Through his first 17 years in the league, star forward LeBron James has put forth one of the most decorated careers in NBA history. For the last several years, that has thrust more prominently where he ranks among the all-time greats, which commonly loops him into the greatest player conversation that Michael Jordan has dominated for many years. However, James personally believes that he officially earned that mantel after one moment in his illustrious career.
LeBron James’ NBA career
Since entering the NBA straight out of high school, James has lived up and surpassed the hype that was around him.
He has put together an illustrious career that he has seen him set numerous records and add many accolades to name. James has earned three NBA titles, three NBA Finals MVP awards, four regular-season MVP honors, 16 All-Star Game selections, 12 All-NBA First Team nods, two All-NBA Second Team selections, and five NBA All-Defensive First Team nods.
The 35-year-old is also third all-time in most points scored and eighth all-time in assists, among other achievements. That alone has thrust him into the conversation of being one of the greatest players to play the game, which he believes there is one moment that put him over the top in that conversation.
When LeBron James believes he became the GOAT
James has had many incredible moments in his career that have helped define his legacy among the all-time greats in NBA history.
However, there is one that he singled out during Episode 7 of the eight-part ESPN+ Series More Than An Athlete back in December of 2018. He voiced that leading the Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals over the Golden State Warriors made him the best player ever.
“That’s what I felt. I was super, super ecstatic to win one for Cleveland because of the 52-year drought. … The first wave of emotion was when everyone saw me crying, like, that was all for 52 years of everything in sports that’s gone on in Cleveland. And then after I stopped, I was like — that one right there made you the greatest player of all time.
“Everybody was just talking — how [the Warriors] were the greatest team of all time, like it was the greatest team ever assembled,” he said. “And for us to come back, you know, the way we came back in that fashion, I was like, ‘You did, you did something special.’ That’s probably one of the only times in my career I felt like, oh, s—, like you did something special. I haven’t had, really had time, to really, like, sit back and think, but that … that was a moment.”
James was an unstoppable force in the series as he was the driving force to guiding the Cavaliers to three straight wins to make them the first team ever to do that in the NBA Finals. He was at the top of his game, averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocks that earned him his third NBA Finals MVP award and third NBA title.
That also included him becoming the first player in league history to lead all players in the playoff series in points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks. Beyond that, it also snapped a 52-year professional sports championship drought in the city of Cleveland. All of that just brought forth an incredible moment in James’ career capped by reaching the pinnacle of success.
Where does LeBron James rank all-time?
That is what this entire conversation boils down to as James’ comments were immediately bashed by many as they still believe that Jordan holds that mantel firmly.
The bulk of the conversation comes down to Jordan’s NBA Finals success as he won a title in all six trips. Meanwhile, James is currently 3-6 in his nine trips to that stage, which has been a dark mark on his ledger. However, he did become the first player since the Boston Celtics in the 1960s to reach eight straight NBA Finals, which is something that Jordan never accomplished.
He does have the chance to become the first player to secure an NBA title with three different teams if he can accomplish that feat with the Los Angeles Lakers. Nonetheless, the bottom line will come down to the number of NBA titles that James has to his name, and that could be a hurdle he may never overcome.