“From St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, Number Twenty-Three, LeBroooooooooonJaameeesss!”
A crowd of twenty-thousand in the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland erupt as they hear their star player LeBron James introduced before each game. They are aware that they are witnessing one of the all-time greats in not just basketball but all sport, make history. LeBron James in his fifteen years has utterly dominated the game, not only breaking numerical records but shaking the course of the sport with his unprecedented athletic and talented style of play. The effect he has on the public extends beyond the court. LeBron James became an icon for the city of Cleveland, giving citizens hope, belief, and something to be in awe of, furthermore inspiring millions of children not only in Cleveland but across the world to the game of basketball. The effect James has is so powerful it leads to mass ‘hysteria-like’ behaviour when he announced his decision to leave Cleveland to the Miami Heat. Thousands of passionate fans burnt his jersey, and he left the city in riots.
James along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosch in the ‘super team’ Miami Heat won two consecutive championships and saw LeBron James in his prime athletic form. After that, LeBron in a heartfelt decision decided to return to his home team the Cleveland Cavaliers and made a ‘promise’ to bring an NBA Championship home. In the 2016 NBA finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers led by James led a historic comeback from 3-1 down against the Golden State Warriors, winning the championship and breaking a ‘The Cleveland Sports Curse’ in which none of the city’s teams won a major championship in fifty-two years. However, after losing the finals twice in a row these last two years, James has decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time this summer, bringing to the end a historic era. The decision makes us look back and reflect on his career and legacy, and raises the question of whether he is the greatest basketball player in the history of the sport.
Stats and Accomplishments:
Career Average Statistics:
27.2 Points Per Game, 7.2 Assists Per Game, 7.4 Rebounds Per Game
• NBA Rookie of the Year (2004)
• 3x NBA Champion (2012, 2013, 2016)
• 3x Finals MVP (2012, 2013, 2016)
• 4x NBA Most Valuable Player (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013)
• 14x NBA All-Star (2005-2018)
• 12x All NBA First-Team (2006, 2008-18)
• NBA Scoring Champion (2008)
• Currently 7th All-Time Highest Scorer in NBA history at 31,038 points; youngest to reach 30,000 points mark, and the only player to have over 30,000 points, 8,000 rebounds, and 8,000 assists
Standing 6 ft. 8 and around 250 pounds, LeBron James resembles more of an American Football player. In fact, he played as a wide receiver for his high school and even turned down numerous scholarships to pursue American Football. LeBron James attributes his toughness on the basketball court to his background in football and it’s easy to see this spill over with his lock-down defence, brute athleticism, and court vision.
LeBron James notably went straight from high school to the NBA, but remarkably was able to adjust to the massive competition difference immediately. James had an impact on the game right from his first season. Even James’ main historical rival Kobe Bryant took about two seasons before he consistently performed at elite levels. Sports analysts and fans alike quote this as evidence of LeBron’s greatness.
It’s safe to say that LeBron James is a top three, maybe even top two all-time great, however, critics remain divided as to whether he surpasses the great Michael Jordan, whose name remains synonymous to the game of basketball even to this day. Though James's game may be at par with Michael Jordan, his winning record is what lets him down. Jordan managed to reach the NBA finals six times and won the championship every time along with the finals MVP. Though James has reached the finals 9 times, he lost 6 of them, a factor which many say can damage his legacy. Of course one can argue James didn’t have the firepower or was cursed with teammates being injured, however, at the end of the day no one can turn away from a poor finals record.
Whether LeBron James is the 1st, 2nd or 3rd greatest player really depends on who you ask and what parameters you consider to define ‘greatness’. That being said, there is unanimous agreement that we are still witnessing one of the greatest of all time basketball player, and he will be remembered for generations to come.