With Lakers’ triumph, LeBron’s legacy grows

October 15, 2020 — by Benjamin Li

With the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 series victory over the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA finals, the Lakers officially earned their 17th NBA title, tying the Boston Celtics for the most championships in the history of the league. Although the Heat were a formidable opponent, the Lakers’ star power couldn’t be stopped — superstar point guard LeBron James and forward Anthony Davis put on their best Kobe and Shaq impressions to defeat the Heat.

In Game 1, it seemed as if the Lakers already had the series in the bag, with Davis scoring 34 and James 25, far outperforming the Heat’s leading scorer,  shooting guard Jimmy Butler’s with 23 points.

The following game went similarly; James put on an even better performance with 33 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists. Butler came prepared in Game 3, scoring a 40 points and getting a triple-double to secure a win for the Heat. In doing so, Butler became the first player in the league to ever beat James in all three major statistical categories in a finals game. 

In Game 5, NBA fans witnessed one of the best finals games in the past five years. The match was akin to a duel between James and Butler; only in the final few minutes did Butler barely come out on top, ending the game 111-108 after Lakers’ shooting guard Danny Green failed to make a wide open 3-pointer after a feed by James.  

The conclusion of this year’s NBA finals has raised questions regarding James’s legacy. Now that James has secured a championship in Los Angeles, his all-time league finals record is four series wins to six losses, putting him just two championships behind all-time great Michael Jordan. LeBron fans state that this championship makes James by far and away the greatest player of all time, but others argue that other greats, such as Jordan, still have a better resume. 

Many have discredited James’s win with the idea that the Laker’s path to the finals was “too easy.”

This claim is incorrect in a number of ways — the Lakers’ superb performance shouldn’t be held against them. In fact, when taking a closer look at their match-ups, I would argue that their path wasn’t easy at all.

In the first round, the Lakers were up against the Portland Trailblazers, led by arguably the best player since the season’s restart: point guard Damian Lillard. The Lillard-led Blazers had the potential to defeat the Lakers, but the Lakers easily won the series 4-1, sending the Blazers home early. 

Their next round was against the Houston Rockets, led by shooting guard James Harden and forward Russell Westbrook. The Rockets were viewed as a wildcard, as their heavy offensive firepower beyond the three point arc was enough to scare many teams. However, the Lakers once again won in just five games, utilizing their size advantage over the small-ball Rockets team.

One of the main reasons fans dismiss the Lakers’ path to the finals as “too easy” is the lack of the eagerly anticipated Battle of LA — in which James would face the Los Angeles Clippers in an exciting and unpredictable series. With the Clippers’ defeat to the Denver Nuggets, however, fans were severely disappointed, and James easily won his third round 4-1 against an exhausted Nuggets team. Still, the failure of the Clippers isn’t the responsibility of James and the Lakers — ultimately, the Lakers did their jobs perfectly.

James definitely has a case for the greatest player of all time, although that debate should be saved for once he retires. Until then, it seems that James, with the best longevity out of any player ever in the league, still has a ways to go before the end of his career. NBA fans should be grateful for the time they’re able to watch him play — in a few years, James will become another icon whose greatness can only be accessed through replays.

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