A familiar King wears the crown in a most unfamiliar NBA season


Miguel Discart | Flickr

Kyle McKee, Sports Editor

Almost a year after the 2019-2020 NBA season tipped-off, an NBA champion has finally been crowned. On the 356th day of the NBA season, on National Father-Daughter Day no less, the Los Angeles Lakers won their 17th championship in a blowout Game 6 victory over the Miami Heat.

A year removed from being injured, missing the postseason for the first time since 2005, and with questions surrounding how many years he has left, LeBron James showed everyone that he is still the king, leading the Lakers back to the promised land.

King James finished the Heat off with a masterful performance. He notched his 11th career triple-double in the Finals, the most in history, and he scored at least 25 points in every game of the series. He finished the tie with an average of 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game.

The self-proclaimed “Chosen One” became the first player in NBA history to win Finals MVP with three different franchises, having won with the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers before his most recent award.

Additionally, he became the second player ever to win Finals MVP at least four times, the other being Michael Jordan. At 35-years-old, James now has four championships and four Finals MVPs to his name. However, there is one achievement that has eluded, according to the NBA champion.

“I want my damn respect,” James said in his post-game interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.

Most sports programs, if not all of them, will start their show not discussing James’ performance throughout these finals, let alone this season as a whole and the magnitude of his accomplishments, or about his incredible career — but by proposing the age-old question: Michael Jordan or LeBron James, who is the Greatest of All Time?

The GOAT debate is subjective and stubborn, with no right answer and rare deviances from original positions under any circumstances.

Zach Lowe of ESPN wrote about this in a recent article. He brought up a clip from ESPN’s The Jump in April 2018.

A day after James hit a buzzer-beater that put the Cleveland Cavaliers up three games to two in their first round series against the Indiana Pacers, Nichols, host of The Jump displayed a graphic comparing Jordan’s and James’ “respective numbers on go-ahead shots in the last five seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime in playoff games,” and “the numbers were basically identical,” according to Nichols.

She then asked her co-hosts Tracy McGrady and Scottie Pippen, “Was Jordan really more clutch than LeBron?”

Both McGrady and Pippen scoffed at this question, with McGrady even mentioning players he would rather have than James with the game on the line. This list included Reggie Miller, Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant and even Joe Johnson. That was not a misprint, McGrady was serious when he mentioned Johnson in the conversation.

Even though the statistics showed that James is on Jordan’s level when it comes to clutch shots, McGrady and Pippen didn’t care.

“The discussion is absurd to them. Jordan has something LeBron lacks, and will remain untouchable, more god than human,” Lowe writes.

It’s a shame, but in this instance, Lowe is right.

People who grew up watching Jordan will say he’s the greatest and stand by that decision. The same can be said with people who grew up watching James, Bill Russell or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. All four of these players have valid cases to be considered the GOAT, but it’s a subjective question that will never be definitively answered.

The debate on who the GOAT is should be inconsequential, an appreciation of all that James has done, not just on the court, but off it as well would be more appropriate.

He is 35 years-old and not getting any younger, and although his play would suggest otherwise, Father Time is undefeated. If this insane year has taught the world anything, it is to appreciate everyone in your life and let them know about it.

So far, this year has seen a seemingly unending array of tragedies and catastrophes. In this climate, it is important to not only appreciate what James has done through in his career, but appreciate the fact that the season was able to be completed.

Not enough is being said about the job NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and his staff did in making this all possible. The idea of a “bubble” brought out many skeptics, yet it turned out better than anyone expected.

Above all, the most important statistic of the NBA restart is the zero positive COVID-19 tests during the entire four-month stretch in the bubble. Absolutely remarkable.