Through the course of one night, one 48-minute span of basketball in the NBA Finals, LeBron James has a chance to become immortal.
- Cleveland Cavaliers (3-3)
- Golden State Warriors (3-3)
- NBA Finals Game 7, Sunday, Jun. 19, 8 pm ET, ABC
- Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
We’ve witnessed the greatness LeBron James has showcased. The basketball IQ, the unselfishness, the leadership, the raw physical ability — it’s a complete package the NBA had never laid eyes on prior.
Not until this, his 13th year in the association at age 31, has James had the opportunity to take his greatness status and turn it immortal.
Make no mistake, with four NBA MVPs and two NBA championships under his belt, LeBron James’s place in NBA history is already cemented. Only Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have as many MVPs as he.
Only the likes of Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson can even begin to be comparative prototypes when thinking of the entire LBJ package. He’s a mix of raw monster and pure genius. A guy who’d rather see a teammate succeed thanks to his ability than take it all the way to the rack and soak in the spotlight.
It’s this pure unselfishness many casual NBA onlookers bash him for.
It’s called the MJ effect.
Basketball players came in all shapes and sizes prior to Michael Jordan. The Magic Johnsons and Larry Birds of the world were praised for their unique ability to shine without even having to score a single point.
Suddenly, Jordan changed it all.
His closing ability that was on full display in the 1990s forced most fans to believe only his prototype was the one of the great NBA player. Only the score-first, cutthroat, shoot until you die NBA player was the great player. This notion is one that has many believing Kobe Bryant is a Top 10 player of all-time.
It was this thought mixed in with the annual failures of James every spring that furthered the idea of Kobe as legend and LeBron as terrific, but not great enough. The MJ effect also equals championships and James, for all of his greatness, only has two. Moreover, he choked up one in 2010 against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.
LeBron James has previously failed on the greatest stage.
But because we are now decades removed, we have forgotten that MJ has as well. We’ve also forgotten Kobe’s transgressions in the NBA Playoffs.
Aside from “The Decision,” which nobody could firmly get behind (and rightly so), the other blinding factor in determining James’s greatness comes down to his picturesque shot and how it simply doesn’t compare to the Jordans of the world.
This is why, however, so many NBA fans are ignorant. They simply don’t believe legendary players can come in different forms that don’t resemble the greatness that was on full display during the 1990s.
Greatness can, and does, come in many different forms. LeBron is proving that theory to be true right now.
He’s been to an incredible seven NBA Finals. He’s won only two. Should he lose against Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest of the 73-win Golden State Warriors, his greatness will still be intact. He’ll surely be mocked with a multitude of Jordan Crying Faces to boot, but nobody will dare question his place in history.
He will once again come oh so close to getting something so incredibly special accomplished with a team who didn’t deserve the status or accolades it currently welcomes.
Should he win the game with the same mindset and fury it took in getting to this point once being down 3-1, his greatness status immediately turns immortal.
LeBron James has never had an opportunity to play for a hall of fame coach. He was never blessed with hall of fame players to dish the ball to in Cleveland. Yes, he did run to Miami like a scared little boy in search of assuring himself an NBA legacy (championships).
Through it all, however, he is undeniably one of the best who’s ever laced them up. And for those who truly understand that greatness comes in shapes other than that of Michael Jordan, his status in NBA history can never be messed with.
That won’t change despite the outcome of Game 7.
What will change, should he capture his true defining moment, is everything.
No longer can the LeBron haters come in full force. He would have led a solid team to greatness — to something beyond great, in fact. Something that has never been done in the history of the NBA.
Remember, Michael Jordan suffered through many Eastern Conference roadblocks before finally breaking through (Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons). It took a mature Scottie Pippen, a hall of fame coach in Phil Jackson, and Isiah Thomas and Larry Bird to get old before he and the Chicago Bulls could finally get it done.
Much like Jordan in 1991, this time around for James feels different. His demeanor and unabashed attitude have slowly invaded its way through the rest of his club.
The stage is set. The only question remaining is whether LeBron James will be remembered as an all-time great, or as a complete immortal among basketball greats.
Game 7 will decide just that.