LeBron’s Complicated Legacy
As the clock winded down in Game 7 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the young Boston Celtics, Jeff Van Gundy emphatically stated that the victory for LeBron James, which solidified his eighth straight trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, was the most impressive feat of his career. Whether or not the statement is true, the playoff run spearheaded by James was reminiscent of the run he made at the age of 22, when he carried a weak team all the way through the Eastern Conference past the Brooklyn Nets and the Detroit Pistons. The dominance that LeBron displayed in Game 5 against Detroit, where he scored 48 points and at one point scored 25 straight points for the Cavaliers, has been sustained for this season’s entire postseason; his 44 point burst in Game 6 against Boston marked the seventh time that he reached the 40 point threshold in the playoffs.
Now, fast forward two weeks to the NBA Finals where the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves in a predictable 2-0 hole against the Golden State Warriors. Because of a few controversial calls and a terrible late game decision by J.R. Smith, Cleveland lost Game 1 in a heartbreaking fashion, despite LeBron’s postseason career high 51 points. Even his 29 point, 9 Rebound, and 13 Assist effort in Game 2 wasn’t enough, and it seems a real possibility that Cleveland will get swept, another loss to what is already a dismal record in the Finals for James.
The unfortunate thing about all Championships in sports is that it is so much easier to encapsulate all the amazing statistics and plays that occur with just a single number: the record that a player holds in those series. In most likely two games, LeBron’s record in the NBA Finals will drop to 3-6, giving him the same number of losses as victories for Michael Jordan in the Championship round of professional basketball. Every imaginable meme will be posted on Instagram and ridiculing will begin for LeBron on many debate shows. Kevin Durant will probably be proclaimed the best basketball player by some LeBron haters, especially if he continues the offensive dominance that he displayed in Game 2.
Ten years down the road, so many fans will forget just how daunting and talented this Golden State team was. People won’t recognize that LeBron lost to a Warriors that had four Hall of Famers in the midst of their prime. They will forget how LeBron carried a group of wildly inconsistent players on his shoulders through the Eastern Conference as well as his 51 point masterpiece in the first game of the Finals. If we all want to be fair to LeBron and his legacy, our generation must constantly remind fans of his impact on the basketball court, even if his Finals record doesn’t show for it.