It would come down to the career equivalent of sinking a full-court basket at the buzzer, but Cleveland Cavs star LeBron James does stand an outside shot of finishing his NBA run as the Greatest of All Time. Yes, even over Michael Jordan.
But as The Ringer‘s Bill Simmons points out the only reason there’s even such a chance to have both the statistics and rings are because His Airness retired before the clock struck 12 on his prime, in large part over a feud with Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause. Still, James has his work cut out for him.
“If LeBron wants to grab GOAT status from Jordan — and by all accounts, he does — then he can’t topple Jordan with anything other than rings or math,” writes Simmons. “He’s already played more games and minutes than Jordan ever did. He’s played in more Finals. He’s exhibited an astonishing, almost baffling level of consistency and durability, and unlike Jordan, he never disappeared during his prime. Since 2003, LeBron showed up, night after night after night, for one year longer than the entire run of Grey’s Anatomy.”
The key, however, will be how James handles his free agency this summer. Joining a juggernaut like the Golden State Warriors for a slam-dunk ring would just water down his legacy, argues Simmons. Better to go for an emerging team with the cap space for two major additions, the Philadelphia 76ers, or the ultimate legacy team, The Lakers. Wherever he lands, LeBron James will get a huge assist from the dynamics of this era.
Writes Simmons: “LeBron’s era offers undeniable advantages: better science, better training, flagrant foul calls, restrictions against hand-checking, advanced analytics, shorter contracts, fully empowered players, way more franchises planning ahead.”