After sweeping the Atlanta Hawks, the Cleveland Cavaliers are back in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. LeBron James, meanwhile, is back in the NBA Finals for the fifth straight year.
The fifth. Straight. Year.
Are we taking for granted just how good this guy is?
“It’s funny that you say that,” NBA-TV analyst Kristen Ledlow said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I said those exact words earlier today at work. At NBA-TV, I said, ‘Are we just taking for granted how good this guy is night in and night out?’ His numbers in this Eastern Conference Finals series alone – he’s doing it pretty quietly.”
James averaged 30.3 points, 11.0 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 1.5 steals in four games against Atlanta.
“He’s not a flashy kind of player,” Ledlow said. “When you look at a Steph Curry kind of guy, we’re mesmerized by him every other night because his highlights are the kind that we can watch over and over again on Twitter and other social media.”
James, on the other hand, will give you a thunderous dunk every now and then, but his highlight plays are a little more straightforward.
“He just does whatever is required of him to win,” Ledlow said. “I think that when it’s all said and done, that’s going to be why we all look at him as one of – if not the – greatest to ever play this game. He did what was required of him every single night – or I guess every other night at this point – whatever it took to win.”
James has now advanced to six NBA Finals in his career. He’s a two-time NBA champion, a two-time Finals MVP, a four-time regular season MVP and an 11-time All-Star.
And he’s still just 30 years old.
The notion that James could go down as the greatest player of all time is a legitimate possibility – a possibility that many from the Michael Jordan era, including Ledlow, have mixed feelings about.
“I did’t like him,” Ledlow said of James earlier in his career. “Not at all. I was not a LeBron James fan whatsoever. The day that I met him, for some reason I found it appropriate to tell him that, and he said, ‘Well you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to turn you into a LeBron James fan. You don’t have to be a Miami Heat fan.’ This, of course, is when he was playing in Miami. ‘You don’t have to be a Heat fan, but I’m telling you you’re going to become a LeBron fan.’ And I kind of laughed and blew it off. And for the next solid year, anytime that I found myself in the same spot that LeBron was in, he would make some joke and kind of always ask, ‘Have you become a LeBron fan yet?’ And he’s just as down to earth and humble a guy as I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around.”
Odds are James will not win five more NBA titles and surpass Jordan’s six rings. But what if he wins three more? Or even two more? Especially in Cleveland? Would that be enough for history to put him ahead of Jordan?
“I think he’s just a couple of titles away from being the greatest that this game has ever seen,” Ledlow said. “And I’m not afraid as a Michael Jordan fan to say that.”