We were all witnesses.
Back in March, I expressed some concerns as to whether or not the Cleveland Cavaliers were capable of winning it all.
It was inevitable that the Cavs would be the team to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, but at the time, it was unclear if Cleveland could hold its own against the elite teams of the West such as the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs.
As uncertainty surrounded the Cavs ending of the regular season, conversation concerning LeBron James’ legacy heightened as another Finals defeat would result in a third consecutive loss on the game’s biggest stage.
There’s no way around it, James is the game’s most hated. While it has not always been this way, the “King” has been under a microscope of the public eye since his freshman year at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School in Akron, Ohio.
As a “Kid from Akron,” it was history we witnessed Sunday night as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers won the franchise’s first NBA title and became the first team ever to win an NBA Finals series despite trailing 3-1. Most notably, the Cavs’ title victory ended the city of Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought.
At the forefront of Cleveland’s comeback was the NBA’s best player: LeBron James.
Winning his third championship title and Finals MVP, James successfully defended his throne as champion of the underdogs against a team that many considered to the best ever in the Golden State Warriors.
When doubted most, the league’s best produced when it mattered, becoming the first player in NBA Finals history to lead all players in total points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. James averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocks per game in this year’s NBA Finals.
Consequently, the addition of another ring has ignited the ongoing debate with regard to where James ranks amongst NBA greats Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. While he trails Jordan (6) and Bryant (5) in rings, it’s plausible to believe that James could possibly become a member of the notorious ring-holders.
An answer to this debate won’t prevail until James retires.
In my book, Jordan reigns supreme as basketball’s greatest of all time. With a player like Bryant who modeled his game after “His Airness” and with James paving his own lane with a form of athleticism and versatility that we had never seen, it’s a debate that will still cause dispute when all is said and done.
As Sunday night marked the end of his 13th NBA season, James’ chance to further etch his name as one of the game’s greatest is optimal as much more basketball lies ahead in his career. Whether that extra time entails more championship rings will be most enticing in helping judge the King’s legacy.
Regardless of how James’ career ends, I’m sure we can all agree that we have never experienced a player with such a universal effect both on and off the court.
With the weight of the state of Ohio on his shoulders, James delivered in the most dire time which was reflected with tears at the end of a Game 7 victory; tears of a community, city, state … tears of the witnesses that have waited for so long.