After a difficult season full of drama, the death of a close friend in Kobe Bryant, COVID lockdowns, and the season restart in Orlando, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have made it to the NBA Finals, and will face the Miami Heat in Game 1 on Thursday.
After a difficult series with the Denver Nuggets, James and the Lakers managed to come out on top. They were led by James, who managed to earn a triple double with 38 points, 16 rebounds and ten assists to close out a hungry Denver squad. However, after the game, James did not celebrate. While his teammates were in full celebration mode, all James could think about was how the job is not done.
James also knows how important this particular finals series is to his legacy. He has always strived to be the best, and with the Western Conference Finals win, James has already silenced some doubters.
He has fought his way through the tough Western Conference and managed to win in the West, while securing a historic tenth Finals appearance, stamping his name as one of only four players to do so, joining legends such as Bill Russell, Sam Jones and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Teams that feature James are now 10-1 when making it to the conference finals, with his lone conference finals loss coming to teammate Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic squad in 2009. While this record is impressive, it is still not enough for the doubters to fade away.
(Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
While James has achieved greatness in reaching the grand stage on numerous occasions, his record in the NBA Finals is less than flattering. James has only won three rings out of nine attempts, leaving him with a 3-6 Finals record. His win percentage in the NBA Finals is an abysmal 33.33 per cent, leading some to question his place in the conversation of legends.
When comparing James to the other three individuals on the list of double digits Finals appearances, it looks worse for the star. Russell appeared in the Finals 12 times, and winning 11 rings. Jones appeared 11 times in the Finals, securing ten rings. Abdul-Jabbar won six times out of his ten Finals appearances.
Although these legends played in a different era when the NBA was not as competitive as it is today, James’ 3-6 Finals record still brings doubters. Even when compared with Michael Jordan and the late Kobe Bryant, James’ record on the big stage is not good. Jordan appeared in six Finals and won six rings, while Bryant had a 5-2 record in the Finals, losing to the Celtics and Pistons.
While the lack of wins has brought doubters, there is no question that James is a great player. He consistently averages a high volume of points, while being a triple-double threat every night he plays. James also elevated his playmaking skills this season. James’ play is at a level where the lowest expectation of him is to make it to the NBA Finals, no matter what team he is on, which showcases the level of greatness James plays at.
However, with all that in mind, this particular Finals series holds more importance to James’ legacy than any other year in recent memory. If the Lakers win, James has a chance of achieving history by becoming the first player to win a championship for three different teams, while also having the potential to become the first ever Finals MVP for three different teams, as he won the award with both the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers.
This title also holds special meaning, after James was ridiculed last season for missing the playoffs after battling through injuries. A win would get James his fourth title, improving his record to 4-6 when it comes to the NBA Finals.
Celtics legend Paul Pierce, who is a harsh James critic, has even stated that if the Lakers win this year, James will ascend to being second on the all-time greats list.
“It’s not easy to make an NBA Finals, and for him to be able to do it ten times, he’s moving up there in my rankings,” said Pierce on an episode of NBA Countdown. “I’m going to keep it real. If LeBron James… wins a title this year, I’ll put him right behind Michael Jordan.”
This title also holds a special significance due to the passing of the Lakers legend Kobe Bryant in January. The team will be hungry to win the title in his honour.
From breaking history to moving up on the all-time greats list, this NBA Finals series against the Miami Heat holds much significance towards James’ legacy, the Lakers are coming into this series as the favourites. All they need to do is win four more games to achieve greatness and cement James’ legacy as one of the greatest to ever do it.
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