NBA Finals Preview: King James’ GOAT status is bigger than his Finals record
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What will they say about LeBron James in two weeks?
Will they try to diminish his greatness because of his soon-to-be 3-6 record in the NBA Finals?
Will they summarily dismiss his GOAT credentials?
Will they continue to ignore perspective?
The James haters absolutely will. His Finals record is their Excalibur, and they wield it as often as possible when the James-Michael Jordan-Kobe Bryant debate arises.
It’s a debate that realistically ends quickly. Jordan: the greatest single-minded scorer the game has ever seen. Bryant: the greatest Jordan wanna-be the game has ever seen. But James, well, he’s simply the greatest all-around player the game has ever seen.
Unfortunately, as we all are about to bear witness to once again, all-around greatness doesn’t always result in titles.
Far too often it covers up mediocrity and lifts it to a place it never would have touched. It allows a Daniel “Boobie’’ Gibson, a Matthew Dellavedova and now a Jeff Green to shine on a stage they simply don’t belong on. Jordan wasn’t taking bum teams to the Finals, and certainly not with “Boobie’’ Gibson as his Robin.
All-around greatness cripples organizations. When James left Cleveland for Miami after “The Decision,’’ the Cavaliers went from a 61-win team to a 19-win team. When Jordan mysteriously stepped away from the NBA to pursue baseball after the 1992-93 season, the Bulls went from a 57-win team to a 55-win team.
All-around greatness reshapes the league on a yearly basis.
James has single-handedly forced the Bulls, Pacers, Celtics and Raptors to fire coaches and blow up roster plans.
Meanwhile, in the wake of James, a 73-win regular-season team from the year before had to beg the world’s second-best player — Kevin Durant — to join it just to slay the King.
James’ own greatness has given birth to a Warriors dynasty that might go down as one of the all-time best.
So a soon-to-be 3-6 record? That’s not how James should be judged. Unfortunately, that’s the only weapon his critics have left these days.
BY THE NUMBERS
5 — Game-winning postseason shots James has made in his career, compared to the four combined by Jordan (three) and Bryant (one). Who’s not clutch?
20.1 – The average playoff scoring difference between James (34 points per game) and the next-highest scorer on his team (Kevin Love, 13.9).
25.6 – The average number of assists per game the Warriors have registered throughout these playoffs, compared to 18.8 for Cleveland.
Cleveland: George Hill, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson
The status of Love (concussion) is still up in the air, but it sounds like he will play. That’s not necessarily a good thing, considering how inconsistent he remains in postseason play.
Golden State: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney
Curry, Durant and Thompson are yet to all shine at once in these playoffs, but they don’t need to. No NBA team in history has had this kind of firepower from long range.
EDGE: Warriors – Even without Andre Iguodala, the Warriors can cause fits for the opposition with their bench depth. Watch Shaun Livingston, who always seems to have big moments against Cleveland.
EDGE: Warriors – Steve Kerr gets far too much credit for operating this offense, while Ty Lue likely doesn’t get enough for what he’s done, but give Kerr the nod because of experience on this stage.
PREDICTION: Warriors in five.