NBA Finals postscript: LeBron enhances legacy and GOAT case

LeBron James after the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2019-20 NBA title
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Ricky Dimon

NBA· 1 year ago

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Most importantly, the Los Angeles Lakers captured their 17th NBA championship in a year they so desperately wanted to win to honor the late, great Kobe Bryant. It tied them with the Boston Celtics for the most all-time among all franchises.

But it was also the fourth NBA championship for LeBron James–and that is of no small importance.

LeBron in the 2020 NBA Finals

In addition to securing a fourth ring, LeBron also earned NBA Finals MVP honors for the fourth time in his illustrious career. And he did not just win it because his name is LeBron James–which was also going to be a realistic possibility. He won it fair and square, earning every bit of the extra hardware on Sunday night to accompany the Larry O’Brien Trophy following the Lakers’ Game 6 defeat of the Miami Heat.

Anthony Davis, LeBron’s only competition for MVP–was good (averaged 25.0 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.0 bpg, and 1.3 spg in the six-game series). LeBron was great. The 35-year-old went for 29.8 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 8.5 apg, and 1.2 spg. Yes, he almost averaged a triple-double; and he closed with one in the clincher (28 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists).

LeBron all-time

Making more history, LeBron became the first player to win NBA Finals MVP with three different franchises (also with the Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers).

Following this 2019-20 triumph, here is where some of LeBron’s most important achievements stand:

– 4-time NBA champion
– 4-time NBA MVP
– 4-time NBA Finals MVP
– 16-time NBA all-star
– 3-time NBA All-Star Game MVP

And here is where some of his most important statistics rank:

– 34,241 points (third)
– 9,346 assists (eighth)
– 2,015 steals (13th)
– 7,491 playoff points (first)
– 1,871 playoff assists (second)
– 445 playoff steals (first)
– 10 NBA Finals appearances (fourth)

LeBron vs. Jordan

So, is LeBron James now the GOAT? Was he already the GOAT? Is he still not the GOAT?

Whatever the answer is, does it really matter? This debate is purely a matter of preference; it is not something that can be proven or not proven. What matters is the cold, hard facts–you know, the numbers; like the ones mentioned above. The GOAT may not be a terribly important debate, but it is a fun debate. And in order to debate what doesn’t matter, you have to look at what does matter.

There is a recency bias around everything, and LeBron is no exception. The fact that he is currently the biggest star in sports whereas Michael Jordan’s career came to an end almost 20 years ago obviously works in the King’s favor. That being said, The Last Dance did well to keep Jordan relevant in 2020, especially at a time when sports were shelved by the coronavirus pandemic. You probably watched that epic documentary and therefore don’t need a reminder of Jordan’s greatness, but here it is anyway: six-time NBA champion and NBA Finals MVP, five-time NBA MVP, 14-time NBA all-star, three-time All-Star Game MVP, and 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Jordan was 6-0 in NBA Finals; LeBron is 4-6. It is worth noting that 4-6 is a heck of a lot better than 3-7. Falling to 3-7 and doing so as a massive favorite of Miami would have been a disaster.

This title keeps LeBron in the hunt. It doesn’t mean he has surpassed Jordan. But it also doesn’t matter what I think–or what anyone else thinks. Nothing will change what LeBron or Jordan did on the court.

While I do not think LeBron is there yet, it also isn’t over yet. He is showing no signs of slowing down, and although that could happen sooner rather than later it may not happen before the Lakers win at least another championship. Heck, they are already favored to repeat in 2020-21. LeBron and company are +350 title favorites ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers (+400), Milwaukee Bucks (+500), and Golden State Warriors (+600).

Stay tuned.

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