LeBron James doesn’t have anything left to prove.
The star forward is a three-time NBA champion, and he will make his seventh straight NBA Finals appearance when the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Golden State Warriors in the 2016-17 Finals.
At this stage in his career, James simply is strengthening a legacy that already is among the greatest in basketball history. But if the 14-year NBA veteran takes down the vaunted Warriors in back-to-back seasons, James will put himself in rarified air.
Cleveland’s series win over Golden State last year was remarkably impressive in itself. The Warriors had posted the NBA’s best regular season in history by going 73-9. And to make the feat even more impressive, James and the Cavs overcome a 3-1 series lead, an achievement that had never been accomplished in league history.
And although this will be the third NBA Finals go-around between the Cavaliers and Warriors, this year’s tale of the tape is much different than the previous two. With the addition of Kevin Durant, Golden State has one of the most impressive starting lineups basketball has ever seen. It will be a tall task for Cleveland to repeat as champions, but it’s nothing James and Co. can’t handle.
Many prematurely cast off the Cavaliers after they struggled in the latter stages of the regular season, but these doubts quickly were put to rest once the 2017 NBA playoffs began. James has taken his game to another level, one that has left basketball fans speechless. Depending on his team’s need, James can score at will or facilitate the offense. Oh yeah, he’s an elite defender, too.
Win or lose, the outcome of this year’s NBA Finals naturally will fuel one of this generation’s favorite sports debates: James vs. Michael Jordan. Jordan always will hold his perfect 6-0 NBA Finals record over James’ head, but LeBron’s opponents in these recent Finals must be considered.
While Jordan’s opponents certainly weren’t walks in the park, he never had to go against a team like the Warriors. Golden State virtually has no holes on its roster, and it hasn’t lost with its preferred starting five in action since Feb. 28.
James has accomplished a lot in his decade-plus in the league, but another victory over the Warriors in the NBA Finals would be his greatest achievement. LeBron has been a man on a mission in these playoffs, and the Cavs star has hinted at wanting to dethrone Jordan as the consensus “greatest basketball player ever.”
It’s tough to debate the two, as they played in eras with drastically different styles of play. But if James notches back-to-back championship wins over one of the best teams in NBA history, you’ll be left with no other choice than to at least consider him as the best to ever step on a basketball court.
Thumbnail photo via Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports Images
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