It’s fine to hate LeBron James. In fact, it’s completely acceptable at this point. Hatred comes along with the price of being great. It’s something that even the most premier athletes are accustomed to (e.g Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady). However, with LeBron James, the naysayers take it to a completely different level. To be fair, James did come into the league while assuming nicknames and titles such as, ‘The King’ or ‘The Chosen One’. When one puts themselves in that category, their every move is watched closely, and thus every flaw becomes a case for scrutiny. Successes become short-lived and difficulties become entertainment. LeBron has become the greatest basketball player of all time BECAUSE of the people who have doubted him. His willpower and resolve are aspects of his character that truly define him, and it’s no secret that he’s had that ability since he was young. Growing up in the inner-city and making it out is a major accomplishment in itself, but he has far surpassed even that achievement.
LeBron was recently spotted listening to Meek Mill’s new song, “Never Lose” during one of his workout videos (which has garnered way too much attention). This specific video, however, has a very significant meaning behind it: LeBron really can’t lose. Any further performances from here on out are just icing on the cake. No star in league history, let alone in this era, could ever be the complete player that is LeBron James. Yes, he has had many failures and shortcomings, but through those failures, he has also succeeded. Even in the occasions where LeBron has failed, he has not shied away from the moment. He has always shown that he is up to the challenge, and only someone who truly envies him would deny it. His trials and tribulations on the court and his prominence as a figure of basketball off the court make it really easy to see: LeBron is the greatest of all time. His presence has changed the NBA as a whole, and he has proven to be the best at his craft.
Statistically, the arguments are all in his favor. LeBron James averages a line of 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game for his entire career. He has done so in an efficient manner as well, shooting 50% for his career. James can (and has) singlehandedly make a team better like no other player in his era, or in any other era. He has consistently been able to get teammates involved while becoming one of the best scorers in league history. He even cleans the glass effectively, adding to his overall repertoire. LeBron’s steal and block statistics show how great of a defender he is, especially off the ball. Critics who said LeBron’s game depended on athleticism are now eating their words; he is now well into his 30s and has shown no signs of slowing down. His playoff stats are even more phenomenal, as LeBron has shown that he elevates his play time and time again in the postseason. In terms of all-time regular season marks, he is seventh in scoring, 12th in assists and 20th in steals. You will not find a player that dominant in that many categories. He is a 13-time all-star with 11 first-team selections, four regular season MVPs, and three finals MVPs. All of this, and he still has 4-5 good years left in him. The King has racked up the numbers and will probably break even more records in the coming future. But, as we all know, stats aren’t everything. There’s much more to his career than the numbers.
LeBron James is easily the most dominant player ever. Simply consider the fact that any team that LeBron joins in the NBA today will automatically be competing for an NBA title. That couldn’t be said about any of the other superstars in the NBA. To be frank, that can’t be said about most of the greats that have played this game. Almost all of them had an all-star or hall-of-fame caliber player with them en route to a deep playoff run. Just look back to the 2007 Finals Cavaliers roster. LeBron had a starting lineup that consisted of Sasha Pavlović, Drew Gooden, Daniel Gibson and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Besides Ilgauskas, none of those players ever made the all-star game and none of you reading this probably remember who those players are or what they look like. The only reason you could have the slightest memory of them is because of LeBron James single handedly carried this team to the finals, at just 22 years of age. They didn’t win a single game, but the King was very young at the time. Throughout this series, he showed that he was on his way to big things. This loss would set LeBron up for the rest of his career, where he would just get better and better as the years went on.
James joined the Miami Heat in what was and still may be the most talked-about move by a superstar in any sport. The public eye is always on LeBron, but this time it was fuel for more criticism. LeBron played with some of the worst talent in the league while in Cleveland. He constantly made them a title contender, and the formation of the Boston Celtics big three made LeBron go elsewhere. LeBron was criticized for joining two other stars in the league. Being a superstar, many thought that he was unable to perform in pressure situations and that he was trying to use more talent to cover this up. He was viewed as weak, selfish, and above all else, an arrogant coward. Essentially, LeBron received heat for creating what many other Hall of Famers had in their own careers. If you look at the teams that Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Magic Johnson played on, you will see many hall of fame and all-star caliber players. LeBron never had the opportunities that they had coming into the league, so he made it happen for himself. In fact, LeBron isn’t the originator of the super-team as many might think. In the modern era, the Boston Celtics were the first official formation of a super team (Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and KG). The move to Miami was brilliant because LeBron got to show the world (especially the haters) exactly how good he was when it mattered.
Playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh didn’t come as easily as LeBron expected. His first year proved to be an adjustment. A great regular season and postseason run ended in a disappointing loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. Disclaimer: this is the ONLY disappointment in LeBron’s career that can be placed on his shoulders. He simply didn’t perform, and it was his first true shot at a championship. He flat out blew it and many critics were quick to jump on it. LeBron was no longer in the discussion of greatest ever to many people. The critics claimed that LeBron was too passive in the game’s most important moments, as he continued to play his facilitator-first role rather than to try and take over. The detractors were trying to make the point that James did not have the heart of a champion nor the mentality of a winner. Yet, all this did was fuel him further. With this loss in the finals, LeBron became motivated to take the throne that he claimed was his.
LeBron’s legacy was on the line the very next season and there was no room for error. After a long season and a grueling series with the Pacers (one of the deepest and most talented teams in the league), the Miami Heat found themselves down 3-2 to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics were a team that was formed to win multiple championships and this super-team was the real reason LeBron had left to join Miami. A loss to them would be a failure worth no excuses. He had the team that he wanted and Miami had blown a 2-1 series lead facing a must-win in Boston. LeBron would not fail again. He went into Boston and scored 45 points while pulling down 15 rebounds and helping his team to a blowout victory over the Celtics. In Game 7, LeBron capped off the series with a 31 point, 12 rebound performance. LeBron’s assist numbers in this series were lower than usual, but this was actually a good thing. It showed that with the game and season on the line, he took the game over like the greats he aspired to be. Just as the critics said he couldn’t, LeBron did. King James took that mentality into the finals and played a young, but very talented and complete OKC Thunder team. Despite Chris Bosh’s subpar play in this series, LeBron picked up the steam with the help of Dwyane Wade. After losing game one, the Heat won four consecutive games as LeBron averaged 28 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists for the series. He led his team in those three categories and was rightfully named the NBA Finals MVP. People forget how good this Thunder team was that LeBron played. They had beaten the Spurs, Lakers, and defending champion Mavericks on their quest to the finals. LeBron dispatched the team in five games and did so in dominant fashion. For once, the haters started to quiet down, but LeBron had more work to do.
The Miami Heat again cruised through the regular season in 2013. LeBron James and company again overcame a competitive Indiana Pacers team to reach the NBA Finals. LeBron was once again pitted against the San Antonio Spurs for the title. This time, he had reinforcements, but the Spurs now had Kawhi Leonard in addition to their three future Hall of Famers. The Spurs were even more talented than the exceptional Oklahoma City team that the Heat had defeated last year. Gregg Popovich, arguably the greatest coach in basketball, was leading this talented unit and, once again, the odds were stacked against LeBron. Though the series was filled with great basketball, LeBron’s legacy came into question throughout the competition. After the Spurs took a 3-2 lead over the Heat, LeBron was under fire yet again. Although his play had been stellar at both ends, critics questioned his style in deferring to his team as opposed to him driving to the rim. This criticism came up again and has been perpetual throughout LeBron’s career, simply because he doesn’t play the game the critics want him to play. LeBron continued playing the style that he is accustomed to; all-around dominant basketball. In Game 6, LeBron recorded a 32-point triple double in an overtime must-win game. In Game 7, LeBron capped off his brilliant series with another legendary performance. James annihilated the belief that he lacked a killer mentality by scoring 37 points in a defensive 95-88 victory over the Spurs. Not only this, but with the Heat up just 2 points and under 30 seconds to go, LeBron pulled up from mid-range and hit a jumper over Kawhi Leonard to essentially close out the series. The shot epitomized everything that the critics said the King could not be. Many say Ray Allen saved LeBron’s legacy in this series with his game-tying shot in Game 6. They forget that James carried the Heat in the fourth quarter of both games 6 and 7 on BOTH ends of the floor. LeBron thereby inched closer to greatness with his second title win and first title defense.
The next season was another solid performance that led to an NBA finals berth for James. Unfortunately, an ailing Chris Bosh and a much older Dwayne Wade struggled to help provide for LeBron James in this series, as the Heat fell 4-1. The championship window seemed to have closed for Miami, but James was exceptional yet again. He shot over 57% from the field (52% from 3) to go with his 28 points and 8 rebounds per game. LeBron had proved everything he could in Miami, but there was one thing left to do; bring a title to Cleveland.
James returned to the Cavaliers in 2014 and the spotlight was on him yet again. The team cruised to the NBA Finals and LeBron displayed his basketball prowess in tremendous fashion. He took one of the worst teams in the league from the year before to the NBA finals in his first season back. However, LeBron was up against new competition in the form of MVP Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. The team had redefined basketball with their emphasis on rapid-fire jump shooting. LeBron showed that even this new challenge was not something out of the ordinary. The Cavaliers jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the series and looked in control, but things took a turn for the worst. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love both went down to injuries and it seemed that the bad luck that had plagued LeBron over the course of his career was back to haunt him. The King was phenomenal and his stats showed that he was easily the best player on the court. It still wasn’t enough. Without a team at full force, LeBron would come up short. The Warriors became NBA Champions, but James wasn’t finished just yet.
