LeBron James’ legacy has been a hot topic of debate pretty much since the day he entered the league in 2003. Nothing has changed in the 13 years since. In fact, the discussion surrounding James’ legacy has only intensified, especially as he navigates through the twilight of his prime.
James may one day win a title in Cleveland, but if he doesn’t – and if he doesn’t do it this year – it could severely impact his legacy.
“I think it will define a huge part,” CBSSports.com national columnist Bill Reiter said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “We have to do the asterisk here, although it’s an asterisk that LeBron put next to his name. Don’t blame us for this. LeBron has talked about – has told me about – the fact that his goal, his plan, his hope is to pass Jordan. So if you announce to the world that you want to be the greatest player, remember that you’re going to be judged and assessed through the prism of Michael Jordan. And in that respect, through that prism, LeBron James, if he loses another NBA Finals, if he ends up 2-5 in the Finals, if he’s lost twice to Stephen Curry – who’s making his own argument if he wins this championship of being considered at least in contention for one of the great players of all time – yeah, I think it seriously mars LeBron James and the way we view him, relatively to that Mt. Rushmore that he told us is incredibly important to him.”
In the 2015 Finals, James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists, becoming the first player in Finals history to lead his team in all three categories. Nevertheless, the Cavs lost in six games and James was not named series MVP – though Reiter believes he should have.
“I think he should have been the only player other than Jerry West to have won a Finals MVP with his team not winning the series,” he said. “Four of my 11 colleagues who voted – I did not vote – felt the same way. He was incredible last year.”
Another historic performance in this year’s Finals won’t help James’ legacy – not if the Cavs lose, that is.
“If you’re chasing all-time greatness, life isn’t going to be fair,” Reiter said. “The optics are going to matter; the scoreboard is going to matter. It doesn’t matter what LeBron James does. He has to win – and that would be true in a vacuum. The fact of the matter is that LeBron James has more power per player in this league than anyone probably in the history of the league. David Blatt (was) fired at 30-11. Andrew Wiggins is in Minnesota because LeBron – and LeBron only – wanted Kevin Love. Tristan Thompson got that gigantic deal because LeBron’s agent was the one that brokered the deal. So LeBron James crafted this team in his image. Regardless of who’s healthy or what happens, it’s going to be on him if he doesn’t get it done.”