The King

An editorial by Justin Cirillo

LeBron better

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Everyone in disagreement can go away. Just leave, because you’re probably wrong. Please do humanity a favor and book yourself a permanent stay on Mars, the moon, or wherever it is that you’re most likely to not spread stupidity. The days of disrespecting LeBron James are over.

With the Cavaliers victory in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, James managed to snap a 52 year championship-less streak for Cleveland. He did it against the Golden State Warriors, who would have cemented arguably the greatest NBA season of all-time, had they followed up their 73-win campaign by capturing their second Championship in a row. And while it may be hip to post memes about how “The Warriors choked” or Photoshoping Crying Jordan onto pictures of Stephen Curry, just remember that a week ago, the Cavs had been left for dead.

And then LeBron James played the role of hero. He was the hero on a team where there was no Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, or Ray Allen to rescue him if he stumbled. The 2015-16 Cavaliers are a team that was fortunate enough to play in the miserable Eastern Conference (the Cavs went 12-2 in the three rounds leading up to the Finals), had Kevin Love frequently get lost and forget that he was playing a basketball game, virtually no bench in the first few games of the series, and a point guard in Kyrie Irving that didn’t show up to the Finals until Game 5.

No, the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t a championship caliber team at all. Take away one player, their best player, and they’re a lottery team. But it just happens to be a damn fact that their one best player can do anything he wants to on the basketball court.

LeBron James isn’t Michael Jordan, and I mean that with no disrespect to either one of them. James can’t score the way Jordan could. But Jordan couldn’t pass the way LeBron can; couldn’t rebound the way LeBron can; couldn’t defend any position on the court the way LeBron can. They’re two different types of players and to compare one to the other is an obsolete method of thinking.

There’s a phrase used in soccer for whenever a player falls asleep on the field. “Switching off.” Each player in the Finals the past two seasons has done it at one point or another, with the exception of James.

With the Warriors on the brink of sending LeBron back to Akron without a ring for the second straight season, James had arguably the greatest night of his career, with 41 points, 16 rebounds, and 7 assists, while shooting over 50% from the field. That coupled with Kyrie Irving’s own 41 point performance, gave the Cavs hope. In Game 6, James once again put up 41 points as Cleveland ambushed the Warriors from the moment the ball was tipped off and never looked back.

And then on Father’s Day evening, in Game 7 in the stadium which has become a fortress for the Warriors over the past three seasons, LeBron James only collected a triple-double (27 points-11 rebounds-11 assists). Oh, and he had the most important defensive play of the game, blocking Andre Iguodala on a fast-break layup attempt with under two minutes left in a tie-game. Oh, and he finished the series as the statistical leader in every damned meaningful category.

We all know that LeBron James hasn’t been the easiest player to like. “The Decision” is still one of the most asinine ideas that an athlete has ever thought up. Yes, I do think his scheming cost (former coach) David Blatt his job. As a player, he wields far too much power when it comes to off-the-court decisions. LeBron is the de facto general manager of the Cavaliers. Some of his comments to the media are, at best, simply a case of an over inflated ego, or at worst, expose fundamental personality flaws. Let’s not forget the time when, after losing in the Finals in his first year with the Miami Heat, he told a reporter “the people rooting for me to fail… they’re going to wake up to the same life they had today, the same personal problems that they had today.”

But without LeBron’s personal selection for coach (Tyronn Lue) at the helm, the Cavs might have ended up losing to the Warriors. Lue’s game plan of on-ball screens got the Warriors to keep switching their defensive assignments to Cleveland’s benefit. There was no more obvious situation of that strategy than when Irving drilled the game-winning basket over Steph Curry after the Cavs had set a screen in order to get Klay Thompson off of Irving.

These types of plays happened in Games 5-7 and the Warriors had no way of stopping it. Tyronn Lue out-coached Steve Kerr in this series, and that if you had told me that would have happened two weeks ago, I would have slapped you.

That was made possible by LeBron. His meddling paid off. Yes, it’s childish that a player could want a coach fired in spite of overwhelming success, but it ended up being a brilliant move.

The point of this piece isn’t to convince you that LeBron James is Ghandi. The point is that LeBron James has won his third NBA Finals. Every year he’s won a championship, he’s been the MVP of the Finals, and let’s face it, he should have won the bloody award last year, too. He belongs in the conversation with the best players to have ever played basketball. It’s ridiculous to pick “the best ever” because there are so many for a player to impact a game, especially as the game continues to evolve over each passing year. It’s been a pleasure to watch, and this is coming from someone who has rooted against him every year he has gone to the Finals!

I love Steph Curry, I love Kevin Durant, I love Tim Duncan. Those are my three favorite basketball players. But I’ll be damned if LeBron James isn’t more fun to watch than all of them.

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