After leading the Cavs to a game 7 victory over the Golden State Warriors in 2016, LeBron James owned the basketball world. He captured his 3rd championship, his 3rd finals MVP, and he (with the help of Kyrie) ended Cleveland’s 52-year drought without a professional sports championship. LeBron desperately needed this victory on his résumé after two consecutive losses in the finals at the hands of the Spurs and the Warriors.
He had officially been solidified as an all-time great, catapulting into nearly everyone’s top 5 list, and it was well-deserved. His performance was one of the greatest the league had ever seen as he became the only player in NBA history to lead both teams in every major statistical category. The historic win created conversations, new ones and old ones alike — particularly, the age-old “LeBron vs. MJ” debate.
This debate was sparked even further in August 2016 when LeBron openly admitted to Sports Illustrated that he was “Chasing the ghost that played in Chicago.” LeBron admitted that his goal was to eclipse the Bulls legend and for a player of his stature, that was a bold statement. You don’t usually hear players admitting this even when everyone knows exactly what they’re after. It was believable that LeBron was chasing this goal…up until this past summer.
LeBron, as he appears to me, has given up on this quest, and the first clue that he’s given up on this pursuit begins with his performance in the 2018 NBA Finals. I understand LeBron put up great numbers during that series, but as we know, numbers can be deceiving. He played great, but it wasn’t his play that was alarming to me; it was his attitude that stood out to me. LeBron refused to accept the challenge of guarding KD throughout the series, often leaving that task to J.R. Smith. He often looked lethargic and defeated, especially during games 3 and 4.
Even looking past his attitude during the Finals, he did the unthinkable and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2018 free agency period. Now, listen —when healthy, I believe the Lakers are a very solid team and if they’re just patient, they will have a very solid young core with Lonzo, Ingram, and Kuzma; however, no one can seriously believe that LA was the best place for LeBron to go in terms of competing and winning titles.
I understand that prior to LeBron signing to LA, he said that winning wasn’t the end all be all to his final decision and I completely understand that. He’s an extremely accomplished athlete and it’s often overlooked that the man has won not one, not two, but three titles in all. But, for a guy who was coming off the best individual playoff run of his career, still in the prime of his career, and not even two years into his chasing MJ comments is giving up to become Tyler Perry — it’s just mind boggling to me.
Now, it could just be coming off as frustration from me as a major fan of LeBron, but to even listen to his recent comments, saying that “[he] has nothing left to prove” is absurd. He’s not in a position to make that comment at all. He’s playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, and they gave him a 4-year, $153 million contract to compete and to continue to compete. That is a major slap in the face to his teammates, Magic Johnson, and Laker nation.
Now, it’s very possible he only said this due to the Lakers failed attempts at trading for Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis and their failed attempt at signing PG, so it’s possible that he could just be blowing smoke, but I highly doubt that.
LeBron is simply too great to give up on winning at this point of his career. I understand that he’s a top 5 all-time great, and I understand that he’s won three titles already, but a player of his magnitude who is still in the prime of his career should want to win more. I could understand his comments if he were in Dirk’s or D. Wade’s position, but he’s not. He’s still averaging 27-8-7 this year, still playing basketball like it’s 2012.
LeBron is an all-time great, the greatest small forward who ever lived. We know this, but he is doing a major disservice to himself if he doesn’t keep up that same drive that’s been present throughout the first 15 years of his career because let me be the first to say that LeBron not winning a title in LA will most certainly be a stain on his legacy.