Elway’s Failures

Last week on the podcast, Matt and I debated John Elway’s standing as the GM/President of Football operations.  Matt then proceeded to write an article titled, ‘The Case for John Elway, President of Football’

 Does that sound as objective to you as does to me?  Ok, great.  I’m glad we’re on the same page here.

 To summarize, Matt [an Elway homer] believes that Elway has done a tremendous job and should be lauded for putting together one of the greatest defenses of our generation, making 2 Super Bowl appearances and winning 1 (Super Bowl 50).  He explains how Elway took a 4-12 team and in one season, turned them around to an 8-8 playoff team (lead by Matt’s favorite quarterback, Tim Tebow).  Following that season, Elway (along with every franchise aside from New England, Green Bay & New Orleans) recruited Peyton Manning [successfully] which capped a 4-year run of 2 Super Bowl appearances, 1 championship and a win/loss record of 50-14.  

 Now, given all that information, one would think that I’m off-base with my opinion.  I’m not.  Please, allow me to explain.

 My belief is that while Elway deserves credit for constructing a once-in-a-generation defense, he also deserves blame for wasting that defense by not preparing for the future at the quarterback position.  You know, the position that he had been praised to hills (by the mainstream sports media) for understanding better than anyone and the position that (at the time) was currently occupied by the great but decrepit Manning

 Matt began his article last week by writing that, “…Elway should be promoted to President… of all of Football”.   Enclosed, you will see that Matt’s giant crush on Elway has blinded him from ever being able to have an objective take on this subject.    

 Since Elway has been GM, these have been his first round picks; Von Miller, Sylvester Williams, Bradley Roby, Shane Ray, Paxton Lynch, and Garett Bolles.  Four out of the six are defensive players, Lynch is a quarterback and Bolles is an offensive tackle.  Aside from Miller, none of those players have made a pro-bowl or been selected as an all-pro.  Williams is no longer with the team (currently on the Lions) and Lynch has yet to take the field as a starter.  So for a quick recap, in his seven years as GM, Elway has drafted one pro-bowl caliber player in the first round; but wait, it gets better.  Out of his entire 54 selections, Miller and Tight-End Julius Thomas (no longer on the team) are the only players to be selected to the pro bowl or receive all-pro honors.

 Now, here’s the fun part.  Let’s look at the quarterbacks Elway has drafted since becoming GM; Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, Chad Kelly and Brock Osweiler.  Between the four of them, they have a 22-21 record [as starters] and thrown 49 touchdowns with 44 interceptions.  Here are a few of the quarterbacks Elway could’ve drafted instead of those previously mentioned superstars; Super Bowl Champion Russell Wilson [who beat Elway’s Broncos], Super Bowl Champion/Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, and Kirk Cousins.  Those three quarterbacks have a combined record of 113-77-1 while throwing for 321 touchdowns to 140 interceptions.

I may not be the greatest at math but there seems to be some discrepancy here.  The quarterbacks whom Elway passed on threw for almost triple the amount of touchdowns and less than double the amount of interceptions as those he drafted.  Not to mention the 3 Super Bowl appearances and 2 Super Bowl titles amongst those three compared to the 0 from Elway’s selection(s) (technically, Osweiler & Siemian got Super Bowl ring(s) for being the 2nd & 3rd string quarterbacks during Super Bowl 50). 

 While there’s no guarantee that the overlooked quarterback would’ve captured Super Bowl championships with the Broncos, they would’ve fared much better than the putrid excuses of quarterback the great Elway drafted during his tenure.  Since Manning’s retirement, the Broncos have missed the playoffs every year and wasted arguably the best defense in the league. 

 Matt can list Elway’s winning percentage (64%), win/loss record (72-40), and 2 Super Bowl appearances as a reason to keep Elway but I don’t believe that’s enough.  What Matt keeps overlooking and/or ignoring is two-fold.  The first is Elway’s failure as a quarterback evaluator, and the second, is his overall evaluation of talent.

