LeBron James: Adding to the legacy in year 15

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    LeBron James drives past Lonzo Ball. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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    During the final postgame press conference of the 2017-18 NBA season, after LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers got swept by the Golden State Warriors, James was asked a peculiar question.

    A reporter asked LeBron to explain how he wanted the 2017-18 season to be remembered in regard to his ongoing legacy. James answered by saying it’s up to the media and fans to determine that and the only thing he can do is continue to come to work, punch the clock, and grind, or something of that nature.

    I decided to take a look back at the King’s legendary 2017-18 campaign and highlight some games and moments that made potentially his last season with the Cavaliers so fantastic. All statistics used throughout this article are courtesy of Basketball Reference.

    While I don’t want this article to turn into a list of LeBron’s best games of the season, there are a few that I want to quickly mention.

    He opened the season against the Boston Celtics in a game that makes most of us begin to feel queasy when reminiscing upon due to the horrific ankle injury endured by Gordon Hayward.

    It was also the first Kyrie versus LeBron match-up since Kyrie left Cleveland last offseason.

    LeBron turned in a gem of a game, going for 29 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists. He fell one assist short of a triple-double but emphatically showed that he was still the King of the Eastern Conference.

    In another early season game, LeBron went into Washington and dropped 57 points 11 rebounds and seven assists in a winning effort against a team that many thought would contend in the East. Like most years, LeBron wasted no time getting year 15 off and running.

    LeBron James and Steph Curry, NBA Finals.

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

    I wanted to make sure I highlighted a couple of his early season games to emphasize the fact that LeBron was locked in the entire season starting from the jump. Not only did he play in all 82 games for the first time in his 15th season, but he also shone in the majority of these games.

    Bron averaged 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 9.1 assists, all of which are higher than his career averages.

    Let’s not forget about the complete overhaul of teammates at the trade deadline which saw the Cavs welcome George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr, and Jordan Clarkson while they unloaded Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, Channing Frye, and Iman Shumpert.

    LeBron navigated through these changes and helped the Cavs secure the fourth seed in the East going into the playoffs.

    At this point in his career, it seems clear that LeBron has another level that he takes it to in the playoffs. Called ‘Zero Dark 30′ in previous years, this level brings James’ performance to new heights almost every postseason and this year was no outlier.

    While the postseason did have both highs and lows, it didn’t take LeBron long to establish his dominance. After going down 1-0 to the Indiana Pacers, James dropped 46 points to even the series heading back to Indiana.

    Although the series was competitive from the tip of game one to the buzzer of game 7, it never really felt like LeBron would be taking an early exit from the Pacers.

    James had three 40+ point games in this series including a 45-point effort to seal the deal and head to the next round against Toronto.

    Like past years, LeBron and the Cavs had little trouble with the Raptors and advanced past them in four games. He had his best performance of the series in a convincing game two victory in Toronto.

    James poured in 43 points and 14 assists in an 18-point victory that both put the Cavs up 2-0 going back to Cleveland and erased any ounce of confidence the Raptors may have still been retaining after losing game one by just one point.

    The Boston Celtics offered the most resistance to LeBron and the Cavs despite not having Gordon Hayward or Kyrie Irving.

    The Celtics pushed the Cavs to seven games through superb coaching, stout defence, and the play of some up and coming stars like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier.

    After each team defended their home court through the first six games, LeBron did what LeBron does in Game 7s and eliminated the Celtics on their home court to the tune of 35 points and 16 boards.

    LeBron had three 40+ point games in the series against the Celtics, giving him seven such games in 18 postseason outings before the Finals.

    LeBron James

    LeBron James (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Entering the Finals match-up against the Golden State Warriors, the whole narrative seemed to be all about LeBron carrying his team through the first three rounds of the postseason, which he had. Now he was about to go up against arguably the best team of all time.

    The results could have gone one of two ways. Either LeBron would solidify himself as the greatest player ever by taking down one of the all-time greatest teams or the Warriors would be known as the NBA’s newest dynasty by winning three out of the last four titles.

    As we all know, the latter was the outcome that unfolded but not before LeBron added to his legacy. In Game one LeBron dropped a whopping 51 points and did all he could to go up 1-0 in the Finals.

    Instead, we witnessed one of the most eye-popping championship blunders of all time, courtesy of JR Smith. Poor guy.

    It was an exemplification of the fact that even when LeBron delivers a historical performance, it’s just so hard to beat the Warriors in a game much less a series.

    The Cavs went on to lose 4-0 at the hands of the Golden State Warriors as they claimed their third title in four years against LeBron.

    The conclusion of this series meant the end of yet another NBA season and marked the beginning of the Summer of LeBron Part III.

    It was no secret that this Cleveland Cavaliers roster was never going to be enough to take down the mighty Warriors which raises questions as to what LeBron will do this summer as a free agent.

    He has a player option worth over $35 million to return to the Cavaliers next season but also has multiple suitors around the league.

