With LeBron James getting back to another NBA Finals - with a less than star-studded roster - we asked our panel of NBA experts: If LeBron wins the championship this year, is he the greatest of all-time?
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): It's been 20 years since we saw Michael Jordan at his peak when he was dominating the league winning championships, and even longer since we've seen those all-time great players before him who were ruling the league in their primes, so I get that his memories may have faded for some who are living in the moment.
I think LeBron James is the best player in this era, but I can't say he is the greatest player to ever play even if he wins the championship this season.
There's an NBA mount Rushmore and LeBron belongs on that, but to say he's the greatest player to ever step foot on an NBA floor is disrespectful to the many legends of this game. It's too hard to compare eras. I'm with Kobe on this one - let's just enjoy what we are watching since we may never see it again.
We can enjoy one without tearing down one. I love what he's doing. Don't debate what can't be definitively won by anyone #enjoymy5 #enjoymj6 #enjoylbjquest- Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) May 28, 2018
Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane): Winning the 2018 NBA title would go down as LeBron's greatest achievement, given the adversity the Cavs have faced this season and the immense talent on the other side of the court in the Golden State Warriors.
Is it enough to make him the greatest? I mean, the whole G.O.A.T. conversation is flawed to begin with, but if we measure greatness in achievements, Michael Jordan still has him covered.
Is LeBron James the best overall player to ever set foot on a basketball court? Probably. The numbers and the eye test certainly don't lie.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I guess I'm in the minority here, because, regardless of what happens over the next couple of weeks, I think there's already a strong case to be made for LeBron being the greatest player of all time. But if he somehow carries this roster past these Warriors - a team, let's not forget, that will be remembered as one of the most dominant we've ever seen when it's all said and done - it more than makes up for the ring disparity between him and Jordan.
When you put that together with everything else he's done in his career, from all the individual records to the eight straight trips to the NBA Finals, it gives LeBron the resume he needs to be considered the G.O.A.T. It might not be a no-brainer, but I think it gives him the edge.
Jordan Greer (@jordangreer42): The G.O.A.T. debate will continue to change over time as James keeps adding to his legacy, but if he somehow manages to lead this Cavs bunch over the Warriors and prevent this dynasty from fully forming, I believe the argument swings heavily in his favour and propels him over Jordan.
As ESPN's Zach Lowe notes, James is enjoying quite possibly the greatest playoff run in NBA history as the only player to hit averages of 30 points, 8.5 assists and 8.5 rebounds per game over at least 15 postseason games. James is already No. 1 in playoff points, No. 3 in playoff assists and No. 6 in playoff rebounds, not to mention No. 1 in playoff steals and No. 16 in playoff blocks despite spending much of his time on the wing.
LeBron has gone from consistently being the "first player to do crazy thing since Jordan" to becoming the "only player to do crazy thing," and he's not slowing down. He looked directly at the aging curve for NBA superstars and essentially said, "I'll deal with you when I have a minute. I'm trying to win another title over here."
For many fans, James won't be on the same level as Jordan until he captures that sixth ring, and even that might not be enough considering MJ's perfect Finals record. But for me, some titles are worth more than others - and beating both the pre- and post-Kevin Durant versions of the Warriors should give him G.O.A.T. status.
I don't expect it to happen, but it will sure be fun to watch James try.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): Absolutely. I already believe the argument that LeBron James is the greatest to ever pick up a basketball can be made regardless of the outcome of this series.
James cannot win this series alone - no one could. Replace LeBron on this team with any other member of basketball's Mt. Rushmore and ask yourself if the Cavs would have gotten this far. I think not.
Titles are a team accomplishment. To me, greatness is a measure of how much better you make those around you. A Cavs team that did not have enough time to jell during the regular season is four wins away from an NBA title thanks to LeBron's leadership and play. If the rest of the Cavaliers play well enough to win this series, it would be a direct result of LeBron bringing the best out of them.
This Warriors team will be remembered as one of the best of all time. While a series win would not count for more than one title, the weight it would carry because of sheer difficulty is an accomplishment in itself and arguably more difficult than anything any other great ever had to do.
Add that to LeBron's decade of dominance, and the case for G.O.A.T. should be closed.
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