 The Broncos had a team that went from 12-4 with a Super Bowl victory to 9-7 and missing the playoffs.  The only position that changed from those years was quarterback.  Therefore, had Elway done his job properly and drafted a competent quarterback, it’s safe to say this team would still be a top AFC contender.  Furthermore, had Elway actually drafted players of consequence and not wasted draft picks to trade up and a get a once-in-a-generation bust like Paxton Lynch; the Broncos would be in a much better position heading into next season.

So, to close.  Elway is not the great GM that my co-host would like you to believe nor does he have any right to be the commissioner of the NFL.


*Be sure to check out next week’s podcast [Lavallee Sports Take Podcast] as Matt & I continue this discussion




Aaron Rodgers May be The Greatest Ever

Aaron Rodgers has been playing the quarterback position at the highest level of anyone [of all-time] through the last seven weeks. The best part about his historic stretch is that he called his shot [saying that the Packers would “run the table”] and backed it up. The last six weeks of the season, Rodgers compiled the following stats while carrying his team to a division title; 15 TD’s and 0 INT’s while completing over 70% of his passes. By the way, he finished the season with 4,428 yards, 40 TD’s and 7 INT’s; and there’s still a debate about who’s the MVP?

Last week in his first round playoff game against the New York Giants, Rodgers torched the highly touted (many believed they were the best in the league) defense for 362 yards, 4 TD’s and 0 INT’s. He completed this feat without his top receiver [Jordy Nelson] who was knocked out of the game with an injury in the first quarter. The Packers went on to win the game easily, 38-13.

Rodgers’ historic run has given me pause to my initial title of “greatest quarterback ever”, which was held by Tom Brady. Let’s break this down, shall we? If we’re talking about the most accomplished quarterback of all-time, there’s no question it’s Brady. 6 Super Bowl appearances and 4 Titles (2 Super Bowl MVP’s), there’s no question he’s the most accomplished. However, the talent side of the argument is a different story. For my money, I’ve never seen a more talented quarterback than Rodgers.   He has a rifle for an arm, throws with accuracy (over a 65% completion percentage for his career) and is deceptively mobile in and out of the pocket.

This year alone, Rodgers has carried a team with a horrific defense (although they’ve been playing better as of late), no running game, and a depleted receiving core. Everyone loves to give Brady and [Peyton] Manning credit for doing more with less; it’s time to start appreciating what Rodgers has done; especially this season.

The popular sports talk scenario is if you had one game to win, which quarterback would you chose (I’ll answer this question in depth in a future post). So for arguments sake, if I had one game to win for my life, with everything equal (i.e. receiver, coaching, defense, etc.), I’d take the following quarterbacks in this order:

  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Tom Brady
  • Joe Montana
  • Johnny Unitas
  • Peyton Manning

Disagree with me if you will but one thing you can’t deny is this; what we’re seeing from Rodgers is something not just special, but historic. Standing in his way this weekend is the first place Dallas Cowboys, who beat Rodgers and the Packers in the regular season. This time around is going to be different (with or without Jordy Nelson) and the Packers will move on to the NFC Championship game.

Aaron Rodgers may not go down as the most accomplished quarterback in history [that’ll be Brady], but he sure as hell will be remembered as the most talented and/or possibly the greatest to ever play the position.


Follow me on Twitter : @lavalleech


A Promising Beginning for 2 of the NFL’s Young QB’s

On April 30th 2015, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were the first two overall picks and like so many great quarterback classes before them, they will be forever linked. Winston was taken number one overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Mariota was selected second overall by the Tennessee Titans.

Heading into the draft, many speculated over who would be the better pro, and the majority believed it was Winston; given his strong arm, size and natural throwing ability. Mariota looked great entering the draft in his own right however, many pundits questioned how complete of a passer he was, after coming out of Chip Kelly’s run-and-gun college style offense.

Winston: 2015 Stats – 58.3 comp %, 4,042 yards, 22 TD’s, 15 INT’s, 84.2 QBR.

2016 Stats – 61.3 comp %, 2,900 yards, 22 TD’s, 11 INT’s, 89.7 QBR

Career Stats – 59.6 comp %, 6,942 yards, 44 TD’s 26 INT’s, 86.6 QBR.

12-15 Overall Record (As a starter)

Mariota: 2015 Stats – 62.2 comp %, 2,818 yards, 19 TD’s, 10 INT’s, 91.5 QBR.