    Many believe those suitors to include the Rockets, Lakers, Spurs, Sixers, Celtics, Heat, and perhaps even the defending champion Warriors.

    While things promise to get hectic as the NBA Draft and free agency approaches, all eyes will be on LeBron as he mulls his offers and chooses the option that is best fit for both him and his family.

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, right, shoots against the Golden State Warriors

    LBJ (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

    Regardless of if LeBron wins the MVP award or not, he surely delivered a legendary performance throughout the season that won’t soon be forgotten. He soared to new heights while battling adversity along the way.

    Just because he fell short in the NBA Finals against what could very well be the greatest team of all time shouldn’t take away from the greatness we witnessed on a nightly basis.

    Everyone has been mentioning LeBron’s name alongside the likes of Michael Jordan for years, but is it getting to be time for us to mention LeBron’s name above Jordan’s?

    State of Origin 2 is here, with the Blues looking to wrap the 2018 series up and the Maroons hoping to keep it alive and force a decider. Follow along with our NSW vs QLD Origin 2 live scores and blog.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • June 13th 2018 @ 8:14am
      Rob said | June 13th 2018 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      Good article. I’ve been watching the NBA for 40 years – all the way back to the Magic/Bird era. Hell I even remember Dr J! The twin peaks are LeBron and Michael. No issue. Kareem, Magic, Kobe, Shaq and Steph etc are all in their own ways awesome, but LeBron and Michael are a step above in terms of all-round skill, hunger and court domination. The game moves on, so LeBron is playing in a harder league than Michael, but as the cliche goes, “you can only play what’s in front of you”. For what is worth, I’d say forget about trying to find the GOAT between Michael and LeBron, they define greatness in basketball. They are the first two picked in any all-time team.

      • June 13th 2018 @ 8:34am
        RBBAnonymous said | June 13th 2018 @ 8:34am | ! Report

        I will dispute the “LeBron is playing in a harder league”. That is never an easy thing to compare. What I will say about harder league is that Michael Jordan played in a way more physical era in the 90’s and 2000’s. He copped a lot of hard fouls as he was driving in the paint and dunking on bigs. Those years were more half court sets and iso plays, especially for players like Jordan but it was amazing how he got his points. In this era he would get his points even easier. The problem is Jordan was so good, he made great players look inferior and his era looked easier, even though it wasn’t.

      • Roar Guru

        June 13th 2018 @ 9:09am
        Chris Kettlewell said | June 13th 2018 @ 9:09am | ! Report

        They are also very different players. MJ was pretty much a pure shooting guard, while Lebron is a physical beast who can pretty much play any position on the court. MJ scored more, Lebron gets more rebounds and assists and triple doubles. I’m happy to put Lebron right up there with Michael and not have to really argue one against the other. I think the timing of MJ’s career came at a time when sport was becoming more global and he was the face of basketball around the world at the time in a way that’s made him transcend the game and may be just as much about the era he played in as much as how good he was. Even if there was a player who was clearly better than MJ in every way but having their career now is highly unlikely to still be selling their signature Nike’s 15 years after retirement like MJ does. I grew up in the ’80’s. MJ was at his peak at the time I first started watching basketball. He was just phenomenal to watch. He would just pull off freakish moves. Lebron just has power and height that means he often doesn’t need to be as spectacular. But the spectacular often grabs us.

        • June 13th 2018 @ 4:29pm
          Mushi said | June 13th 2018 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

          We’ve exchanged this on multiple threads (in agreement) but why do we need to choose.

          Inevitably the “choice” involves some form of denigration of an otherworldly basketball player.

          I find Bron’s passing spectacular.

          I think the irony is that Bron’s body is an imposing hammer but his game is about malleability and Jordan was silky smooth but his game was an unstoppable brute scoring force

      • June 15th 2018 @ 3:21pm
        Wayne Turner said | June 15th 2018 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

        The 1990’s NBA was alot tougher than today. From real actual big centres then, to harder fouls. Plus, Jordan and the Bulls had more competitive teams to compete against,unlike the one super team of today to be against.

        https://www.complex.com/sports/2013/05/20-reasons-why-the-nba-was-better-in-the-90s/drawn-out-playoffs

    • Roar Rookie

      June 13th 2018 @ 9:49am
      josh said | June 13th 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      I’ve stated on other threads, I think it comes down to the era you watched.

      The Jordan/James on a statistical front are so similar that it comes down to personal choice. My choice for James is what he did with the 2007 Cavs.

      But the spectacular often grabs us. this is what irks me a bit about Steph Curry and the current NBA. His 3 point shots aren’t that hard, if that’s what you are training for.

    • June 15th 2018 @ 10:05am
      Wayne Turner said | June 15th 2018 @ 10:05am | ! Report

      Jordan still better than LeBron. LeBron can have as many great Final stats as he likes,but mean nothing if it does NOT lead to winning. Cavs lost 4 to 0,and LeBron’s stats didn’t change that.

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