ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith recently stirred it up over social media after voicing Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James won’t win another NBA title. Smith has since doubled down on that firm stance. However, he has left the door open to James earning his place in the GOAT discussion.
Stephen A. Smith believes LeBron James won’t win another NBA title
The Lakers have stumbled through the first several weeks of the 2021-22 season.
Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors behind Stephen Curry’s stellar play have pushed their way toward the league’s best record. All that led Smith to comfortably declare that James has won his last NBA title.
“Warriors going to the Finals,” Smith said. “Let me say something else: I think LeBron has won his last title. I think it’s over. It’s not LeBron’s fault. LeBron is gonna be LeBron. He gonna come back. He gonna do what he gonna do. They ain’t winning no chip.”
The longtime ESPN personality has since doubled down on his firm stance by giving an on-air eulogy congratulating James on his illustrious career.
“I want to say congratulations to LeBron James for a wonderous, illustrious career,” Smith exclaimed. “Four-time champion. Four-time league MVP. Went to 10 NBA Finals. Your run was phenomenal my brother. It was something special. The game of basketball will be eternally grateful to you for all that you have done.”
However, he recently laid out a unique exception for James if he accomplished winning the 2022 NBA title.
Stephen A. Smith lays out what it will take to put LeBron James in the GOAT conversation
Although Smith firmly believes that James has won his last NBA title, it doesn’t mean that the possibility of winning another one is entirely out of the picture.
During a recent episode of ESPN’s First Take, he voiced that if the 17-time All-Star won the 2022 championship, he would entertain putting him in the GOAT discussion.
“Can I give you some news?” Smith said. “If LeBron James wins the title this year, I will actually entertain discussion about him being in the GOAT conversation.”
A fifth NBA title would put James tied with Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan while placing him one below Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It would also mark him making his 11th Finals appearance and winning his second championship in the last three seasons.
Given the Lakers’ struggles, it would mean that James played a pivotal part in transforming the team into a championship contender. Los Angeles needs the star forward to push the franchise forward, despite being in his 19th campaign, a feat no other all-time great has accomplished that late into their respective careers.
It’s certainly a lot to expect from James, but it would put another incredible mark on his resume that would warrant more of a standing in the GOAT discussion.
Lakers must find their identity if they hope to compete for 2022 NBA title
After missing more than two weeks due to an abdominal strain, James returned to action against the Boston Celtics on Friday night.
Despite James showcasing he’s back to his physical dominance, the Lakers’ third-quarter struggles led to another discouraging defeat. Following the loss, the star forward aired his frustration.
“No, it’s never, ‘We got 65 games left,’” James said via USA TODAY Sports. “We damn sure need to play better, no matter who’s in the lineup.
“We have our system and we need to obviously fast track it and get better with it to where we can play, no matter who is out on the floor. We could play at a high level…But there’s no level of panic.”
It remains extremely early, but the Lakers must find their identity with James leading the charge. Injuries to key contributors have heavily impacted Los Angeles’ shortcomings, but the team needs to play with a semblance of consistency.
Russell Westbrook has to find a stable role within the game plan, while the rest of the supporting cast must work to find on-court cohesion defensively. If not, the Lakers are looking at a disappointing journey ahead, falling well short of NBA title contention.