Jones, per Lund.
As for Magic Johnson, he had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott, Bob McAdoo, Norm Nixon, Jamaal Wilkes and Michael Cooper to lean on. At the time Pat Riley took over as Lakers head coach in 1982, he had no coaching experience.
However, Lund downplays this fact because as we all know by now, Riley is a Hall of Fame head coach.
Lund then cites examples of other NBA all-time greats who didn’t do it all by themselves in the Finals:
- The 1976 Boston Celtics boasted of guys such as John Havlicek, Paul Silas, Jo Jo White and Dave Cowens.
- The 1983 Philadelphia 76ers featured a balanced attack as they had Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney.
- Dirk Nowitzki had Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd when the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals.
- Lund says the 2004 Detroit Pistons “had each other.” That championship team had the likes of Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Richard “Rip” Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince.
Lund dismisses past championship teams such as the 1978 Washington Bullets and 1979 Seattle SuperSonics, whom he each compares to “a collective 2015 Cavs team.”
The Dime Magazine article also says the 2005 NBA Finals pitting the San Antonio Spurs against the Detroit Pistons was more popular than the entire 1970s decade of NBA basketball.
Lund then determines the two teams which come closest to the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers (if they win the NBA crown) are the 1975 Golden State Warriors and the 1994-95 Houston Rockets.
According to Lund, the player who is the most similar to James in a similar setting is 1975 NBA Finals MVP Rick Barry, who averaged 29.2 points in the four-game sweep of Wes Unseld’s Bullets.
— Thomas Blair (@JOKER1112) June 10, 2015
Barry’s teammate who came closest to that average was Jamaal Wilkes, who chipped in with 11.5 points in each of those four games against Washington.
Lund says the Cavaliers’ second-leading scorer in the NBA Finals is center Timofey Mozgov, who has averaged 13.0 points through three games against Golden State.
During the 1994 NBA playoffs, Hakeem Olajuwon averaged 28.9 points per game to Vernon Maxwell’s 13.9 points. Lund then explains his reason for giving LBJ the nod over The Dream as the NBA’s all-time greatest.
He says, “Still, LeBron’s performance this season is better. Primarily because it’s happening right now, ******* in front of us. A lot more people watch basketball now than they did in 1994, so it’s more important now. LOGIC!”
Olajuwon and Co. repeated as champions the following year, but a hefty dose of credit goes to Clyde Drexler. Lund says this championship victory isn’t better than LeBron James’ this season because of one reason: “The Glide,” the No. 2 man who complemented “The Dream” perfectly.
Lund confesses he thought the Warriors might sweep the Cavaliers in the 2015 NBA Finals. However, James has turned things completely around.
He is in the process of doing what his predecessors have never done: winning it all by himself.
The Parting Shot
Lund presents the interesting case of LeBron James winning the 2015 NBA title all by himself.
James’ dominating performance has us seeing him in a different light. Sure, he has won four NBA MVP Awards and two NBA titles.
In spite of the support he’s been getting, his detractors aren’t convinced. Time and again, they still reminisce about his past choke jobs (such as the one during the 2011 NBA Finals as a member of the Miami Heat) and his tendency to be a flopper.
It turns out his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers is not only a fresh start for him and the fans, it’s also an opportunity to prove the naysayers wrong. Choke job, you say? He scored 123 points in the first three games of the 2015 NBA Finals, setting a new record.
Flopper? A leader is more like it.
If there’s one word to describe him during this postseason, it’s relentless.
A perfect example of this was Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks. He missed his first 10 shots, but still finished with an amazing 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in a 114-111 overtime win.
This year, he’s like the modern-day version of Oscar Robertson. He’s been Mr. Do-It-All for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Perhaps the basketball gods got together and decided not having Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving would be a good thing for the Cavs, specifically LeBron James.
Not having two of Cleveland’s Big Three is bringing out the best in James, who, is already considered by many as the greatest player on the planet.
This situation is already sharpening James’ leadership skills. His teammates, especially Matthew Dellavedova, have followed his lead.
— Dime Magazine (@DimeMag) June 12, 2015
Right now there’s simply no argument against James’ postseason performance. It’s been that great.
LBJ registered another triple-double with 20 points (on 7-of-22 shooting), 12 rebounds and eight assists in Cleveland’s 103-82 loss to Golden State in Game 4 on June 11.
It won’t be a step back. LeBron will come back strong.
Now, if the Cavaliers win the series, yes, we can say LeBron James is the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time). If they lose, MJ still earns that distinction.
Either which way it goes, there’s no disputing the fact we are very lucky to be witnessing one of the greatest—if not the greatest—performance in NBA Finals history.