2016 Stats – 64.3 comp %, 2,998 yards, 25 TD’s, 8 INT’s, 101.9 QBR.

Career Stats – 63.2 comp %, 5,816 yards, 44 TD’s, 18 INT’s, 96.8 QBR.

9-15 Overall Record (As a starter)

When looking at the numbers [almost two full seasons in], it seems as though Mariota has put up better statistics; however, Winston has had the better win/loss record. Both teams [surprisingly] are in the playoff race within their own division(s) and both look as though they have a real shot at making their first postseason starts.

It’s been my belief from the beginning that Mariota was/is going to be the better of the two; still not sure if I’m on the right side of that opinion. The numbers so far are leaning in my favor; however, I’ve learned not to count my chickens before they hatch (shout out to Blake Bortles). Either way, It’s clear that the future is looking very bright for these two young promising quarterbacks.

Prescott + Elliot are Leading America’s Team back to Prominence

America’s Team is back. The Dallas Cowboys are making a charge towards the playoffs that their fans [and the rest of the league] haven’t seen in 20 years. 

They’re sitting atop not only the NFC East but currently hold the best record in all of football. Yes, that’s right; the Cowboys (statistically speaking) are the best team in football. In a year when NFL viewership has at a surprising low, arguably the league’s most popular and recognizable team has finally surged to the top of the pack; and not a moment too soon.
I wrote an article a few weeks ago touting Matt Ryan as my MVP; and as the season continues to unfold, that pick doesn’t look as good as it once did. The more I’ve watched the Cowboys, the more I see the inevitable truth; the Cowboys have the two best players in the NFL [both rookies] who are the MVP frontrunners. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot have taken the NFL by storm and in a way that I don’t believe anyone forecasted. Even the most diehard Cowboys fans didn’t see this type of start for the franchise’s new dynamic duo.
The statistic’s that these two are putting up is just silly. Through 11 games Prescott’s stats are; 67.9 CMP%, 2,835 yards, 18 TD, 2 INT’s, with a 108.6 QBR; not to mention the fact that he overtook [an injured] Tony Romo as the starter, and has solidified himself as the best quarterback on the team. Elliot’s stats are; 243 ATT, 1,199 yards, 11TD’s which gives him [an absurd] 4.93 yards per rush; the Cowboys haven’t had a running-back that talented since the great Emmitt Smith. These are rookie’s mind you and they’ve continued to play like veterans; specifically showing up on the [biggest] primetime stage(s).
It’s extremely rare to have a season in which there are co-MVP’s; in fact it’s only happened twice (1997 – Brett Favre + Barry Sanders & 2003 – Peyton Manning + Steve McNair), and this year should be the third. What Prescott & Elliot have done is not only special but historic, and while it’s odd to make teammates co-MVP, there aren’t two players playing at higher level this season then these two. Furthermore, these two have not only taken the NFL by storm, but together, they’ve brought the Dallas Cowboys from irrelevance back to prominence.
Follow me on Twitter : @lavalleech

NFL MVP is Matt Ryan’s to lose 

It’s finally happened. After 9 years of waiting and hoping that he’ll emerge as the “next” great quarterback in the NFL, Matt Ryan has finally come into his own. Following last night’s near flawless performance against the [division rival] Tampa Bay Buccaneers (344 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT & 144.7 QBR), Ryan has inserted himself as the top choice for league MVP.

Skeptical as many may be due to Ryan’s knack for starting out strong and crumbling down the stretch, this year feels very different. He’s already registered a 500 yard passing performance along with throwing at least 3 touchdowns in 5 out of the 9 games he’s started this season.

The Falcons record doesn’t exactly blow anyone away at 6-3; however, 2 of those 3 losses came at the hands of Atlanta’s defense who have become allergic to holding 4th quarter leads.

There are two other players of note that deserve to be at the top of the MVP discussion along with Ryan; the first being the golden boy himself, Tom Brady and the other is Oakland’s Derek Carr. Brady has arguably put forth the best four game stretch ever by a quarterback; 73.1 completion percentage, 12 TD, 0 INT & a 133.9 QBR. Carr has been very impressive himself; completing 66.3 percent of his passes and throwing 17 TD’s to only 3 INT’s. I’m not trying to take anything away from their exceptional performances so far this season; I just believe Ryan’s body of work has been more impressive. 

