For many, LeBron James is the greatest basketball player to ever step foot on the hardwood. The debate putting him up against Michael Jordan has been waged for years, with neither end of the argument willing to budge. It’s a discussion that is likely to be held for years; a common ground will never be found. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion - even if social media has proven that some thoughts are (much) more valid than others. Regardless of who your GOAT is, LeBron leading the Los Angeles Lakers to their 17th championship in franchise history while collecting his fourth ring and fourth Finals MVP along the way proves one thing: he deserves his damn respect.
LeBron’s longevity cannot be denied. His continued dominance has defied all expectations and the precedent of sport. In his 17th season, at 35 years old, LeBron averaged 25.3 points (49.3/34.8/69.3), 7.8 rebounds, 10.2 assists (league-high), 1.2 steals, and 0.5 blocks per night while playing 67 out of 71 possible games. To take it a step further, LeBron played in 21 postseason games, leading the playoffs in field goals made, total rebounds, and total assists while logging the third-most minutes of any player. He's the all-time playoff leader in points, games played, and wins. Before every season tips off, media talking heads ponder the idea that LeBron is “too old” or “washed up” and speculate that the King’s reign has finally come to an end. They say it’s time for Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, or Luka Doncic to be named the new heir of the NBA. What they fail to deliver to audiences thirsting for bewildered takes is that the league is still LeBron’s, and it will be until he decides to hang it up - whenever that may be.
Yes, LeBron is 4-6 in the Finals, and that will always be used against him. But wouldn’t you rather get to the biggest stage and lose, than get eliminated in the first-round or not make it at all? Every time LeBron has appeared in the playoffs since 2011, his team has made the Finals. For a decade, he crushed the hopes of Eastern Conference teams desperate for a taste of the promised land. When he decided to take his talents to Los Angeles, the same “washed up” crowd pleaded that the Western Conference was just too strong. “Oh, well, LeBron needed AD to win that ring.” So, fuck LeBron for wanting to play with one of the top players in the league? Michael had Scottie. Magic had Kareem. Kobe had Shaq. Steph had Klay and KD. Notice a trend? It’s really fucking hard to win an NBA championship by yourself - something that LeBron has tried to do on a number of occasions (2007, 2015, 2018). With Anthony Davis now being LeBron’s sidekick for at least five more seasons, it feels safe to assume that he can pull his Finals record to .500 or above. What’s to say he won’t? LeBron is a basketball savant, and he’s only getting smarter as the seasons go by. The way he’s been able to adjust his game and become the best point guard in the NBA is remarkable. Even as new talent comes into the league, LeBron will find a way to outsmart his opponents and continue to dominate.
It’s just frustrating that people choose to hate on LeBron as a player. If you don’t want to like him as a person - fine, your loss - but we’re currently witnessing the greatest basketball player of all-time build his legacy. It’s asinine to call him anything but great. No player has ever been so good for so long. By the time all-time players reach this point in their careers - which they rarely do - they’re mostly reserved to bench roles as they prepare their farewell tours, or they put up 40 shots a night trying to regain the success of their youth. We’ve never seen a player like LeBron, and we probably never will again. People can choose to ignore greatness, but at least give the man the respect he’s rightfully earned.