He has been dubbed King James ever since his high school basketball games became standard pay-per-view buys in 2002. We have all become “witnesses” of his greatness, and seen him take his talents from Cleveland to South Beach and back to the Buckeye State, turning each stop into championship contenders. There is really no doubting the man’s talents but does Lebron James really deserve the crown as the NBA’s King?
There have been some great players since the greatest basketball player of all-time hung them up for the third and final time in 2003. Kobe Bryant has won 5 NBA championships. Shaquille O’Neal has won 4 and been the most physically imposing big-man in the history of the game. Tim Duncan, although often forgotten among all-time greats, has 5 titles and has been the model of consistency over the past 18 seasons.
However none of these men could sit on the throne that Lebron James looks to position himself on. Lebron James every year has been the undoubted face of the franchise that he played for.
Many claim Kobe has been the face of the NBA since Jordan’s last game with the Bulls after the 98’ season. But what they may fail to realize is that during LA’s 3-peat with Kobe, he had the world’s greatest player with him. Shaq averaged more games played, more minutes played, a much higher FG percentage, and a much higher PPG rate than Kobe.
Does this mean that Shaq was truly the King of the Hardwood after Jordan? No. Although Shaq may have been a bigger part of the Lakers’ championships than Bryant he still needed the SG to do something he couldn’t manage in his 3 seasons in Orlando, win an NBA Title. After he left LA, his new team relied more on a young Dwayne Wade to win a championship than Superman.
As for Duncan’s claim to the throne, nobody could doubt his greatness as “The Big Fundamental” played the game the way it was supposed to be. But his championships will always be noted as winning alongside a great team and not just him taking over. His 1st ring came thanks to his duo with the other twin tower, David “The Admiral” Robinson. And his other 4 with the help of PG Tony Parker and SG Manu Ginobili.
That is not to mention the fact that these other superstars, although great players in their own respect, had 3 of the greatest coaches of all-time to help lead them to their championships. Greg Popovich (Duncan), Phil Jackson (Kobe & Shaq), and Pat Riley (Shaq) are all first ballot Hall of Fame coaches, whereas Lebron’s coaches seem to be on the lower end of the coaching scale.
Erik Spoelstra hasn’t made it out of the 1st round of the playoffs without James carrying his team. And there is little doubt that Lebron James made former Cavaliers coach Mike Brown. Brown won NBA coach of the year in 09’, while it was Lebron carrying the team on his back to the best record in the East. Brown was fired after Lebron’s last season in Cleveland and went to coach the Lakers where even a healthy Kobe couldn’t carry Brown’s horrid coaching like Lebron could, and Brown was fired 5 games into his second season with the team. Now Lebron is carrying a team with a first time NBA coach in David Blatt. Hardly the Popovich, Jackson, Riley trio that the others got to win under.
But not only does Lebron win despite average at best coaching, he wins with average at best talent. Before you yell out “But what about the Big-3?!” think about it. Anybody who watched the Heat the past 4 years has seen a Dwayne Wade who instead of giving fans high flying dunks is giving team doctors a high flying number of medical visits. Chris Bosh had 4 of his worst statistical years with Miami (lower PPG, APG, BPG, and RPG) while Lebron carried the team to 4 consecutive Finals despite the other “Big 2” having lower PPG, APG, RPG, and more turnovers during the playoffs.
While Duncan had Robinson and then Ginobili, Parker, and now budding superstar Kawhi Leonard, and while Kobe had Shaq, Derek Fisher, Ron Artest (I will never call him Metta-World Peace), and Pau Gasol, and while Shaq had Kobe and a young Dwayne Wade, Lebron’s best player he got to play with before this season? A 37 year old Ray Allen.
The kind of talent Lebron has been surrounded by? Anderson Varejao was Lebron’s best teammate for 6 years. Again….Anderson Varejao.
But still Lebron has dominated the game with sub-par talent to the tune of 2 NBA Titles and and 4 MVP’s.
Well Lebron can’t be King because he doesn’t show up when the Cavs need him most. Actually….according to a stat shown by ESPN, not only does Lebron have the same amount of playoff buzzer beaters as the great MJ, but he has a higher make percentage in late game go ahead shots during the playoffs than the man considered the king of clutch.
But the Lebron critics will continue hate. After all this year’s Cavaliers team that he is on has 2 other All-Star players in PG Kyrie Irving and PF Kevin Love. The 2 players that without Lebron, led the Cavs to an awful record. With Lebron James in the lineup the Cavs were 50-19 (.724), however without him the Cavs slid 3-10 (.231).
And with Love out for the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Kyrie continuously hurt, Lebron James led the Cavaliers to a 4-2 series win over the Bulls with an average stat line of 26-11-9.
If it’s true that great players step up in the playoffs then there is little doubt that James is not only the best player in the league, but the most dominant player since Michael Jordan. Neither Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, or Tim Duncan can even compete with James’ career playoff production (28-8.5-6.5). Not even close, and that is with worse teams, far worse coaching. Quite the statement against those against crowning him the King of the NBA.
Maybe it is because it is so rare for somebody to singularly own the title of King. In the 60’s Russell and Wilt battled for it, in the 70’s Kareem took the mantle, and the 80’s had a war between Bird and Magic that makes Game of Thrones look like child’s play. The 90’s was absolutely dominated by the greatest basketball player ever in Michael Jordan, but since then there has been no real heir….until now.
The throne of NBA greatness has been fought over by too many since MJ left, but it seems that there has been NBA royalty all along. And even though he may not have all the rings yet, Lebron is sitting on the NBA’s throne waiting for the crown to be placed atop the King’s head, watching the others battle for 2nd place well below his castle.