“Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven.”
Lebron James led the Miami Heat to their third NBA Championship with a 95-88 Game 7 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. With this victory James has definitively established himself as one of the greatest players ever.
James finished with 37 points and 12 rebounds, tying the record for most points in a NBA Finals Game 7 win.
James’ boastful prediction of a string of championships doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it did when he made the announcement in 2010. With three straight finals appearances, James has elevated the Miami Heat to dynasty level. Miami has three rings overall (one without James) and four Finals appearances in eight years. Only four teams in history have been that dominant (Lakers, Celtics, Bulls, and Spurs.) Since the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson era, only four teams have appeared in three straight finals. The Lakers and Bulls did it twice, and the Pistons and Celtics are the other two teams.
Every time James steps on the court the glaring spotlight of history is on him and he is expected to do something legendary. Early in his career, he was not always able to live up to those expectations, but ever since he brought his talents to the Miami Heat he has been nothing short of spectacular.
This year James led the Heat to 66 regular-season victories that included 27 straight victories. That is the second longest-streak in NBA history. He captured his fourth regular season MVP award and his second NBA Finals MVP award and averaged 26.8 points, 8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 1.7 steals a game. He shot a career-best 56.5% from the field, and was a first team member of the NBA All-Defensive team.
In 2010, he made the announcement that he was “taking my talents to South Beach” and joining forces with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade to form a “Big Three” superstar team. Criticism was heaped upon him for doing what most athletes do — trying to maximize the opportunity to win a championship. In the NBA that means teaming up with other superstars.
Miami on the other hand was criticized for doing what sports franchises are supposed to do — win championships. Miami made the decision to invest $100M in each of its superstars and the return has manifested in itself in three Finals appearances and back-to-back championships.
James has a tattoo on his back: “Chosen 1.” Here are five reasons why he can lay claim to that moniker.
1. His performance can only be compared to the greats.
James is most often compared to Michael Jordan and as this infographic shows it is a very plausible comparison.
James was awarded the 2013 NBA Finals MVP award for his virtuoso performance. He became only the third player (after Michael Jordan and Larry Bird) in history to win the regular season MVP and NBA Finals MVP in multiple years.
He is only the third player (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan) to have four regular-season MVP awards, two championships, and two NBA Finals MVP awards.
He is the third player (Bill Russell, Michael Jordan) in league history to win back-to-back Finals MVP and regular-season MVP awards.
He is the only player to win an Olympic gold medal, NBA regular-season MVP, NBA Finals MVP, and NBA Championship in the same season. He is only the second player (Bill Russell) to win the regular-season MVP four times in five years.
2. He is a two-way player.
In 2013, James was named to the first team NBA All-Defensive team for the fifth straight year. He can play every position on the floor. In the Finals he was asked to defend against 6’1” point guard Tony Parker, one of the quickest players in the league. Last year he defended Oklahoma City Thunder scoring machine 6’10” Kevin Durant who has a 7’0 wing span. No one will ever forget “The Block” against Tiago Splitter in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. In Game 4 he tried to match that spectacular play by blocking Tim Duncan’s shot.
3. He keeps getting better.
James shot a career-best 56.5% from the field in 2013 and averaged a career-best 8 rebounds. His greatest weakness has been his perimeter shooting, but in Game 7 he went 5-10 and scored 15 points from the three-point line. He also hit two clutch mid-range jumpers in the fourth quarter of the game.
4. He is one-of-a-kind.
James is a physical specimen. He is 6’8" and 260 pounds with the strength of a power forward, the passing ability of a point guard, and the quickness and slashing ability of a swing man. There has never been a big man with his skill set. He is Karl Malone with Magic Johnson skills. And he is only 28. He has career averages of 27.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.9 assists. Compare that to Jordan who averaged 30.1, 6.2, and 5.3 respectively. Magic Johnson averaged 19.5, 7.2 and 11.2. Kobe Bryant is averaging 25.1, 5.2 and 4.7.
5. He is just hitting his stride.
James is only 28. This is his 10th year. He has been relatively injury-free. In his 10-year career he has played in 95% of his teams’ regular-season games and 100% of the playoff games. He has averaged 76.5 regular season games per season. Through his first 10 years he has already scored over 21,000 points. If he were to retire today he would be 10th on the all-time playoff scoring list. He is second in Player Efficiency Rating. His current contract has three more years on it. Barring injury and at the same pace, in three years he should be in the Top 10 of all-time NBA scorers.