Now, Ryan doesn’t need to win MVP to make this a successful season; however, he does need to continue to perform at this high level as the season progresses. If his play begins to decline as the season winds down, as it did last year; his reputation is going to take a major hit and one that I don’t believe he’ll be able to recover from. He’ll be put in that “good” but “not great” category which is way beneath his skill/talent level. 

Ryan has always been in the conversation as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league, but this could finally be the year that he reaches that elite level. He has talent, hell he’s always had the talent; know it’s just a matter of finishing what he’s started.
If you like what you’ve read, you can follow me on Twitter: @lavalleech

The Golden Age of Ignorance in Sports Media

There was a time when sports television was entertaining and refreshing. Shows like ‘PTI’, ‘Around the Horn’, and ‘The Sports Reporters’ gave sports fans the opportunity to hear insightful and interesting commentary on the day’s top sports news. In search of higher ratings and more “buzz” networks like ESPN and FS1, have created more “debate” shows with less content and more bloviating from their hosts.

We’re now in the middle of an epidemic of poor sports content on radio and television. From ESPN’s ‘First Take’ to FS1’s ‘Undisputed’ to even Bill Simmons’ [poor excuse for a show] ‘Any Given Wednesday’; there’s a nonstop barrage of arrogant and despondent shot-jocks who spew their ignorance all over the airwaves. Take Max Kellerman for example, a once well renowned [and respected] American boxing commentator has become the heir apparent to Skip Bayless on ‘First Take’. He gave an interview a few weeks before starting the show explaining that he wasn’t interested in being the new Bayless; yet, he’s constantly trolling superstar players (i.e. Tom Brady & Drew Brees) while making outrageous claims. That sounds an awful lot like Bayless to me.

It’s not just on a national scale. Even local sports talk radio has gone down the tubes. Living in New England, I have the unfortunate pleasure of listening to the close minded dunderheads on WEEI [Boston affiliate]. I understand that they’re views are skewed towards Boston sports; but they don’t even try to make rational points and/or arguments. If a caller calls into a show and doesn’t agree that Tom Brady and David Ortiz are the greatest athletes in sports, he/she are called out and considered stupid for their opinion; that’s open minded thinking at its finest folks. 

I truly miss listening to astute sports journalists give their take on sports. I know there can only be one ‘PTI’ or Katie Nolan or Scott Van Pelt, but that doesn’t mean all of this other trash should be polluting our eyes and ears on a daily basis. In a time where blogs (like this) and podcasts are a dime a dozen, why is it that there isn’t more talent found on these major/local networks? 

There are plenty of smart and interesting people offering up their introspective take on sports; if the major sports companies/networks aren’t going to do their due diligence to find them, then maybe we should.


If you like what you’ve read you can find me on twitter: @lavalleech



Kaepernick’s Protest Highlights Our Cultural Divide

Over the weekend, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, was the main topic discussed on the Sunday morning edition of SportsCenter. Most sports topics usually last a day, maybe two at the most before something new hits the wire and becomes the new hot take. Needless to say I assumed that this would fall under that category; I couldn’t have been more wrong.      

Kaepernick’s protest has started a fire storm throughout the country that I didn’t think was possible. People from both sides of the aisle have weighed in and it hasn’t been pretty. If there were people who believed that the race relations in this country were starting to turn around for the better, this movement by Kaepernick certainly exposed the unfortunate truth; that they may be more divided than ever.  

We’re doing such a disservice to ourselves and others by acting in the manner we have over this past week. Regardless of everyone’s political ideology, whatever happened to having a respectful discourse with another person? Unfortunately, one of the huge negatives to social media is that it has created this “bulletproof” arena where ignorant jackasses type away and spew some of the most disturbing and vile thoughts imaginable. This topic has become so polarizing that there is no middle ground; it’s either you’re completely behind Kaepernick or you’re not.   

