You can love LeBron James or hate him, but you can’t ignore his greatness. “The kid from Akron” has accomplished much, not just as an athlete but as a businessman, that even his staunchest critics and haters, the “Skip Baylesses” of the world, could not help but sing praises.
The list of his career highlights and awards is long. On top of that list are 4 NBA championship rings and the same number of NBA Finals MVP trophies. He was also voted NBA MVP 4 times. His critics would be quick to mention that Michael Jordan has more rings and trophies than Bron and therefore is a greater player… and the greatest of all time. Bill Russel won more championships than Jordan and Lebron combined. So, should he be the GOAT? I could almost hear basketball pundits calling me names for asking that question. They might even say that I know nothing about basketball for not agreeing that MJ is the GOAT.
For the record, I don’t buy the idea of declaring a basketball player as the GOAT. Each of the aforementioned players is/was great. The list of great players who showcased their superb talents and have brought us entertainment through the years is long. The GOAT debate is just like a championship ring. It is rounded and has no beginning or end. Discussions about it would always end in a stalemate. Nobody could definitively say who among past and present basketball players is the greatest of all time. Nobody could claim that they have a statistically sound metric to objectively determine who among those basketeers should be declared the best. Not because ESPN’s Stephen Smith says that Michael Jordan is the greatest hooper that everybody in the basketball universe would already accept it as the truth.
We cannot disregard the greatness of a certain athlete by saying that another one is better. We should not diminish LeBron’s greatness by saying that Jordan (or anyone else) is a better cager. We should learn to appreciate the accomplishments of players individually, not comparatively.
I find it amusing how the LeBron doubters would eagerly await that he fails at something or his team would not perform as well as expected for them to have something to say against him. Is it because they expect too much from him or do they just hate to see him succeed? They won’t consider him helping bring his teams (Miami & Cleveland) to eight straight finals as an accomplishment but rather a monumental failure having succeeded only thrice in those multiple trips to the NBA finals. They refuse to give him credit for leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to come back from a 1-3 deficit and win the championship citing as the reason the suspension given to Daymond Green in Game 5 of that series. They also considered the championship he won with the Lakers as insignificant because the 2020 NBA season was shortened and disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In short, his critics would always find a way to either downgrade or disregard his greatness.
But no matter what the fault-finders say, LeBron remained steadfast in his quest for greatness. At the age of 38, he remained competitive. I don’t know if any player could beat him in the category of longevity. And it is not just a matter of playing as long as they could but playing at a level the way Lebron has been doing it.
Whether he could play as long as Kareem Abdul Jabbar (who retired at the age of 42) remains to be seen. But what is certain to happen is him passing Kareem as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. As of today (01-04-23), Lebron has 37,903 points. He needs just 485 more points. He is therefore at the precipice of another great milestone. Estimates have it that sometime in February, 2023 the “Kid from Akron” will be breaking the said record that stood since 1984.
King James, for me, is an epitome of a person “aging like fine wine.” At the age of 37, (according to Forbes) LeBron James is the first active NBA player ever to become a billionaire. At the age of 38, he is about to become NBA’s all-time leading scorer. By the way, among the top 5 all-time leading scorers, he has the highest number of assists and is third in total rebounds.
We don’t know if those who despise Lebron so much would be happy to see him add all those feathers to his cap. They may be. Skip Bayless said he is. I have no reason to doubt Skip… or should I?