Death, taxes, and predicting this will be the year LeBron James fails to get to the NBA Finals: these are the only guarantees in life.
Like clockwork, fans of the league sincerely try and convince themselves and others of the one team in the East that can take down LeBron and company. Since 2011, betting against LeBron in the playoffs has been like betting against Superman – You know he can’t be killed, but you dive face-first into the belief that an outcome different than expected will come true. And for this analogy to really work, I would need to talk about Kryptonite. So let’s talk about what that may be. Or better yet, what fans bank on being the downfall of LeBron James.
“He is too old. His body can’t handle that many minutes anymore.”
Ah yes, this old nugget. Out of all the potential reasons why James won’t make a deep run in the playoffs, this is the most legitimate one. But there has not been a year recently where anyone could make the case for this actually happening. And for a player who has played 41,272 minutes so far, he has been freakishly healthy. Never being sidelined for a substantial amount of time with a serious injury at any point during his career.
I know that his receding hairline looks terrible, but until he actually shows signs of slowing down we are just going to have to accept that the man is not your average 32 (looks 50) year old spraining ankles at the YMCA.
“The players around him have too many weaknesses and will be exploited in a playoff series.”
This is always a ridiculous statement to make, if you are using this as a factor for why LeBron’s team won’t make it to the NBA Finals. However, it is absolutely a fair point to make when determining whether his team can win a championship. Have you seen the lineups for the Spurs and Warriors? Tough teams to conquer without a strong supporting cast.
Though, we all know what King rules in the East.
Do we even have to get into the particular comments made over the years?
Kevin Love is soft.
JR Smith is a disaster on wheels.
Chris Bosh can never learn how to be an effective third option.
Who the heck is Mario Chalmers and why is he a starter in the NBA?
All of these were reasonable criticisms at the time, but these takes excluded the only factor that matters: LeBron James is a one-man wrecking crew. And despite how terrible his team may seem leading up to the playoffs, James has always had a big enough back to carry whoever he needs to.
Granted, this is the first year that his team has not taken the first place seed entering the playoffs in recent memory. But, should we really be concerned? It’s not like he has a bunch of scrubs on his team. The Cavs are a title defending team; been there before. It would have been nice to add version 2010 Deron Williams and injury-free Andrew Bogut, but this is still a playoff-ready team.
Do you even remember the dumpster fire that LeBron carried all the way to the finals in 2007? That team had at least 5 Brian Scalabrine’s on it and they still took the East.
James and the Cavs will be fine in the playoffs.
“Man, have you seen the “Insert Team Here” play? They got something special this year.”
A couple years back it was Paul George and the Pacers (we even have Lance Stephenson back to blow on LBJ’s ear again!). Then it became Kyle Lowry and the Raptors. This year, Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics will take the place of “King James Slayer.” But instead of fulfilling the prophecy à la the Lannisters, these teams will take the place of forgotten narratives come June.
There is no more likeable team than the Boston Celtics right now. You have a beloved coach in Brad Stevens that made a seamless jump from college to NBA. Plus, you have undersized Isaiah Thomas as your leader, a fearless point guard that will smile in your face as he throws clutch shot after clutch shot. Throw in Al Horford, a couple personalities, a ball-movement orientated offense, and you have created America’s team.
The story has not ended well for the challenger in a long time – The challenging team always cycles around, but LeBron James has not changed. He has averaged 28-9-7 during the playoffs throughout his career. And despite the ups and downs early on regarding “clutchness” and never winning a championship, those days are long gone.
What we are watching now is a confident playoff architect. His passing and leadership outshine his freakish athletic talents. And that is the most important characteristic, he elevates the players around him. To the extent, that it really doesn’t matter who you surround him with (unless there are more than 5 Scalabrines on the roster).
After last years amazing comeback against the “invincible” Warriors, have we still not learned our lesson? Did we not take a moment to reflect and realize that maybe we are wrong to think LeBron won’t make it to the Finals this year?