With LeBron James already having won three championships in his career, is there anything left for him to prove in these NBA Playoffs?
Toward the end of the NBA regular season, “who’s the MVP?” was a conversation that made its way into that “avoid at all costs” category. After historic campaigns by Russell Westbrook and James Harden and a career-season by Kawhi Leonard, there was plenty of ammunition to support each candidate.
But through seven games in the postseason, LeBron James has proved that conversation was truly meaningless.
Kudos to Russell Westbrook for becoming the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double. Hat tip to James Harden for spearheading the Rockets’ ascension to the third-best record in the NBA with a roster no one expected much from. And for Leonard, what a tremendous year on both ends, as he took control of a franchise that sadly watched Tim Duncan hang it up.
But LeBron is still the best player in the sport and it’s not even close. Whoever is heralded as the second-best player is miles behind him and after six straight trips to the finals. James has shown no signs of taking his foot off the gas pedal.
The three-time champion is putting up gaudy numbers this postseason, averaging 34.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists on an unfathomable 56 percent shooting (48 percent from downtown).
The journey will continue for LeBron and company as they attempt to complete their second straight sweep, this time dusting off the Raptors who took the Cavs to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
With more work to be done in order to repeat as champs, there’s pressure on LeBron as there always has been. But he posed an interesting question to the masses.
“What else do I have to prove?” LeBron told Clevand.com. “Seriously, what else would I have [to do]? I’ve won championships, I won my first one, and I’ve won for my teammates; I came home and won. There isn’t anything I have left to prove.”
Is he correct? Does LeBron have anything left to prove as he heads toward the latter part of his career? It would have to depend on how you view his legacy.
LeBron is probably going to retire as the second-greatest of all time. But that’s not where he envisions finishing. The problem is that many of erroneously placed him ahead of Michael Jordan. Don’t let Bow Wow fool you into thinking one could be “Like Mike.”
Is James trying to create the narrative that the outcome for him this year could only help, not hurt, his legacy? With the prohibitive favorite Warriors sending out four of the Top-20 players in the NBA, fresh off a record-setting 73-win season, they should win, right? So if LeBron does take them down again, it obviously adds to what already is an impeccable resume. But a loss is chalked up to “the better/super team won.”
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While the resume is impeccable though, it’s not pristine. We all remember the 2011 Finals when James and the Heat choked away a title to the Dallas Mavericks. And LeBron, well, let’s just say he didn’t play his best. Actually, scratch what would be the understatement of the century. He was awful.
With a loss this year, James would fall to 3-5 in the Finals, further proving he benefitted to some degree from playing in the weaker Eastern Conference his entire career. Now, no one could deny his greatness.
We recall the gaffe against the Mavs, but also are appreciative of the great performances he’s treated us with like Game 6 of the 2012 ECF in Boston, Game 5 of the 2007 ECF in Detroit, Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals against San Antonio, Games 5-7 against the Warriors last year and the list goes on and on.
You can’t tell the story of his career without spouting the disappointments of falling short of expectations and also the euphoria of overcoming what we thought were insurmountable odds. LeBron James is one of the greatest ever. But pump the brakes on the “he has nothing to lose this year” takes.