by Cole Pepper
Let me start with this: he’s not there yet.
But LeBron James, who has guided the Miami Heat to within four wins of a second straight NBA Championship, is doing everything he can to stake a claim to the title of “Best Ever.”
By acclimation, Michael Jordan owns that title (although I can make a compelling case for Wilt Chamberlain. Did you know he once led the league in assists?).
James did everything in Miami’s 99-76 victory over the Pacers in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. He began the game by setting up just about everybody in Miami from Dwayne Wade to Chris Bosch to Ray Allen to Dan Marino. Kenny Smith made a great observation at halftime about James’ basketball IQ and his ability…no, his willingness, to turn down open looks to get his teammates involved.
James has the highest scoring average in game sevens in NBA history, 33.8 ppg.
For a guy who missed (and at times, didn’t take) a lot of clutch shots early in his career, he’s become the ultimate “get a bucket” guy in the NBA. Despite that, its possible that scoring is his third best skill, behind passing and rebounding.
Jordan has the six titles. James has just one. But Jordan isn’t going to win any more and James is still just 28 years old. If the Heat win the title this year, he’ll have the same number of championships as Jordan at the same age.
It’s reminiscent of the Jack Nicklaus vs. Tiger Woods arguments.
I asked this question on Twitter: is there anything that James can do shy of winning six championships to stake the claim as the best ever.
I believe that there is. Now, he has to win multiple titles. Three is probably the minimum, four would be better (obviously). But the way James is playing (he’s clearly the best player on Earth right now), its tough to envision someone unseating him as the best in the game for the next four or five years.
If you want to put Joran’s portrait on display in the G.O.A.T Museum (greatest of all time), go ahead, but don’t thrown away the key. LeBron, while already in the featured gallery, may wind up as the Mona Lisa by the time his career is over.