Three of the top ten draftees in the 2021 NBA draft were from teams not in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) program.
This may come as a massive shock to some people, but LeBron James is really good at basketball.
The NBA superstar will play in his fifth consecutive NBA Finals next week, after his Cleveland Cavaliers swept the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks 4-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In Game 3 of the series, ‘The King’ stuffed the box score, putting up 37 points, 18 rebounds, 13 assists and 3 steals. He also made a number of clutch plays and hit big baskets down the stretch of regulation, and into overtime.
Admittedly, LeBron only shot 14 of 37 from the field in the game, and missed his first ten shots, but sometimes you need to disregard efficiency as an indicator of a great performance, and this is certainly one of those occasions.
Though some pundits suggested it was a game for the ages, the truth is – eye-popping stats aside – by LeBron’s lofty standards, he didn’t even play that well. Yet that simply highlights just how good he is.
The game added yet another chapter to an ever-increasing book of impressive playoff performances from one of the greatest players in NBA history.
Along with another dominant display in Game 4 – where LeBron followed up with 23 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists – it saw his team advance and be one step closer to the 2014-15 championship.
This will be LeBron’s sixth NBA Finals appearance during his career, after taking Cleveland there in 2007, and then the Miami Heat in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Now that you can include 2015, it’s mind-boggling to even write.
In those appearances, LeBron has won two NBA championships, and some critics point to his NBA Finals record of 2-3 with derision, claiming it indicates he’s not as great as other NBA legends.
Of course, this conveniently ignores the fact that LeBron’s teams were far inferior than their opponents in two of those series, along with the more obvious point that LeBron should receive immense credit for actually making that many Finals series.
As a point of comparison, Larry Bird – LeBron’s main competitor as the greatest forward of all time – ‘only’ made the Finals five times, for three titles.
Personally, I don’t think you can count LeBron’s Finals losses against him unless you also count the times other NBA superstars didn’t even make the Finals against them.
This is not intended to be a love-in on LeBron, for he’s not perfect.
His jumpshot remains inconsistent, and it would be understatement to say it has been that in this year’s playoffs.
He shies away from playing in the post, even though he’s at his most dangerous – and most efficient – when he plays on the block.
He has tendency to want to ‘do everything’ from the top of the key, rather than let the ball do the work.
He still has strange stretches of play where he appears disconcertingly passive for a superstar.
Lastly, aside from his play, LeBron also receives somewhat warranted criticism for having an ego, along with a flair for the dramatic. Which is a nice way of saying that he can be a bit of a ‘drama queen’. Or King, to be consistent.
Yet, all these things are nit-picking of the utmost highest order.
LeBron James is the best player in the world, and when his career is all said and done, he may be rated as high as number two on the all-time list of great NBA players. Therefore, we should sit back and enjoy his greatness, rather than be pedantic about his very few minor faults.
With LeBron’s Cavs facing off against the Golden State Warriors (presumably) in the NBA Finals, get ready for a number of different storylines that will be written and discussed over the coming days.
The league’s best player facing off against the league’s best team.
A four-time MVP going up against this year’s MVP.
The hometown hero attempting to bring a title to the success-starved state of Ohio, versus a team attempting to put the finishing touch on a historically great season.
Yet the narrative I’m most looking forward to is this: if LeBron can lead this banged-up, depleted and unassuming Cleveland roster to an NBA title, it will be the most impressive achievement on his very long, and very distinguished, list of accomplishments.