LeBron James is Still the Best Player in the Game
With his tenth NBA Finals appearance looming in the bubble, it’s easy to take LeBron James for granted. He has done nothing but win for the entire 2010s, with the exception of one season de-railed due to injuries. James has made the NBA Finals from 2011 to 2018, and once again in 2020.
With James missing the 2019 playoffs, a window opened for new players to be considered as the best in the world, and two players made a case to claim the throne.
Not too long ago, before a global pandemic shut the world down, the basketball community flirted with the idea that Kawhi Leonard or Giannis Antetokounmpo could be the best player in the world.
Leonard was the defending finals MVP and left the defending champs to play with Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers. His heroics in the 2019 playoffs, combined with playing alongside a “superstar” player in George made Kawhi a popular pick as the premier player in the NBA.
Antetokounmpo was the reigning regular season MVP and was about to add a second MVP along with his first Defensive Player of the Year award to the trophy closet. His Bucks had the best record in the league, and looked primed to make another run at the title that escaped them last year.
Oh how the tables have turned.
Both Leonard and Antetokounmpo’s teams flamed out in the second round, in equally shocking and disappointing fashion. Meanwhile the Lakers have been one of the more dominant teams in the playoffs, losing just three games total en route to the finals.
James has been a leading force in the playoffs thus far, averaging 26.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists while shooting 34.9 percent from three. He’s a plus 8.6 when on the floor for the Lakers, and his play will be crucial if the Lakers are able to capture their seventeenth championship.
Age is nothing but a number
Take a moment to appreciate LeBron’s greatness. At 35-years-old, he is still (when he wants/needs to be) the most dominant player in the game. He led the league in assists averaging 10.3 per game on the season.
At age 35, in an elimination game versus the Nuggets, James scored 16 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter to effectively end the Cinderella story that was the Nuggets this playoffs.
At 35, when it’s “winning time,” LeBron will still take up the task of defending the team’s best player, a far contrast from the reigning back-to-back league MVP’s comments regarding the task of defending the opposing team’s best player.
LeBron has aged just about as well as a fine wine. While his defensive intensity through four quarters has certainly diminished with age, he is still as effective as his prime self, and can show flashes of his prime in spurts.
Seize the Moment
Whenever LeBron achieves a feat in the NBA, the comparisons to Michael Jordan are inevitable. The debates between fans that witnessed Jordan in the 90s won’t hear talk about LeBron being the greatest of all time.
Fans that grew up watching LeBron James will do anything to poke holes in Jordan’s legacy in an attempt to defend their generation’s basketball icon.
For all the NBA fans reading this right now, read this with an open mind. Even if LeBron is defying odds in the twilight of his career, no one knows how much time we have left to watch one of the best to ever lace em’ up. We can’t possibly know what tomorrow holds, and we won’t know how many more years LeBron can play at this high level.
When Kobe Bryant was at his peak, we could’ve never imagined the achilles injury that ended his prime pre-maturely. Basketball can be an unforgiving sport at times. We are lucky to have witnessed a career as great as LeBron’s transpire in our lifetime.
We may never see another player quite like LeBron ever again. As he enters his tenth NBA Finals and competes for his fourth career championship, enjoy the moment. Watch greatness, and appreciate that greatness in the moment. Win or lose, you can count on LeBron James to put up all-time performances, as he’s always done in playoffs.