Many things in sports are objective and based on opinion. One of those things has always been the list of top 10 players in NBA history, and after the 2013 NBA Finals, that order is being threatened with the addition of LeBron James.
The case of LeBron’s legacy has been bought up on numerous occasions since Thursday night’s Game 7 ended, and there are a wide number of people who look for any reason to discredit him, whether it be fair or not. Knocking him for his play in the 2011 NBA Finals is completely fair. Knocking him for “The Decision”, however? Not so much. Yet it seems to be that is the biggest knock against him from the public.
When this conversation of Top 10 players of all-time comes into play, what criteria helps determine who is included? Is it statistics? Do we base it on era? Is it based on individual accomplishments? Are the playoffs/championships most important? Do we put more credit in the “Unforgettable Moments”? The answer should be yes to all the above. However, when it comes to LeBron, that criteria is always shifted and skewed to downgrade his impact on the NBA and his accomplishments to date. If that list of conversation of all-time great players is in fact based on all the above criteria, there is no way that he isn’t in the top 10.
Statistically speaking, in per game averages and totals, regular season and playoffs, he’s one of the best to ever do it, even if he stopped playing today. In the regular season, his statistics look like this:
- Points: 21,081 (32nd); 27.56 PPG (3rd)
- Rebounds: 5,553 (182nd); 7.26 RPG (145th). Pretty misleading, but great, given he’s primarily a perimeter player.
- Assists: 5,302 (46th); 6.93 APG (28th)
- Steals: 1,323 (57th); 1.73 SPG (26th)
When it comes to the playoffs, he’s even better:
- Points: 3,897 (9th); 28.05 PPG (5th)
- Rebounds: 1,191 (31st); 8.63 RPG (57th)
- Assists: 924 (14th); 6.97 APG (19th)
- Steals: 236 (15th); 1.71 SPG (17th)
In terms of the era, there aren’t many all-time greats that James beat in route to his championships, and that is going to be a knock against him. In 2012, he was able to beat Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, all of which are locks for the Hall Of Fame. In 2013, he defeated Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, Hall Of Famers as well, in the Finals to capture his second title. Outside of those six, he hasn’t been able to defeat any other all-time greats, even though Kevin Durant is on his way to be being considered one. At the current moment, that will be a red mark on his resume, at least in comparison to the other greats in the top 10.