What is LeBron James’ legacy?
“The King” has lost his desired throne once again, watching the Golden State Warriors rebound from a 2-1 deficit and overthrow the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the NBA crown.
“LeBron James’ legacy fades with each NBA Finals loss,” Chris Chase of For The Win said following the Warriors triumph.
Stop. Stop right there.
The Cavaliers came up short in the six-game series, but it only lasted six games because of LeBron’s tremendous and sustained performance. James amassed one of the greatest NBA Finals performances ever.
If you hate analytics, LeBron dominated.
James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.3 steals, a stat-line unmatched in NBA Finals history.
He set the record for most points through three games (123). He recorded the first 40-point, 14-rebound, 11-assist triple-double in Finals history. He became the first player to total the most points, rebounds and assists by either team in Finals history.
James was a one-man show, but that doesn’t mean he was selfish. The small forward made everyone around him better. No, really, half of the Cavaliers who actually played—quite literally—couldn’t make a shot without James.
Without LeBron James on the floor this series.
JR Smith 0/9 FG
Delly 0/7 FG
J. Jones 0/3 FG
Shumpert 0/2 FG
Total 0/21 FG
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 17, 2015
If you love analytics, LeBron dominated.
Basketball-reference updated. LeBron ended the series with a 40.8 usg rate, a 52.7 ast rate, and a 27.7 DREB%
That will never happen again.
— Justin (@AcrossTheCourt) June 17, 2015
He posted a 40.8 usage rate. Isn’t that a little high? Perhaps, but with Kevin Love sidelined and Kyrie Irving sustaining a season-ending injury in Game 1, who else was supposed to initiate Cleveland’s offense?
Matthew Dellavedova was a nice story, but he’s a backup for a reason. J.R. Smith cannot create a high-percentage look for himself. James Jones is merely a spot-up shooter. Iman Shumpert isn’t effective off the dribble. Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson can’t do much outside of the lane.
Yet when James was in the game, he brought that mess of an offense together with a completely absurd 52.7 assist rate. That means 52.7 percent of the Cavaliers’ assists came from LeBron.
James dished a total of 53 assists. Cleveland’s No. 2 passer, Dellavedova, managed 16. Read that again. The second-highest assist-giver on the team averaged 2.7 per game.
“But he didn’t win another ring,” critics everywhere are now shouting. “He can’t be the greatest player of all time if he doesn’t win more rings!”
That’s fine. If Michael Jordan’s consistent MVP-like performance and six championships are the benchmark for the No. 1 spot, fine.
However, instead of criticizing LeBron for dropping his career Finals record to 2-4, it’s OK to laud him for becoming the first player—yes, along with teammate James Jones—to appear in five consecutive Finals. It’s OK to acknowledge that LeBron led a severely injury-depleted roster to a pair of victories against the league’s best team.
And it’s OK to do that without trashing his legacy.
We have the best player of his time making the Finals every year, and somehow this is seen as a failure. Do any of you actually like sports.
— Russ Bengtson (@russbengtson) June 17, 2015
James has two championships.
Six of the greatest players in NBA history—George Gervin, Pete Maravich, Elgin Baylor, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and John Stockton—combined for a total of zero rings, yet still they’re each considered some of the best of all time.
Or, if that’s not convincing enough, Jerry West—who is certainly one of the 10 best players ever—amassed a brutal 1-8 record during his NBA Finals appearances.
James has two championships.
James is one of 33 players in league history to win six conference titles. He’s one of five players to be awarded four MVP honors. He’s one of 10 players to earn multiple Finals MVPs. He’s been named first-team All-NBA and first-team All-Defense in the same season four times.
James has compiled an outstanding list of achievements during his 12-year career and a résumé most professional athletes can only dream of writing.
And he has two championships.
Leave his legacy alone.
Photo: USA Today Sports