LeBron James continued to dominate the NBA playoffs with stunning performances in his 17th year in the league. Despite Jimmy Butler being the first player to outscore, outrebound and out-assist LeBron James in a Finals game (including LeBron’s teammates) the Lakers moved on to wrap up a 4-2 after winning game 6 against the Miami Heat 106-93, with James landing his fourth NBA Finals MVP award and becoming the first to do so with three different teams.
The 2020 NBA playoffs – regardless of the upheaval of playing in the Covid-proof bubble of Orlando, FL – has seen 2 constants. Firstly, one of the Miami Heat or the Golden State Warriors has appeared in every final for the past 10 years and, secondly, LeBron James making his tenth finals appearance in his 17 year career. Satisfyingly, an L.A. Lakers title win is also their 17th NBA title equalling the Boston Celtics 17 NBA Championship banners. Meaning the NBA’s two most successful teams continue to vie for NBA sovereignty. These familiar constants have pushed through despite the extreme shake ups, lack of fans, and abnormalities of the 2020 NBA playoffs.
LeBron James’ MVP legacy and the memory of Kobe Bryant is what the Lakers played for. Despite a rough 8 turnovers in game 3, the adjustment to the NBA bubble environment at his age has not impacted his output. The ‘Letease’ statistic has come up recently, which is ‘Le’-Bron being 1 assist or 1 rebound away from a triple double (double figures in 3 skills). James is gaining on L.A Lakers legend Magic Johnson with playoff triple doubles + ‘Leteases’ now with 48 to 50 respectively. This marks the continual achievement of an impressive statistical contribution as he pushes on in age, while further slotting him alongside other Lakers heroes in this pursuit for the teams long awaited 17th championship.
The fact that he has reached his 10th NBA finals alone puts him in rarefied air, which is especially outstanding given the increase in the number of teams in today’s NBA. LeBron James has equalled another L.A. Lakers legend a,nd overall point scoring record holder in NBA history, Kareem Abdul Jabar in finals appearances, leaving only two players ahead of him. Top is Bill Russell, who had 11 championship rings with a career amassing 12 finals appearances. Second was Russell’s team mate at the time for Lakers rivals the Boston Celtics on the 1950’s-1960’s championship winning teams Sam Jones. So, regardless of how this series plays out, Lebron, with no evidence of a decline in health, could be looking to surpass the finals appearance leaders during his time in L.A
There is always going to be the ring conversation looming over LeBron James’ accomplishments, which started all the way back to before he graduated high school in Akron, Ohio. How many NBA titles can he win? LeBron sits on 3 rings from his time at his current rivals the Miami Heat and one with his home town team the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s up to five now but the question remains, will he attain the coveted 6 NBA Championship rings won by Michael Jordan? Kobe had 5 and LeBron James now wears Bryant’s purple and gold with Jordan’s number on his back, so all their legacies are intertwined in this fascinating story. To many, the ring count doesn’t matter, as his consistent output game to game only compounds his greatness but MJ and Kobe did it when it matters, which for some is the only thing that matters.
LeBron has never been alone in his pursuit for championships and this season he has high profile superstar Anthony Davis alongside him. The famous Lakers duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant won 3 rings together in L.A. when LeBron was about to enter the league, and comparisons have been drawn to the two sets of players. LeBron was asked about these comparisons in a post-game interview where he interestingly remarked that he is more like the physically dominant O’Neal, and Anthony Davis (AD) was more like the elegant scorer Kobe Bryant. This is another indication of the constant of the return of the unstoppable duo, which has always been a factor in LeBron James NBA title winning runs.
What’s next? LeBron James is developing his off court, post basketball life as he comes down the home stretch of his career. The shares he owns in businesses across all sectors along with his community-based projects are surely going to take his mind off the game at some point. Could he even join Michael Jordan someday on the list of the richest sportsmen of all time?
For now though, with ring number 5, finals number 10 and MVP award number 5 all in the bag, LeBron James will surely be back for more next season. The Golden State Warriors will be back fresh and young teams will reinforce but, with these achievements to chase, wearing the purple and gold and graced by the number 23, LeBron James will have plenty of motivation to push on into his 3rd decade in the NBA.
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