Being one of two teams to reach the highest possible level of competitive basketball and playing for the rights to be the best team in the NBA only to fall short of a sports championship should not be an embarrassment or something that should be frowned upon. When it comes to LeBron James, however, his falling just a few games short of an NBA Championship is one of the reasons he’s so highly scrutinized in today’s NBA.
When James returned to Cleveland, he looked to fulfill a promise of an NBA title from his previous stint, and many believed his delivering the first professional sports championship to a city that hasn’t seen one in a half-century would all but solidify himself as a one of the top 2 or 3 players in NBA history. Not only did James ultimately do it, he did so against a Golden State Warriors team that set the record for most regular season wins at 73, eclipsing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team who won 72. His Finals record was up to three wins, four losses and James’ team became the first in Finals history to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a championship.
The Warriors responded by adding a four-time scoring champion and the 2014 league MVP in Kevin Durant to the core of their 73-win team, and everyone immediately expected them to win the NBA Championship. Fast forward 11 months, and the Warriors do just that, eliminating the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games, suffering just one loss in the entire postseason, but making everything look relatively easy. James put up a valiant effort, averaging a triple double for the first time in Finals history with 33.6 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists per game. In the end, James’ slight defensive slip ups could be the only things to point at and find him at fault for.
Yet, after suffering his fifth NBA Finals loss, there are many out there who completely put aside the championship he helped bring to Cleveland and only see his Finals record. If you ask many around the NBA, no one cares how many losses a particular player may have in the Finals. Some players go their whole careers without even sniffing the NBA’s biggest stage. Heck, Jerry West may have had a horrible Finals record at 1-8, won Finals MVP in a loss, and still ended up becoming the logo of the biggest professional sports leagues in the world. Here’s how one of the league’s most competitive players in Portland Trail Blazers star guard Damian Lillard, responded when told of LeBron James’ Finals record on Twitter.
A lot of ppl are 0-0 https://t.co/V4fKs6gpq8
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) June 15, 2017
Clearly, making the Finals is more important that not even having the opportunity to play for a title. James has been able to get these eight times, including seven straight since 2011. In only two of those eight appearances, his team was favored to win the title. In every championship round James has performed in, with the exception of his shocking 2011 showing, has been nothing short of spectacular. Basketball, as we all know, is a team game and no one player can do it alone. James has more Finals appearances than countless NBA legends, but why continue to put him down for the losses if they aren’t solely on him?