In the endless debate of who the greatest basketball player to ever play the game is, LeBron James will forever be compared to Michael Jordan. It’s inevitable.
Both players have dominated the competition during their respective generations, but the one knock on LeBron up to this point in his career is that he has only managed to win two NBA Championships.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers' 4-2 series victory over the Toronto Raptors, LeBron is heading to the NBA Finals and in the process has accomplished something that even Jordan never did in his career. This will be the sixth consecutive year that LeBron James has appeared in the NBA Finals (Game 1 Thursday, 9 p.m., ABC).
LeBron joins Bill Russell, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, Tom Heinsohn, Bob Cousy, Frank Ramsey, Bill Sharman, and Tom Sanders as the only players to ever play in six consecutive Finals. What needs to be noted here is that LeBron has gone to the Finals six straight times with two different teams. Russell, Jones, Jones, Heinsohn, Cousy, Ramsey, Sharman and Sanders were all part of the remarkable 1950s and '60s Boston Celtics teams when they reached the NBA Finals more than six straight years.
This being said, will this achievement hurt or help LeBron’s legacy? You can argue that because LeBron has not lived up to the expectations in regards to actual championship wins that this will hurt his legacy. He has gone to the championship round six straight times and has only won twice. LeBron also passed Jordan in career playoff wins this postseason, which means that Jordan was able to win four more championships while winning less games. Don’t get me wrong, LeBron’s career has been nothing less than stellar, but at times - specifically in crunch time - he has failed to execute.
Jordan had the killer instinct and his competitiveness was unlike any athlete we have ever watched, and at times it does not look like LeBron has these traits. Before games you can see LeBron goofing with his teammates, dancing and performing handshakes with them, and that’s all fine. But that is what sets Jordan and LeBron apart.
There was no bologna with Jordan.
Jordan went out there to beat you by any means necessary. It wasn’t about filling up the stat sheet or throwing down an acrobatic dunk and flexing to the cameras. It was about dominating the opponent physically, mentally and acting like a leader in the game - during timeouts and in the locker room.
I don’t know if LeBron will ever realize what he needs to do to take the next step in being a leader. And here’s else something to remember - when LeBron actually won his two championships he was not the leader. LeBron was a leader, but the Heat were Dwyane Wade's team and Wade was undoubtedly the Batman and LeBron the Robin in terms of leadership.
The 2016 NBA Finals is going to be a turning point in LeBron’s career. This is not Kevin Love’s Cleveland Cavaliers. This is not Kyrie Irving’s Cleveland Cavaliers. This is LeBron James' Cavaliers and if he wants to put himself back in the conversation with Jordan he is going to need to lead his team to a championship.