The next season, the NBA Finals held a rematch of the epic clash between the Cavaliers and the Warriors. This time, both squads were healthy and LeBron had a chance to rewrite the wrongs of last season. Yet, LeBron seemed to be heading towards failure. With no excuses in sight, the Cavaliers were outplayed by the Warriors. Golden State took a commanding 3-1 lead with the series heading back to their home court. LeBron’s greatness came into question yet again, but the debate picked up heat this time like never before. James had already shown that he was one of the greatest players ever, but many believed that if LeBron failed to attain a title in this series, that he could no longer be placed in that conversation for the top spot. Critics AGAIN claimed that James did not have the ability to take over and that this time, there was no turning back. James had his back against the wall. The Cavs needed to win twice in Oakland, and three consecutive games for the King to save his legacy. All of this against a 73-9 ball club.
LeBron responded in Game 5 in a manner that only LeBron could. He went into Oakland and scored 41 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, and dished out 7 assists in arguably one of the most dominant performances in championship history. Kyrie Irving proved to be the second option that LeBron so desperately needed. Irving scored 41 points and the Cavaliers took the series back to Cleveland for a Game 6 face-off. Jordan, Magic, Kareem, Kobe, Shaq… each of these players had another star in the prime of his career to help them win titles, and now Kyrie was emerging for LeBron. James scored 41 points yet again in Game 6 to go along with 11 assists and 8 boards. He accounted for well over half of his team’s points in this game as he looked like a man possessed to prove the world wrong. LeBron came out in Game 7 with the same attitude. The game turned into a defensive struggle as both teams stayed scoreless for three of the final four minutes in the game. LeBron, however, still managed to make his mark on the situation and produced arguably the greatest defensive play in NBA Finals history. With the score tied, the Warriors got on a two-on-one fast break. Steph Curry passed the ball to an open Iguodala who went up for his lay-up, and was blocked by James who seemingly came in from out of nowhere to deflect it off of the glass. The shot saved the Cavaliers’ chances and eventually led to Kyrie Irving’s game-winning three-pointer. LeBron closed out the game by cutting to the basket and drawing a foul on Draymond Green. He made one of his two free throws, finished with a 27-point triple-double, and capped off arguably the greatest comeback in sports history. He overcame the impossible and the critics were turning into believers.
LeBron James has done it all. His stats show that he is the most complete player ever, but there are pieces of evidence even stronger than this. Look at his body of work. Aside from the many MVP awards, first team All-NBA selections, and NBA championships, LeBron has done things that no other great has. He has beaten and taken down three super teams in his playoff career. Aside from the loss to the Mavericks, LeBron has truly been the best player on the court in each of his championship series runs. Yes, bad luck and terrible timing have hurt LeBron’s chances to win and capitalize, but he didn’t stop. LeBron’s biggest rival in terms of legacy is most certainly Michael Jordan. He is clearly a more complete player than Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, or Larry Bird. The debate comes down to MJ, who continues to downplay LeBron James and his entire career. However, Jordan struggled to reach the Finals once without Pippen (or even past the second round). LeBron reached contender status before he entered the prime of his career. The argument that LeBron needs help to win is simply a tired cliché. Every championship team has needed a few All-Stars or Hall of Fame-caliber players to win a title. In terms of being a complete player, Jordan pales in comparison to LeBron. The only area of advantage that Jordan holds over the King (in the eyes of some NBA analysts) is clutch-time play. However, LeBron proves to be the better teammate in these moments of the game. He is a playmaker who values efficiency. Even when the right play is not there, LeBron has his own fair share of clutch shots and game winners that haters seem to completely ignore. The King is the most complete player in the game. He is not just a ‘scorer’. He can do it all on the court, unlike any player we have seen before. So Jordan may continue to call LeBron out, but it is out of fear. He has the all-around ability of Magic and Oscar, the scoring prowess of Kareem, and the leadership of MJ.
The King is so good that the entire league has changed its course to remain relevant. Kevin Durant, one of the three best players on the planet and the best scorer in the game today, needed to join the same Warriors team that LeBron defeated in 2016 in order to win a championship. Even though the Warriors were able to top the Cavaliers in the 2017 Finals, the series signified how LeBron has changed the NBA forever. Currently, the league now has a true emphasis on not only winning, but winning big. This is directly related to LeBron James. The Celtics started this trend when they formed a super team to try and stop LeBron in the peak of his career. The Warriors followed suit in order to take him down and many other star-powered teams are now being formed. Many will incorrectly label the Warriors to be the start of this, but it was in fact LeBron James who began it all. No, he is not the originator of the super team; he is the reason why super-teams exist in the first place. The entire league knows that LeBron’s dominance, unselfish play, and emphasis on championship basketball has changed the landscape of the NBA for many years to come. No other superstar, be it Durant, Curry, Westbrook or Harden, could ever shake the league at its very core the way that James has. There is simply no way around it. LeBron James is the greatest player of all time.