As a society we need to make up our minds regarding whether or not we want athletes to speak out on social issues. One minute we’re upset because they’re not saying enough and then a minute later we’re roasting them for taking a stance that “we” don’t agree with. Just like most things in life, we can’t have our cake and eat it to. There were many that championed LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony for their speech prior to the beginning of the ESPY’s in July; but there’s been an outcry for what Kaepernick did. I understand that many have used patriotism as a justification to for why they don’t support Kaepernick but in the end, he’s doing the same thing but in his own way. 

The greatest positive that can be taken from Kaepernick’s protest was that it was peaceful. He did something to show the country how he felt about race relations in a non-violent manner. Shouldn’t we be commending and not condemning him for that? You don’t have to like what he did but you should at least appreciate that he did it without harming anyone. In a time when violence is at an all-time high, let’s appreciate that someone [in the public eye] was able to reach out to [and touch] so many in a peaceful manner. 
If you like what you’ve read, you can find me on Twitter : @lavalleech

Phelps & Lochte are the Jeter & A-Rod of Swimming

Jeter and A-Rod had a relationship that was hard to define. Once best friends (until A-Rod stabbed Jeter in the back in an interview) turned enemies, turned teammates. What made the A-Rod/Jeter relationship so fascinating was that A-Rod was the supremely gifted and talented player and yet, wanted to be like Jeter. Jeter on the other hand, was the humble and talented team captain who had the adoration of fans across the country; whereas A-Rod got booed everywhere, especially in New York. Rodriguez went out of his way to try and be as famous as his one-time best friend and in the end it might have succeeded, but for all the wrong reasons.
Jeter will be remembered as a 5-time World Series Champion and Captain for the most famous sports team in the world. A-Rod will be remembered as an arrogant cheat who was arguably the most talented baseball player of all-time but who could never get over his desire to be beloved and even revered.

That little anecdote leads right into the relationship [of sorts] between Phelps and Lochte. Unlike Jeter/A-Rod, these two were never friends; however, one has always been in the shadow of the other, desperately trying to break away and be the true star of competitive swimming.

Phelps is arguably the greatest Olympian of all-time. What is inarguable is that he’s the greatest swimmer of all-time. Lochte is the 2nd greatest swimmer of all-time and has tried to do everything in his power to overshadow the accomplishments of Phelps. From failed reality shows to smack talk, Lochte has been desperately trying to attain the [social] media dominance of his Olympic counterpart. Phelps gets camera time everywhere he goes whether he seeks it or not. Lochte has been trying [and failing] to be the A-list star that Phelps has been since middle school.

Here’s where similarities really come into play. Like Jeter, Phelps has no interest in being in the public eye; and it wasn’t until this Olympics in Rio that he (Phelps) finally looked comfortable in front of the camera. On the flip side, Lochte [channeling his inner A-Rod], dyed his hair silver (Irony?) as a way to stand out from everyone else.

To continue the debauchery that is Lochte and his quest for fame; he manufactured a story in which he and three other swimmers were robbed and held by gunpoint at a Rio gas station. Here’s what he claims happened; 

Lochte said, “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground—they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so—I’m not getting down on the ground. “And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet—he left my cellphone, he left my credentials.” (Associated Press)

If you read his story closely, you’ll see that HE was the only one brave enough to stand up to the gunmen while his friends just obeyed their (the gunmen’s) orders. This man is so desperate for fame that he fabricates a story and in the process of telling his piece of fiction, ends up throwing his friends under the bus and making them sound like cowards. 

It’s gotten to the point where he could be considered a sociopath with this type of behavior. Not only did he embarrass his own country, but he hung his friends out to dry while boarding a plane back to said country to try and avoid any type of prosecution.

As of this morning, Lochte has issued an apology (if you want to call it that) stating, “I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend — for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning,” (Associated Press) He still has yet to give a truthful account of what really transpired that morning.

Like A-Rod, Lochte is a disingenuous, calculating wannabe, who’s become the product of his own demise. A 12-time Olympic medal winner will never be remembered as an accomplished swimmer, but will forever be synonymous with the embarrassing depravity that he put on display in front of the world during the Summer Olympics of 2016; and [just as in the case of A-Rod] I don’t feel the least bit sorry for him.

