Lebron set to make 7th finals appearance, but what does it mean for his legacy
Tomorrow night the 2016 NBA Finals kicks off featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers taking on the Golden State Warriors as they prepare to defend their title. These two heavyweights in their respected divisions are no strangers to the big stage as they get set for a rematch from last years finals. LeBron James remembers it very well after coming up short while putting the team on his back for 6 games, trying to capture his third championship. What would be better than making his 6th straight finals appearance (7th overall), well winning with the team he started it all with, and bringing the Cavs their first championship ever.
What could be the worst to happen? Well let’s not get it wrong, throughout the years, some would say that right out of high school LeBron came in the league wanting to be the next Michael Jordan. Perhaps better than him, but that’s a discussion for another day. Rightfully so, he was proclaimed the “Chosen One”, wearing #23, and had all the hype surrounding him. But, one thing that Mike never lacked was winning when it came to championships. Now that’s not a knock to “King James”, but he does have a tendency to disappear late in games at times, especially when the lights are shining bright and everybody is watching.
2007 Finals: Cleveland Cavaliers vs San Antonio Spurs
The Cavs went down in 4 games as the Spurs captured their 4th title. LeBron was 22 at the time in his 4th NBA season, and overall was with a young inexperienced team taking on a seasoned team like the Spurs, so much couldn’t be said about him at the time. LeBron did struggle for the majority of the series, and he did have the highest turnover percentage on the team.
2008 and 2009
LeBron and Co. were still a force to be reckoned with in the East, but had their battles with other top contender teams such as the Boston Celtics led by their big 3 with Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. And the Orlando Magic, as both those teams gave the Cavs numerous problems and more than likely was the reason for LeBron’s departure as he headed for Miami in 2010, after failing to meet the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals as the Magic led by Dwight Howard booted them from the ECF. Looking back at those series, LeBron let his team down from time to time, and maybe he couldn’t, or just got tired of doing it all on his own, but that changed the way millions of people viewed LeBron and his character.
2011 Finals: Miami Heat vs Dallas Mavericks
This was the infamous LeBron James who wasn’t going to win not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4… Yada, yada, yada you know the rest. At the time, he decided to take his talents to South Beach. They got to finals as everybody predicted despite classic battles with the Celtics. Miami would go on to lose in six games. LeBron averaged 17.8 PPG, as he committed 24 turnovers in the series, was 3rd in the team on scoring and was just a bit over average in the series. Miami was up 2-1 and watched the Mavericks cruise the rest of the way winning 4-2.
2012 Finals: Miami Heat vs Oklahoma City Thunder
Now here we go, finally the King captured his long awaited championship, as LeBron averaged 28.6 PPG, 10.2 RPG and they put away the Thunder in 5. LeBron took the previous finals lost and turned it around the following year as he was the clear runner-up for the Finals MVP.
2013 Finals: Miami Heat vs San Antonio Spurs
LeBron averaged 25.3 PPG, 10.9 RPG and got his second championship. It didn’t come easy as the Spurs pushed them all the way to Game 7. Many would say Ray Allen is the reason why the Heat even won the series. If it weren’t for that corner 3, that Chris Bosh kicked out to him in the corner, while Allen back pedaled and crushed their hearts. (Ehh, I’m a Spurs fan, I should know. That will forever haunt me till the day I die.) Looking back at the series, LeBron disappeared late in games, and if it wasn’t for other core players coming through for LeBron, he’d be 1-4 in the finals.
2014 Finals: Miami Heat vs San Antonio Spurs
In a highly anticipated rematch, and a rematch that the Spurs wanted more than ever, they put the Cavs away in 5 games, sending LeBron back to Cleveland. LeBron averaged 28.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG. While I did cheer heavily against LeBron here, I got to give it to the guy. He pretty much had to carry the load on his own, as he’s done in the past. LeBron was a turnover machine in the series, but that was because he was forced to have the ball a lot. Dwayne Wade couldn’t give James much help while he was averaging 15.2PPG.
2015 Finals: Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors
I applauded James in this series and rooted for the King to capture his 3rd championship as they came up short losing in six games. LeBron showed the heart of a champion averaging 35.8 PPG, 13.3 RPG. He went into battle carrying a wounded Cavs squad. Kyrie Irving suffered a season ending knee injury putting him on the shelf for good, and Kevin Love sat out with a shoulder injury thanks to the dirty play by Kelly Olynyk. Nonetheless, LeBron carried the young Cavs team, working with Shumpert, Thompson, J.R. Smith, and Dellavedova as they almost pulled out an finals upset. Yes, the Warriors won, but what James did with the less talented players around him was sensational.
2016 Finals: Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors
Now, if you heard the latest edition of My Fantasy Podcast, or just wonder who I’m picking, I’m going to go with the Cavs in six. LeBron has a lot riding on this series. At 31 years old, you have to think that he can’t keep making these finals appearances constantly every year. Even in a poor Eastern Conference, the West is always loaded with teams coming out ever year such as San Antonio, OKC, GSW, etc. Earlier in the year you heard about Kevin Love talking about his displeasure with the team, and Kyrie talking about joining another team. Who else can forget about the cryptic tweets sent out from James during the season, and he reportedly unfollowed the Cavs on social media. If the Cavs can’t get it done right now, when the moment is right, finally they’re putting it all together as a team, it’s hard to imagine that they can stick it out another season and attempt to make a third straight NBA Finals appearance. Thus, making LeBron 2-5 in his NBA finals appearance, and his third time at failing trying to bring Cleveland a championship.
My final thoughts…This series can go either way. I believe both teams are matched in their own unique ways, and both provide disadvantages for each other. If Cleveland tries to get into a 3-pt shoot out with GS, I think it’s over for Cleveland. If all 3 of the big 3 for Cleveland show up, and can cool Curry down in the 4th quarter where he tends to heat up, I think the Cavs can comfortably put this one away. I know James is going to show up, its his supporting cast I’m worried about, and the same could be said about the Warriors. Regardless who wins, ultimately this is a series and NBA Finals that LeBron James desperately needs to win when it comes to adding to his legacy. What’s a king without his crown?
Orlando Torres covers the NBA for MyFantasySportsTalk.com | Follow him on Twitter @itslandoyo