Oh, what a spoiled, ungrateful generation we are.
We have now witnessed 13 seasons of LeBron James, becoming entirely numb to the greatness his brings to the court. It’s just another game, at this point. It’s LeBron being LeBron. People have felt this way for quite some time now, but never was it more appalling to me than in Game 4.
On that Thursday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers were coming off an impressive 120-90 win over the presumed champions. The Cavaliers would end up losing the game by 11, in one of the only games the MVP looked like the MVP, but James still put on an a great performance. He finished with 25 points, 13 boards, nine assists, three blocks and two steals. Granted, he finished with seven turnovers as well, but a near triple-double in the NBA Finals is impressive, no matter how you look at it.
However, as I sat in a sports bar enjoying one of the less fun games of the series, I witnessed it. “That was an average performance by LeBron James.” Really? I suppose it was average for LeBron James, but not for the books. If that was so mediocre, everyone would do it. But that’s our mentality. We are ungrateful.
Forget the Jordan comparisons and where he ranks all time. Let’s talk about the moment. It’s incredible that his two behemoth, 41-point performances aside, it’s possible that James didn’t really stand out in the series. LeBron was just being LeBron. However, Kyrie Irving may have proved a lot of doubters wrong. Tristan Thompson may have earned some of that contract money with his play. Tyronn Lue may have out-coached Steve Kerr. But LeBron? Well, he was just LeBron, right?
Well, yes. But don’t dismiss it as nearly that. We witnessed greatness, and it probably hasn’t sunk in yet. After two awful games to start the series, James showed up. He had 32-11-6 in a Game 3 win. In the following game, a loss, he had the aforementioned 25-13-9. Not bad, right? Then he got even better, with his back against the wall.
Facing elimination the rest of the way, he averaged 36.3 PPG (including two 41-point games), 11.7 RPG, 9.7 APG, 3.0 SPG and 3.0 BPG. Among those blocks, perhaps, was the defining moment of the series.
In fact, his last three games were so damn great, he probably would have won Finals MVP regardless. This is by no means to discredit Draymond Green had they won—and he had an incredible Game 7 performance—but perhaps you shouldn’t recklessly hurt your team by missing a game. Klay Thompson was sensational in spurts, but just not enough. Stephen Curry has some questions to answer. And Kyrie Irving played phenomenally, but that was largely because of the considerable amount of less pressure he faced with James on the floor. Although he hit the dagger, they don’t make it there without James.
Certainly, they probably don’t make it their without Irving either, but LeBron James was the bigger factor. Throw T. Thompson into that conversation as well, but LeBron James was the bigger factor. James is the factor. Win or lose, James could have easily been the Finals MVP, but we don’t need to have that conversation. Cleveland has a championship team now. But in case you wanted to have such a debate, just know that James may have had the greatest series of all time.
What's left? What more does he have to prove? What other stupid, illogical reason will continue to be used to discredit his merit? No team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, but LeBron James thought otherwise. The 73-win Warriors were destined to go down as the best team in NBA history—at least by the numbers—but LeBron James thought otherwise. Two decades from now, perhaps everyone will finally acknowledge the greatness he brought to the floor throughout his career, especially when many of the critics thought otherwise.