Legacy, something that someone has achieved and continues to exist after they stop working or die. That’s the best definition I could find for the word legacy as it pertains to the sports world. It’s a word that gets brought up often when trying to determine a player’s greatness and what they mean to the sport. Often legacies and careers are compared to arbitrarily rank players against one another. Guys can’t help but rank and compare things whether it’s in sports, music or wings: Brady vs Montana, Jay-Z vs Nas, Hooters vs Buffalo Wild Wings. It’s just another way for us to open up a good debate with someone and present our argument of why A is better than B.
Sometimes this gets in the way of us truly appreciating what A or B is doing and living in the moment. I think that’s the case with Lebron Raymone James, the only player in NBA history to reach five consecutive NBA finals with two different teams. This is a noteworthy feat in and of itself. It deserves an applause, but is likely overshadowed by the fact that if the Cavaliers lose, he will be 2-6 in the finals. “That just won’t cut it”, for his legacy to be remembered as one of the greatest players to play in the sport, one of my friends told me.
Looking at what Lebron has done thus far in his 11 year career is magnificent. This article would be exponentially longer if I listed all his credentials but I’m just going to name a few: 2x NBA Champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 4x NBA MVP, 11x NBA All-Star, 2008 Scoring Champ, and from the very beginning 2004 NBA Rookie of the year. Again, his career is showered in accolades, but here is the scary thing. It’s not farfetched to say Lebron James could play at a high level for another 8 to 10 years. There’s plenty of room to add to the list of everything he’s already done.
No one player has ever had as much command and influence inside and outside of the NBA since Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant fans will probably make a strong argument, but to them I say, Lebron has never had a Shaq or the supporting cast he had on the court, or was dealt the blow to his marketability that Kobe was dealt during 2003-2004 season. Going back to my earlier statement, the comparisons to Michael Jordan are the things that keep people born in and before the 80’s from appreciating what Lebron is doing right now. To quote another one of my friends, “He’s an anomaly; people criticize everything but his game. But while they’re arguing about his deficiencies (rings), they are missing the fact that we are witnessing one of the greatest players etch his name into NBA history.”
The outcome of this NBA Finals will determine a lot for Lebron. He is the biggest player, on the biggest stage of the second most popular team sport in America. But the NBA is a sport which showcases and is influenced by one person more than any other. There is no other popular “Team” sport where one player can have the degree of impact as they do in the NBA. He can throw the touchdown pass and catch it. He can catch the fly ball and run down the guy trying to get back on base. He can block a goal as the goalie, and dribble the ball down the field to make the score. So where in the Super Bowl, the focus is on the Patriots vs. Seahawks. In the NBA Finals it’s really the Lebron James’ Cavaliers vs whoever comes out of the west.
While the outcome will add a layer to his greatness or more ammunition to his doubters, the fact that he got here is worth appreciating. Another friend put it into even greater perspective when he said, “Not only is he going to his 5th straight finals, but he’s leading a team with no Kevin Love, a hurt Kyrie Irving, and bunch of players who have never been to the playoff finals before. We are really watching greatness right now.”
I’m not the biggest Lebron James fan, but I have a healthy respect for what he has done and is doing. How will it end? How will he be remembered? What does it say about him if he doesn’t win the big one again? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I am watching one of the best basketball players try to add to his legacy once again. The next chapter in the Lebron story is being written and it should be a fun ride. Maybe we should just enjoy the film, and wait for the credits to roll before we make a decision and compare it to the movies that came before it. You never know, a plot twist could be just around the corner…