In the 2016 Finals, LeBron James led both teams in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He was the first player to ever do that in any series, and that was just enough to win the series in seven games, by four points. It took a historic, once in NBA history effort to get the Cavs over the hump and they needed every point, rebound, assist, steal and legendary block.
In the 2017 Finals, LeBron James became the first player to ever average a triple double in the Finals, tossing in 33 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and dishing out 10 assists per game. That was enough to net the Cavs one victory, two blowout losses, one close loss and a decisive Game 5 loss that wasn’t within 5 points for the final 11:18. He scored 12 of the Cavs final 18 points — J.R. Smith scored the other six — all on dunks or layups. It was another historic, never before seen performance from the greatest player of his generation and maybe ever and it simply was not enough.
He was outgunned, but not for lack of trying, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter, the Cavs lost and the tally for this series goes in the wrong column.
The hottake era has removed nuance from analysis and logic from debate, and replaced them with blanket statements and narrative pushing. For a player as complex and all-encompasing as LeBron, this is a travesty. Too often he was relegated to simple, traditional roles, shoved into pegs his oblong shape never fit and expected to be something he never was designed to be. He has been reduced to black and white, vanilla evaluations when there were an infinite amount of hues with which to paint the picture of LeBron James’ career, legacy and all-time status.
Maybe LeBron’s greatest detriment is that Michael Jordan came before him and provided an archetype for the greatest, a prototype to which he would always be compared to and measured against. When Jordan scaled this mountain, there was no universal precedent for the greatest, there were several who held the mantle. But nobody was the consensus owner of the title. Nobody set the mold, so Jordan did it himself without a shadow hanging over his every action on the court.