LeBron James is still riding high after his 2016 NBA Season. He is an NBA champion for the third time in his career, and more importantly, brought Cleveland their first championship as a city since 1964. What he was able to do in that series by being the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit, and being able to do it in an almost dominating fashion, could make it one of the best NBA Finals of all-time. Throughout his career, LeBron James has ultimately been compared to one man, Michael Jordan. The reason behind this is that he was going to be the city of Cleveland’s savior when he came out of high school in 2003.
It took some hard losses, burned jerseys for leaving Cleveland for Miami, and people opening their arms again to him returning, but LeBron finally achieved what he set out to do 13 years ago.
Now, as stated before, being a three time champion puts you in some legendary status throughout the league. As if LeBron wasn’t legendary enough.
Legends are some of the best players to shoot a basketball, but if there is one true legend in the NBA, it has to be Michael Jordan. LeBron would ultimately agree as he has said that he wants to become greater than Michael Jordan. It’s his motivation.
“My motivation is this ghost I’m chasing,” James told Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins. “The ghost played in Chicago.”
“My career is totally different than Michael Jordan’s,” he says. “What I’ve gone through is totally different than what he went through. What he did was unbelievable, and I watched it unfold. I looked up to him so much. I think it’s cool to put myself in position to be one of those great players, but if I can ever put myself in position to be the greatest player, that would be something extraordinary.”
When asked about beating a 73-9 Warriors team, LeBron explains how it made the title achievement that much more satisfying.
“This was bigger for me than the first and the second,” James says, “because of everything it represents.”
With LeBron achieving his third title and putting himself into an even greater spectrum than he was before, it’s hard to not compare him to Jordan because, well, that is the one his story relates to most. People tend to forget how much Jordan came up short in the NBA Playoffs before finally making it to his first Finals. Michael Jordan first made it to the playoffs in 1985 where he would lose in the first round for three straight seasons. Jordan then lost in a Conference Semi-Finals and two Conference Finals the three seasons following. He would eventually make the finals in 1991 bringing the Chicago Bulls their first title in franchise history. He would win six titles with the franchise, the only six titles the franchise has achieved.
Compare this to LeBron, who brought Cleveland their first championship since 1964 and the first championship for the Cavaliers franchise. He suffered plenty of losses in Cleveland before their first title, but chased the opportunity to win a title by going to Miami. People don’t like to hear this but you can compare this to Jordan retiring to play baseball. They both abandoned their team. At 22 years old LeBron carried Cleveland to an NBA Finals, something Michael Jordan at 22 was not able to do. LeBron has made six straight NBA Finals. An achievement that may not be touched.
But what is truly better? Making six straight Finals and losing three of them, or making six finals (not fully in a row due to retirement) and going 6-0? That is a question that’s up for debate.
One thing people should start doing is hitting the reset button for LeBron. He won the Cavaliers their first title in franchise history in the year 2016, just like Jordan did in 1991. LeBron has plenty of basketball left in the tank. If he stays in Cleveland for the rest of his career, maybe his chase for becoming the greatest player of all time should start right now. It will be the best way to truly compare their legacies. The 3-4 vs. 6-0 in Finals appearances is an argument that is becoming more and more invalid as the years go on.