After playing 18 seasons in the NBA, there really isn’t much left to discuss. Cutting through the opinions about his free-agent orchestrations, the “decision,” the “not one – not two,” and even his politics, LeBron James, by all accounts that matter, is the 2nd greatest player who ever picked up a basketball. Period.
There is, however, still very much a debate that questions whether LeBron’s resume, skill set, statistics, and longevity are enough to consider him as the greatest of all time. Last summer, we were treated to a peek into the mind of a psychotic, neurotic, win-at-all-costs maniac of a man who currently sits atop that mountain and for now, that debate has mostly been settled: No. LeBron is not the GOAT.
Can LeBron do anything to change this debate? Absolutely, but it will be damn near impossible.
The only way that LeBron can cement his legacy as, and forever end the debate, to who is the GOAT is if he leads the Lakers to four straight NBA titles.
Let’s break down all the ways that this feat would push LeBron over Michael Jordan.
1. No team in the Post-merger NBA, including Jordan’s Bulls, Has Ever Won Four Straight Titles.
The teams that won three straight titles post 1976 include the 90’s Bulls (twice) and the Kobe/Shaq Lakers. That’s it. Not the Duncan Spurs, not the KD-Steph Warriors, not The Olajuwon Rockets, not the Bird Celtics or the Magic Lakers. Simply put, winning three straight puts you in extremely rarefied air.
But winning four? LeBron and the Lakers would sit alone on that throne with another team never likely to repeat that feat again.
2. LeBron would sit at seven titles to Jodan’s six.
LeBron currently sits at four titles, and if he were to pull off the Herculean feat of winning three more in a row, he’d not only pass Jordan’s title count but have more titles than any other center-piece player in post-merger NBA history.
3. LeBron would have a winning NBA Finals record at 7-6.
The biggest strike on LeBron has always been his losing Finals record. Currently, LeBron sits at 4-6 and has LOST as many as Jordan has won. This is likely the weakest argument as he would BARELY have a winning record, however with a 4-peat, that conversation would almost certainly change.
4. LeBron would have played in 13 NBA Finals, matching Bill Russell.
LeBron could have retired last year and he would have had more seasons played reaching the NBA Finals (10) than not (8). LeBron is more likely to reach the NBA Finals (55.5%) than Steph Curry is to make a shot from beyond the arc (43.3%). Playing in an astounding 13 NBA Finals would push that percentage to 65%; unmatched by anyone post-merger.
Losing to the Mavericks, losing to the Spurs in Miami, and getting outgunned by KD and Steph will always haunt and, ultimately, hurt LeBron’s argument for being the GOAT, which is why his last push to finally conquer Jordan’s ghost would have to be so spectacular and unmatched in NBA history that it silences most doubt.
Will LeBron do it? Who knows; probably not. The guy has to crawl out of the West as a 7 seed this year and defeat KD, Kyrie, Harden, and the final form of an insane offense that’s a combination of the Warriors and the early-2000’s Phoenix Suns.
But if he does, that debate is finally over.