It’s one of sports’ endless debates over the last decade: Who is the real basketball GOAT (greatest of all-time)? Michael Jordan? LeBron James? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Someone else?
So, with LeBron James leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a record-tying 17th NBA championship this past Monday, we all knew that the media and fans would pick up the conversation again.
James and co-Lakers superstar Anthony Davis sat down with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols moments after capturing the title, and was expectedly asked to address the always burning topic:
“That’s not for me to question or wonder or debate. For me personally, I have a way that I play the game. I have a way that I lead. I have a way that I challenge my guys and myself … we call it barbershop talk.”
“You guys know how much I love Michael Jordan. I wear No. 23 because of Michael Jordan. When I first got my first pair of Jordans, you couldn’t tell me nothing. So, ya’ll can do the debates. Ya’ll can figure that out.”
Though not usually shy about his drive to be recognized as one of the sport’s ‘Mount Rushmore’ guys, James chose not to delve into it. Who can blame him? He just got done grinding a playoff run, all while living in a bubble for three months.
The win gave James his fourth NBA title and fourth Finals MVP award. He moved closer to Jordan, who has six apiece.
Note that James is also the first player to win three Finals MVPs for three different teams (Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Los Angeles Lakers).
Can LBJ catch MJ?
It will be interesting to see how James’s career will play out. While the 35-year-old is undoubtedly an ageless wonder, one that the sport has not seen before, the game just keeps on evolving and the talent around the league is getting stronger every season.
In fact, if not for the sudden ‘three-point revolution’ in the mid-2010s, which caused James to run into an offensive juggernaut like the Golden State Warriors, he might have five or six rings by now.
Looking towards the 2020-21 NBA season (as well as ensuing years), the Lakers’ list of top-tier competition will come in bunches. The rested Warriors will have Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson back from injury, the Brooklyn Nets will finally debut their Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving superstar tandem (both also coming back from injuries), the LA Clippers still have elite two-way players Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and the Milwaukee Bucks will still have the reigning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
We haven’t even touched on the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, and who knows how strong the runner-up Miami Heat would be after that memorable, confidence-boosting playoff run?
Think about the potential player movements across all those teams too.
For now, when you consider how well he’s performing at his age, it’s easy to imagine James playing into his 40s, which should give him a couple of good chances to reach Jordan’s mark. For that to happen, he’ll be hoping that his body stays strong like a tank throughout the remainder of his career.