Which Past NBA Finalist Is LeBron James?

It’s been nearly a month since LeBron James almost singlehandedly led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a come-from-behind win over the Warriors in the NBA Finals, and he’s been a busy guy. He’s had to ponder what this means for his legacy, and where he should place his new Finals MVP trophy relative to the other two on his shelf. Front and center? Chronological order? He still hasn’t decided.

But even LeBron has some time for social media, especially Buzzfeed quizzed. He recently came across the “Which Past NBA Finalist Are You?” quiz, and each time he took it (he wanted to see all the possible results), it gave him something different:

You Are Magic Johnson In 1980!

Like Magic in Game 6, LeBron had a huge game on the stat sheet. More than one, in fact, from a 40-15-5 in Game 5 to the triple-double in Game 7. Like Magic, LeBron rose to the occasion to such a great degree that he overshadowed a teammate who was every bit as electrifying—Kyrie Irving went for 41 points in Game 5 and hit the series-winning three in the ultimate contest.

Unlike Magic, LeBron has been in the league for 14 seasons; 1980 was Magic’s rookie campaign.

You Are Jerry West In 1972!

Like West, LeBron was known more for his failures on the biggest stage than for the accomplishments that filled his career. LeBron came into the series 2-4 in Finals appearances; West had lost eight Finals without getting a ring as the Lakers came into the 1972 championship series.

When LeBron stepped up and won a title on his own terms, it ensured that he would retire with a legacy-defining championship; when West hoisted the trophy, he gained a permanent pass out of the Best Player Never To Win It All Club (Karl Malone is waving hello from the front window over there.)

Unlike West, LeBron actually did have two titles; once the dust settled, history was sure to have noticed.

You Are Kobe Bryant In 2009!

Like Kobe, LeBron was plagued by questions of whether he could win a title on his own terms. When the Lakers lost the 2004 Finals to Detroit, the jig was pretty well up for Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe to coexist on the court. Shaq went to Miami and won a title in 2006; Kobe scored 81 points in a game and took a D-League team to 45 wins.

When Kobe got the championship series he had so desperately craved, his team got smoked in six; it wasn’t until a year later that he got another shot and made the most of it.

LeBron went back to Cleveland, got within shouting distance of making good on his own ambitions, and got smacked in the final game in 2015; a year later, he got the shot and made the most of it.

Unlike Kobe, no serious NBA commentator has ever called LeBron the most selfish player in the league; indeed, his efforts to involve his teammates tarred him with the brush of being too unselfish. Plus, Kobe didn’t get to play GM on a Lakers team that trotted out the likes of Smush Parker during his prime. Nor did Kobe make the basketball decisions that led to Pau Gasol joining the team the way LeBron brought over Kevin Love.

You Are LeBron James In 2016!

Finally, we get to the only true answer. No player has ever done what LeBron did in getting Cleveland to the promised land. No player on the above list (all of them Lakers, oddly enough) put the hopes and dreams of an entire city on their shoulders; indeed, in the history of the sport of basketball, no NBA champion has ever done quite what the Cavaliers just did for Northeast Ohio.

None of the guys on the above list were playing for their birthplace. Magic Johnson is from Flint, Michigan, Jerry West is from rural West Virginia, and Kobe Bryant’s from Philadelphia. LeBron James is the pride of Akron, Ohio, the tires on the decaying husk of a car that is the Rust Belt. He understands—indeed, he returned in 2014 because he could do no different—the expectations were upon him.

This was the first time in NBA history that a man rose beyond the level of mere athletic competition. There will never be another LeBron James. This one was special. And to compare it against Magic or West or Kobe is to do it a grave injustice.

Now, if the Sixers spend the next 20 years in hell and get rescued by a hometown boy in the 2037 Finals, maybe then we can talk…

***

Fox Doucette is a writer based in Connecticut. You should follow him on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *