Following the Golden State Warriors championship season last year, there were many skeptics (aka Trolls) who denounced the legitimacy of their NBA title. Their [the skeptics] argument stemmed from the fact that the Warriors continued to face teams plagued by injury; while they [the Warriors] stayed healthy. The skeptics ranged from Doc Rivers to Charles Barkley to every retired NBA player from the 80’s & 90’s. It’s an absurd argument to make but one that’s continued to make the rounds throughout this NBA season.
Lebron James and “his” Cleveland Cavaliers have had the easiest road to the NBA Finals in league history. Their first round matchup was against an up-and-coming but clearly inexperienced Pistons team that was still learning how to close out games. Their second round opponent was the Atlanta Hawks (or the Cincinnati Bengals of the NBA) who are formidable in the regular season but completely choke come the postseason. Finally, they reach the third round and get to face the overhyped and underwhelming Toronto Raptors.
The Cavs waxed the Raptors in the first two games of the series so badly that many believed (myself included) that the series would be over in 4 games. However, the Raptors played up for their home crowd and took games 3 &4 handily. All of sudden the narrative shifted and everyone started wondering if the Raptors had a real chance of stealing game 5 in Cleveland. Game 5 came and went, and the Raptors left all their talent in Toronto as the Cavs decimated them by 35 points. Game 6 is tonight and I fully believe that the Cavs will leave Toronto with a win.
Now, I brought all of that up to point out this; if these Cavs win the NBA Championship this year, shouldn’t their title be tainted? After all, they’ve played against inferior teams in one of the weakest Eastern Conferences the league has ever seen. If the Warriors title from last year is allowed to be put into question, why can’t the same be done to the Cavs? Furthermore, if Lebron makes it to the Finals and loses [again], what does that say about him as an all-time great?
As far as I see it, Lebron HAS to win a championship this year. He’s spent part of his season playing GM and making a coaching change and the other part trashing the Warriors and the accolades that have come their way; which they’ve deserved, regardless of what he says. He’s played in the extremely watered-down East which has helped him reach the Finals for 6 straight years (6 including this year).
The competition this year has been dreadful and his team has taken full advantage of that. With that being said, if he doesn’t come out of this season as a champion, I don’t think his legacy/reputation will ever recover.
If you dominate your conference like the Cavs have, all while throwing shade at the defending champs and contending that you’re still the best player in the game, you sure as hell better show up and deliver in the Finals. If you don’t, you’re no longer the “King” and you don’t deserve to be in the conversation as an all-time great (now I’m talking Magic, Jordan, Bird, Wilt etc.).
Don’t get me wrong, Lebron is one of the two best players in the game; but, he can’t go 2-5 in the Finals and be considered as an all-timer. It just doesn’t add up. For instance, if Tom Brady didn’t win the Super Bowl two years ago and had a 3-3 record rather than 4-2; no one would be saying that he deserves to be in the same conversation as Joe Montana. You can’t continue to come up short in championship games and be considered one of the best ever.
LeBron and the Cavs have had a smooth ride up to this point. If they don’t deliver a title back to Cleveland, not only will it be devastating for the city but for James’ legacy as well.
If you liked what you’ve read, follow me on Twitter @lavalleech