Editor's note: Many fans continue to underappreciate and criticize Lebron James in spite of his remarkable performance that helped the Cavs rally their way to a Championship trailing from a 3-1 series deficit. This article will contain opinion that would help shed light on the question of who is the best player on the planet through discussing both history and statistics. The article contains a brief highlight of the journey that the King and the entire Cavaliers team took to reach who they are right now- champions.
It was a mystery how the best basketball player on the planet, backed up with two three-time All-Stars, belonged to the underdog team in the most recent NBA Finals. When the Cleveland Cavaliers' Big Three was formed, many had pictured seeing the Cavs dominating the NBA, but the unexpected rise of the Splash Brothers in Dubnation turned this giant star-studded team with the best basketball player in NBA history into the finals underdog.
Yes, Lebron James is the best player in basketball history. It's not Jordan, not Kareem, and definitely not the Golden State's back to back MVP, Stephen Curry whose game 7 showing was a huge disappointment.
Statistics wise, as far as Box Plus-Minus, the best all-in-one statistical metric of a player's contribution in the NBA, Lebron is standing at the top for career value in the regular season and the playoffs. Though the metric does not cover the first four years of Abdul-Jabbar's career, nor does it consider Jordan's four seasons of mid-career retirement, but Lebron is only 31 years old and still has many years before he retires. If one argues that Lebron has not surpassed these other players yet, he definitely will before he runs out of basketball years.
During the start of the 2014-2015 season, just as the big 3 was formed, the Cavs instantly became the analysts' favorite, and were expected to dominate the league. Eventually, they made it to the NBA finals despite losing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to injury. However, the Warriors were able to beat the Cavs winning the series 4-2. This was still considered a laudable achievement for King James though considering that he had to singlehandedly carry the Cavs team without his 2 other co-All-stars. Entering the next season, the Cavs campaign was in full throttle as they lead in statistical forecasting models, regaining the title of the team who is most likely to win.
But the mission to bring the trophy to Cleveland started to become dimmer this season, as the Warriors had kicked off with 24 straight wins. The Warriors played excellent up-tempo basketball built around very good team defense, excellent ball movement, and high volumes of efficient three-point shooting courtesy of the Splash brothers. With the Warrior’s overwhelming victory, they became the season's team to beat. They ended the season with 73 wins breaking Jordan's Chicago Bulls' record.
READ ALSO: Bench mob helps Golden State Warriors beat Cavs in NBA Finals Game 1
The Cavs was easily overshadowed by the Warriors during the regular season. Despite playing in the weaker conference, they were only managed to win 57 games, only a few games more than the young Toronto Raptors team. Though the King produced extremely good career averages (as always), it seemed that he had lost his touch from long distance as his numbers from behind the arch drastically lowered. Aside from that, Irving played awful defense as he ranked 12th from the bottom in the entire NBA in terms of all-in-one Real Plus-Minus statistics. Kevin Love was also far from garnering the numbers he did when he was with the Minnesota Timberwolves where in one season he averaged up to 26 points and 13 rebounds.
On the other hand, Stephen Curry played what probably was the best basketball of his career where he was eventually awarded Most Valuable Player unanimously - the first player ever to be awarded so. Lebron James himself conceded, "Never before seen someone like him in the history of the ball,” he said.
The Warriors during the Western Conference finals also had a run for their money against the Oklahoma Thunders as they were down 1-3. They were able to rally and win big after winning three straight games from the deficit.
The finals series between the Cavs and the Warriors did not start in favor of the Cavs. They were trailing 1-3 games in what looked like the end of the road for the eastern conference champions. During the 5th and 6th games, King James refused to concede and rallied his team with outstanding performances in both games. In game 5 he gained 41 pts, 16 rebounds and 7 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks and in game 6, he compiled 41 pts, 11 assists, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, and three blocks. The 2 game victories allowed the Cavs to force a game 7 (third time in history) and eventually caused an upset and win from and a 3-1 deficit. (First in history)
The game 7 of the finals, held in Oracle Arena, was one of the best showing in NBA finals history with 20 lead changes and no margin more than seven points.
The Warriors played high-level offense, breaking the Cavs defense with their deadly three pointing offensive strategy. The Cavs in a lot of games failed to communicate well defensively thus allowing the Warriors to win with double-digit margins in game 1, 2, and 4.
On the other hand, the Cavs could not connect offensively as well. It seemed the Lue's Isolation strategy was not effective in rallying against the Warriors. The Cavs offense hugely revolved around James dribbling the ball, spending a lot of time looking to drive, or kick out to the outside shooter. The drive and kick strategy did not fare well, as the outside shooters failed to connect most of their shots. Plan B was to give Irving a go on isolation plays and to hope that Dr. Drew's handles do them wonders.
Although it appeared that the Cavs' offensive strategies were elementary, it was effective nonetheless. Kyrie Irving displayed spectacular offensive prowess including the game-clinching three-pointer he dropped at the last 53 seconds in game 7. The King may not have performed his best shooting day, but he was definitely a beast creating shots for himself, creating space for teammates, and displaying tremendous defense blocking very crucial shots.
For some weird twist of fate, the Cavs team was able to step up their defensive game and was able to close out Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry in game 7. The sharpshooting Splash Brothers made only 30% of their field goals, an unusual showing from the two. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, both known for their poor defense, were both able to pull through making huge defensive plays during the final game.
Ultimately, I guess it's fair to say that the better team lost the trophy. To win the series, it took what’s almost considered a miracle for James and Irving, off nights for the splash brothers, Warriors losing Bogut to injury, and Green missing game 5.
Lebron James, despite his basketball prowess and achievement, was highly underappreciated and was very unpopular with a lot of basketball fans. In fact, the Cavs was dubbed online as #TeamEvil. During the start of his career, he was hailed as the next Michael Jordan despite carrying his team to one of the most dominating teams in the league, James seemed to have been cursed with unattainable expectations.
Now that he has won Cleveland a title after besting a team that won 73 games during the regular season, fans have started seeing Lebron in a better light. It's sad noting that this tale of redemption was necessary to recognize James as the greatest player of all time.
Lebron James is truly the King of basketball. He has proven it with multiple championships, and all his MVP awards. More than that, we may never see another player in years to fill up that stat sheet the same way Lebron did it. After all, he ranked first in points, rebounds, assist, blocks and steals during this Playoff run.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Kami.com.ph.