Kevin Durant Headlines NBA Free Agency 

Kevin Durant is by far the most coveted free agent this side of LeBron James. Following an epic collapse by the Oklahoma City Thunder (losing 3-in-a-row to Golden State) in the Western Conference Finals, rumors have been swirling about where the best landing spot is for Durant. 
The following is a list of Durant’s likely suitors and where I think is the best landing spot for him.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Durant has been with the Thunder (formerly the Sonics) since he was drafted 2nd overall by them in 2007. Since he’s been there, they’ve been formidable and extremely completive in the [superior] western conference. If it wasn’t for injuries, I believe the Thunder would have made it to more than one NBA Finals appearance during Durant’s 9 years with the team. Out of all of his options, the Thunder has the greatest upside with a young team, a great front office, a promising head coach and a point guard that’s considered one of the 5 best players in the world. He has the backing of the fans and plays in arguably the greatest home court advantage in the league. In my mind, Durant would be crazy not to re-sign [for at least one more year] with this team.    

San Antonio Spurs: The thought of Durant alongside Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge is pretty compelling. However, I think it would significantly taint Durant’s legacy to go to an “established” team like the Spurs in order to win a championship (which is why the idea of him going to Golden State is never going to happen). The main reason LeBron was skewered by so many was that he “ran away” from the challenges in Cleveland to get help from Wade and Bosh in Miami. Durant leaving OKC for a San Antonio franchise that has been one of the best over the past 15 years wouldn’t do him any favors in the long run. 

Miami Heat: Regardless of what many say, I believe that this pairing would be the least likely to happen. First off, Miami fans don’t deserve a great basketball team; they’re arguably one of the worst fan bases in all of professional sports. Secondly, we’ve seen this story before; superstar player leaves for Miami to try and capture elusive championship. Lastly, Miami’s roster isn’t getting any younger and Durant would have to allow Miami to build a younger team around him. Rather than taking a step towards a championship, it would seem that Durant would be taking two steps back.

Boston Celtics: The Celtics have a young core, a strong front office (led by Danny Ainge), and an exceptionally talented young head coach (Brad Stevens); almost exactly what Durant already has in OKC [minus Westbrook]. As much as I’d love to see Durant in Boston (not so much because I’m a Celtic fan, more because of my fandom for Brad Stevens) but as their currently constructed, I just don’t think it makes much sense. However, if Boston is able (and willing) to make a trade with their 3rd overall pick [in this year’s draft] and acquire another star player to play alongside Durant, than I think Boston would the best option outside of OKC; the main reason? Because, he’ll be playing in the watered down eastern conference and his addition (along with another star player) would make the Celtics co-favorites with Cleveland to make the Finals. It’s understood that OKC is a co-favorite almost every year to represent the western conference, but it’s a much tougher road to get through the gauntlet that the west provides every year than it is the east.

Los Angeles Clippers: In the past, you’d mention LA and immediately think Lakers; well, those days are over the foreseeable future, thanks Jim Buss. The Clippers are an enticing option because of the squad that they’ve already constructed. A starting lineup of Paul, Reddick, Durant, Griffin, and Jordan sounds pretty damn epic; I just don’t think it’ll work. Partially because it’s the Clippers and they always find a way to screw something up, but primarily, I don’t see it working in the locker room. Durant already has an aggressive point guard in Westbrook (who clearly dominates that locker room), why would he leave OKC to play alongside another point guard with a bloated ego? Paul has been known to be a pain to deal with in the locker room (hey there Blake Griffin) and I don’t think he’ll like a superstar player coming in and taking over “his” team. Furthermore, Doc Rivers is as overrated a coach as there is in professional sports, and I don’t think he’ll be able to control all those egos; especially since he doesn’t seem to have a handle on it now. Durant wouldn’t be doing himself any favors playing in LA.    

Overall, I believe that OKC should be Durant’s first and only choice. It makes sense not just financially but professionally as well. However, if he were to choose to test the free agent market, he would certainly look good in Celtic green.
If you like what you’ve read, find me on twitter: @lavalleech

Cleveland’s Easy Road to The Finals Puts More Pressure on LeBron to Deliver

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