We may be in store for something very rare in the NBA — a final that doesn’t involve LeBron James. With the Lakers going 3-2 down to the Phoenix Suns, the chances are becoming more and more that the defending champions will not be able to make it out of the first round. Not seeing LeBron score a deep playoff run would be a level of parity that we haven’t done much in the past decade and a half.
There are really good statistics, and then there are absurd statistics. Here’s one of the latter: Since 2007, LeBron James has featured in 10 of 14 NBA Finals appearances. That is 71 percent. He was in eight consecutive finals between 2011 and 2018, and nine of the last 10 – with three different teams.
This is not a piece of the Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James debate, but, just Through this By comparison, Jordan made six playoff appearances over an eight-year period, but won each time he got there. I know you know this. We all do, because every talking head keeps hitting it in our skulls whenever the Jordan vs. James debate rears its ugly head.
Is the James Championship in the “Mount Rushmore” area (and South Dakota isn’t the Lakota land that we stole and made really big heads, because uhmericuh, But I digress) one of the most prominent athletes of all time? Tom Brady has the most Super Bowl appearances (and wins) of any NFL player of all time, with seven rings in 10 appearances. Serena Williams has won the most Grand Slam singles titles (23) in the Open era. Yogi Bera has the most World Series wins (10) and appearances (14) in MLB history.
Bill Russell (11 wins, 12 appearances) and Sam Jones (10 wins, 11 appearances) still beat James, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six wins, 10 appearances) tied for appearances with James.
What James is able to do is legendary, but he isn’t on Mount Rushmore yet. Maybe he’s looking up at the base of it. If, somehow, he and the Lakers are able to take away the Phoenix Suns and win the next two games, and if Anthony Davis can ever recover fully, he can score another run in a championship.
The problem with their resume isn’t the appearances—it’s the winning. Four championships in any team sport is nothing to scoff at, and we know James is already a walking Hall of Famer. However, when you look at his .400 win percentage in the Finals, he still has something to hold on to Russell, Jones, Abdul-Jabbar, Jordan and Magic Johnson, all of whom have more rings than him.
At 36 years old, it’s fair to wonder how many years James has left. However, even when he is healthy, he is an elite performer. How deep he can score in the playoffs, and whether he can catch some other names ahead of him, remains to be seen. That said, James has earned our respect and our belief that anything is possible when it comes to his career. Let’s not write the ending before it happens.