NBA playoffs are here, and we finally know where all 16 playoff teams will place and who some of the heavy favorites may be.
In the West, it seems to be a two-team battle between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors. However, this could be a year of surprises and may very well be a different team like the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz or Oklahoma City Thunder.
But let’s not it ahead of ourselves, we still have to look at the Eastern Conference. This one may surprise many people as well. The Toronto Raptors have continued to hold the top spot while the Boston Celtics play without their All-Star point guard, Kyrie Irving. The Philadelphia 76ers have jumped from the both three in the league to the top 10 team and will look to host playoff games this season.
But the biggest surprise is where the Cleveland Cavaliers have fallen. All season long, it’s been all about how the Cavaliers will play without Kyrie Irving after trading him to the Celtics, but don’t forget they still have LeBron James who is arguably the best player to ever play the game of Basketball.
So does it really matter where LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers finish in the standings?
Let’s face it, LeBron is the best player in the world. Now, this is hard for me to admit because I’ve always been a Kobe fan. I pretty much grew up watching Kobe compete for championships, and now it’s LeBron’s turn.
I’ve always rooted against LeBron even if it means cheering for some of the Lakers biggest rivals like San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, and Golden State Warriors.
I even cheered for the Oklahoma City Thunder to beat LeBron in the 2012 NBA Finals.
But now it’s time to show the man the love and respect that he truly deserves. I’ve respected his game, but not how he left his city back in 2010 when he made “the decision,” but that was the start of a new era in the NBA.
Well not really new era, but a continuation of the era that the 2008 Boston Celtics brought back when they formed the “Big Three.”
But seriously LeBron had led a team with no real second star all the way to the Finals in 2007 when he got sweep by the Tim Duncan and San Antonio Spurs.
I’ll let you in on a little secret, I cheered for LeBron that year and honestly felt like the Cavaliers should’ve won at least one game in the series. The young LeBron had epic playoff battles with both the Washington Wizards and the Detroit Pistons in root to the Finals Appearance, but the experience factor seemed to be too much for the 22-year-old LeBron. He finished the Finals averaging 22 PPG, 7 RPG, and 6.8 APG and used the loss to fuel his career even further.
The 2008-09 season ended with LeBron losing in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Dwight Howard led Orlando Magic in six games. However, LeBron picked up his first League MVP.
In 2009-10 season was much of the same, LeBron and the Cavaliers lost to the Celtics “Big 3” in the Conference Semis. LeBron would pick up his second consecutive league MVP, but left everyone in Cleveland in the dust when he made his decision to join the draft class friend, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
Looking back on that decision. I don’t blame him one bit, he wanted to win a title, and the Cavaliers weren’t doing anything to help him get better talent around him. Miami was able to provide that, and now the rest is history.
As a member of the Heat, I disrespected LeBron even more because of the decision he made. But he helped me realize what true greatness was.
He led the Miami Heat with Wade and Bosh to the Finals in 2011 and lost to Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. He let that loss fuel him into winning two back-to-back NBA Championship and League MVP in the same seasons (11-12, 12-13). But I still had no respect for him.
The following season when he failed to win a three-peat, I was so happy for the Spurs.
But again LeBron did not quit, he returned to Cleveland and fought for what he said he would do. Although it took him two years into his return, LeBron finally did it for the Land.
At the same time, he and the Cavaliers became the first team ever in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.
The year before, he had to play five of the six Final games without his All-Star teammates, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Love got injured in a first-round match-up with the Celtics and missed the rest of the playoffs. Irving played 44 minutes in game one of the 2015 Finals before injuring himself and missing the rest of the Finals. That left LeBron having to do it all.
It was that moment that I realized that LeBron James is the greatest player in the league. Even though he lost in the finals, James had stats that could’ve easily made him the Finals MVP. I mean seriously, what was Andre Iguodala doing that was so great compared to LeBron’s 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists.
Let’s not forget that LeBron is the youngest player in score 30,000 points in NBA History and is set to finish ahead of Kobe who’s third on the all-time scoring list (33643). The biggest question is could LeBron pass either Karl Malone or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in scoring and be the best scorer of all-time?
In his playoff career, he averages 28.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.8 steals in 42.1 minutes per game while being the only player in NBA playoff history to rank in the top 10 in points, rebounds, and assists.
He has also been the team’s leader in each of those categories for the past two seasons. There is no doubt that LeBron James is the “Greatest Of All Time” and when you compare what he has done to some many other greats, you would agree. It’s not always about winning an NBA title to be the greatest, but that would be a much better resume for LeBron. Don’t let the 3-5 record in the Finals fool you! LeBron has faced so much adversity in his career, mainly with the squad that he has around him.
To beat three All-Star caliber players from one team isn’t easy and he managed to do it once, but there was never really any chance of him beating the Warriors with the addition of Kevin Durant. And it may seem challenging to repeat the same effort with the new squad that he has, but I know that I will be cheering for him to beat the Warriors in the Finals if we get to see this matchup again!
But right now, he and the Cavaliers will look to make another run for the NBA Championship as the fourth seed. In the East, it shouldn’t be a difficult task, but let’s see how LeBron continues to define greatness during what could be his last playoffs as a Cavalier.
Are you still trying to decide if you can put LeBron in the books as the greatest? I thought I never, but with the team and players around him the past few seasons, you can argue that he makes them better.
Seriously you would have never been talking about Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, or any of the role players for the Cavaliers if it wasn’t for the spotlight that LeBron has given them.
And for that, I finally admit that I, Rahimali Merchant, am rooting for LeBron to continue to excel as the greatest.
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Featured Image: Photo Courtesy of Cavs Nation