Recently, Paul Pierce gave his NBA all-time starting five, and the best player in Cleveland Cavaliers history, LeBron James, was some how not in it.
Everybody is entitled to their own opinion in terms of the greatest players in NBA history, but to me and seemingly most, the best player in Cleveland Cavaliers history, LeBron James, is way up there.
As a Cavs fan my whole life, I’m inherently biased, but James is my GOAT when it comes to all-time NBA players. His skill set as still a freight train going to the basket, and size/strength/speed combination at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, along with incredible IQ, passing feel and versatility, along with defensive playmaking, leads me to that take.
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That overall tool box has led to James averaging 27.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks per game in his near-17-year career, per Basketball Reference. Some of his accomplishments to this point include three NBA championships, four league MVP’s, 16 All-Star appearances, and being named an All-NBA defender six times.
Either way, though, most seem to feel Michael Jordan is the NBA’s GOAT player, and he went six-for-six in terms of NBA titles with Chicago Bulls.
Jordan was an All-Star in 14 seasons, league MVP five times, and holds NBA records in terms of leading the league in scoring 10 times and being named as a First-Team All-NBA defender nine times. For his career, MJ averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, an incredible 2.3 steals and even 0.8 blocks per game as mostly a 2 guard.
Anyhow, even while those in the GOAT conversation seem to be LeBron and MJ, and feasibly Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with others such as Wilt Chamberlain in there, it’s pretty difficult to see James not in the top five of all-time NBA players.
A recent ESPN panel of writers, for instance, recently had James as the second-best NBA player ever and ranked the 74 best in league history for the number of years the NBA has spanned, which is reasonable.
What was a huge slight, though, was a player that is an analyst for ESPN, in Paul Pierce, who made that top 74 list, essentially saying recently how James was not on his all-time top five in league history.
Pierce, whose best years were on the Boston Celtics, was a rival of James, mostly back in James’ first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and then later when James was on the Miami Heat before his second stint with the Cavs. On Pierce’s list, which he gave on ESPN’s NBA Countdown was MJ, Kareem, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson and the late Kobe Bryant (as was h/t NBA Central).
Pierce alluding to how LeBron hasn’t really elevated franchises and/or carried on excellence, as Tim Duncan or Larry Bird had, in his career to this point, is a bit of a stretch.
I understand that James didn’t win a title until he went to the Heat and joined up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (formally via sign-and-trade), but Pierce’s Celtics were not nearly in the title conversation until they acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen via trade. I give Pierce and the C’s all their credit for winning a title in 2008 and getting to the NBA Finals again in 2010, though.
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Even before that from James’ perspective, however, the Cavs were down for a number of years as a franchise before James got there the first go-round, and he was the key reason the Cleveland Cavaliers were even a perennial playoff team early on in his first stint with them. LeBron leading the Cavaliers to the 2007 NBA Finals was an amazing feat in its’ own right, too.
Now, later on, thanks seemingly in large part to James’ leadership, which Kevin Love hit on Wednesday in #NBATogether with Ernie Johnson (as was h/t Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway) which demands excellence but is more so about empowering others, James leading the Cavs to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances was a heck of an accomplishment, too.
Not to mention the historic 3-1 comeback versus the Golden State Warriors in 2016.
All in all, while of course Russell, especially, with 11 titles, Kareem and others were incredible winners in their own rights, along with a five-time NBA champ in Kobe, LeBron leading the Heat and then the Cleveland Cavaliers to eight straight NBA Finals was remarkable in today’s league, and with the NBA landscape changing so often.
Plus, while LeBron has not won a title with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Pierce emphasized how James’ mark there is “to be continued,” James has still, even in his 17th season thus far, had 25.7 points, a league-leading 10.6 assists, 7.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. That’s again, in YEAR 17 of his storied career.
James could have a good chance of winning another title with L.A. this season, too, as though the NBA season is currently suspended due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, based on reported updates on Thursday, of which you can view here and also here about seemingly growing possibilities for a season resumption, it appears James could very well have an excellent shot at ring #4 in 2019-20.
In relation to one quick update in regards to that, per a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, teams expect the league on June 1 to provide guidelines about allowing them to “start recalling players who’ve left their markets as a first step toward a formal ramp-up for the season’s resumption,” so again, it seems feasible that James will have another shot at a ring this season.
Now, again, to each their own, but Pierce not having LeBron in his top five all-time is a massive slight.
Pierce has seemingly never been a big LeBron guy, given their postseason battles and I’m sure given how Allen went to the Heat, but come on, man.
Bron not being in a player of a recent generations’ top five? That’s absurd.