No Running Diary for Game 2, which is bad by me because what a freaking finish to Game 2, but not to worry, they will be back soon. Now, we pardon this interruption to discuss more about the over-discussed legacy of who else, than LeBron James.
The saying goes in the NBA that a transcendent star comes around just about every 10 years, a guy who unanimously rules the league as the most dominant player. LeBron James is not one of those players. He belongs in the category of “Comes around every 2 to 3 decades” type players.
I may not come off as the biggest LeBron supporter, but that is just because he has personally bounced the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs four times in his career and did the biggest olé to the Bulls in the Free Agency fiasco of 2010 when he joined the Miami Heat after it seemed that he was destined for Chicago. Alas, how things would have been different.
That seems like a few galaxies away now, and after Game 2 of the NBA Finals last night, his overall game since 2010 has come a few galaxies along the way as well.
I’ve said it before, yet I will say it again, If you hate watching LeBron James play basketball, then you hate watching basketball period. Still think the whole “Decision” thing five years ago was the biggest “look at me” moment in sports? Well, let’s get over that soon, LeBron haters, because he’s back on the team he once left and he has handled himself in a completely different manner since then.
20 to 30 years from now, I imagine sitting at a dinner table with my son (probably at some Mexican restaurant) and over chips and salsa, discuss the NBA and its all-time great players, very similar to what my father and I do now. My son will most likely argue that whomever the great player then is, is one of the most versatile players of all-time and would put in his all-time NBA starting five and so on.
I will argue for LeBron James. Regardless of how many rings he may end up winning, or however many MVP’s. LeBron may not retire with the title “Greatest Ever” but there is a strong chance he will go down as “Most Versatile Ever” which in its own respect, is extremely special.
And it’s games like Game 2 last night that remind us why this conversation is necessary (Although a 4,000 word column from Bill Simmons would suffice too. #FreeSimmons)
Just look at that stat-line. 39 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists in 50 minutes out of a possible total of 53. Without a doubt, Magic Johnson turned in the greatest Finals performance by any player ever with his 42 points 15 rebounds and 7 assist night in the 1980 Finals, while of course, famously playing every position, as a Rookie.
But I’m going to go ahead and put that LBJ stat-line right up there, not quite on the same pedestal, but pretty freaking close.
Now, every LeBron defector will be quick to point out that he shot 11 of 35 from the field last night, and trust me I will be one of the first people in that line to tell you that. But thankfully they’re people in this world like my friend Andrew Slaughter, a big-time LeBron James fan, to remind me that he has to take 35 shots a game at this point.
LeBron has proven he can be one of the most efficient players in NBA history, let’s not be so quick to forget:
.641: The final tally for LeBron’s ridiculously accurate shooting in the month of February was 139 makes in 217 attempts from the field for a success rate of 64.1 percent. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the highest field goal percentage by a player in a calendar month featuring at least 200 shots since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shot 158-for-243 (.650) for the Lakers in March 1983.
Kareem also had the most unstoppable shot in NBA history, by the way.
Without Kyrie and Love, the two guys who were supposed to lighten the load for LeBron on this journey to a championship, he has ended up being the man who has to take shots because there is really no one left to take them. Iman Shumpert went 2-10 last night, Mathew Dellavedova (3-10) and (Tristan Thompson 0-5) both shot poorly as well. His supporting cast has not been very supportive in that respect, of course they do so much more beyond the stat sheet as well.
We keep on saying that the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors will remembered as one of the best teams ever (especially if they win 3 more games) and it is completely obvious that they are littered with talent across their roster. Even with Love and Irving on the floor, you still could make a strong argument that Golden State is more equipped with talent.
Yet in these Finals, both games have gone to overtime, and the series is split at one game apiece. LeBron James’ presence on the court has shrunk that talent gap between the heavily favored Warriors and depleted Cleveland Cavaliers to as close to zero as possible. You could count on one hand of the guys who could do that in NBA history.
So as the Finals shift back to Cleveland, take a moment to realize that this is a dead-even series right now, with Cavaliers now owning home court, giving them a upper-hand they are in dire need of now. It’s remarkable to think that were still believing that there is a plausible chance that LeBron James could win this title with the roster that is left.
In Game 6 and 7 of the 2013 Finals, many, including myself, believed that was the peak of LeBron James career. LeBron had 32/10/11 in Game 6 and 37/12/4 in Game 7. It was only December when we all thought that LeBron was beginning to decline, that his historic usage rate and ungodly amount of minutes already played before the age of 30 had finally begun catching up to him.
How naive of us now.
LeBron may not admit to being an underdog, and rightfully so. Regardless, his Cavaliers certainly are. They just pulled off a win without their 2nd and 3rd best players, on the road against a team amidst a historic season, in the toughest environment in the NBA, after all hope seemed lost when Irving went down. Many Cleveland fans feel as if they are cursed, the well-known statistic of 51-years since they last won a championship haunts them by the day.
Yet all hope has been restored once again, thanks to the Akron King.
To Cleveland we go.