This Reminder Of The Trash Roster LeBron James Once Carried To An NBA Finals Is Enough To Settle The GOAT Debate
The GOAT debate between LeBron James and Michael Jordan is always hotly contested, with sports fans throwing out stats to argue why one of the other is the best baller to ever lace ’em up. While I grew up obsessing over Jordan and all of his dominance — as many of you probably did as well — seeing what James has done since entering the league out of high school in 2003 is nothing short of incredible. He’s rewritten the record books, has won titles and is the best player in NBA history.
Not only has LeBron carried his teams to the NBA Finals 10 times in his 17 seasons, but his most recent championship with the Lakers is as unprecedented as any other in league history. He sustained the death of his good friend Kobe Bryant in January. Maintained focus as he guided his Lakers through the NBA Bubble. And, after hoisting both the Larry O’Brien Trophy and Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award, he sent a deliberate message to all the haters out there: “I want my damn respect.”
Jordan was revered during his NBA career, almost becoming a mythical cult hero that we still can’t get enough of — this summer’s The Last Dance documentary serves as proof of that. MJ playing pre-social media certainly helped that, as he didn’t have to deal with the constant attention, coverage and criticism that player like James have to deal with these days. Like, would Jordan ever have a burner account on Twitter like Kevin Durant has had? No.
Stacked side-by-side, the GOAT debate between Jordan and James is one that often depends on which guy a person likes more off the court. That’s not what it’s about, though, and shouldn’t even be taken into consideration when arguing who the better player was.
While I’ve gone back and forth about which guy earns my vote, I’ve decided once and for who reigns supreme: It’s LeBron James.
NBA Finals’ victories are impressive. All-time records are cool. Individual awards are nice. But want to know the real reason why LBJ gets my vote? Because of what my buddy sent me on Twitter the other day, reminding me just how piss-poor the final Cavs roster in 2007 really was — which was a team James carried to the NBA Finals that season.
2007 Cavaliers NBA Finals roster pic.twitter.com/m1NJGoSeEt
— ThrowbackHoops (@ThrowbackHoops) October 22, 2020
Guys, what in the actual hell? Forget reaching the NBA Finals that season — one that Cleveland (predictably) lost in a sweep to the San Antonio Spurs — how did LeBron James even take that team to the postseason? There honestly isn’t a guy on that trash 2007 Cavs roster who’d even be the sixth man for a title contending team right now. Not. One. Single. Guy.
The fact that Larry Hughes was actually talked about back then as being the “Robin to James’ Batman” is disgusting. We were actually comparing Larry Hughes to Hall of Famers like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman — who both played alongside Michael Jordan on the Bulls’ second three-peat in the ’90s. What on earth was wrong with us?
While some may argue that Zydrunas Ilgauaskas was a good player, don’t kid yourselves. I love me some Big Z as much as anybody else who grew up in Cleveland does, but he was basically the equivalent of Luc Longley on MJ’s second three-peat teams. Don’t let Ilgauaskas’ loyalty to the Cavs and leadership deter from the truth: During the 2006-07 season, he was far from a reliable second or even third option.
When LeBron James scored 29 of the final 30 points, including the game-winning layup with two seconds left, against the Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, that should’ve been enough to convince us what we were all witnessing: Greatness. It was the best player in NBA history desperately pleading to all NBA fans that he was trapped with one of the crappiest rosters ever — and, because of James’ greatness, that roster was expected to compete for a title.
As remarkable as Jordan was, he never did anything like James did in 2007. He never won a title without Scottie Pippen. He never scored 29 of 30 points in a tense playoff game. And while MJ was a perfect 6-0 during the NBA Finals, had James had the same talent around him, we may be talking about eight or nine titles for “The King” rather than his “failures” against super teams like the Warriors from 2017-19.
The GOAT debate’s always fun banter, but I’m dropping the mic on it right now: It’s LeBron James all day long.