We know the G.O.A.T. when we see him
by Leslie “Bleeds The Wine and Gold” Nielsen
photo by Shane Wynn
I believe after watching LeBron play this season I can finally put who’s the Greatest Of All Time debate to rest for myself. You all can keep bickering amongst yourselves, but leave me out of it. I can’t recall using more cuss words in a more complimentary fashion while watching an athlete do his thing. Jaw on the floor, eyes popping out, while in complete disbelief. This season convinced me.
At the age of 33, his 15th season has been his best. He reportedly spends $1.5 million a year on his body, and I believe he got his money’s worth. For the first time, he played all 82 games, produced his best overall statistical season and carried to the NBA Finals a mediocre supporting cast that had to be overhauled mid-season to become a younger, less experienced but somewhat better supporting cast. In total, that’s 29 different starting lineups. LeBron never lost focus.
As tough as it’s been for a fan to watch, imagine being him. The pressure. The expectations and scrutiny. The Chosen One hardly flinched. (Editor’s note: Even when Draymond tried to poke out Bron’s eye.) Always saying the right things, he just went about his business and found ways to get better. About three months ago, following those trades, I saw something change in him. It was if he looked around and said, “I’m a man amongst boys out here. The G.O.A.T.! No one can guard me, so why not start playing like it?”
From then on, he had a different level of confidence. He added a sick fade away and an unguardable spin-move layup to his arsenal. Nearly averaged a triple-double and put this team on his back every single game.
In what would be his 100th consecutive game this year, he played maybe greatest game of his career against Boston in Eastern Conference Finals, playing all 48 minutes in a Game 7 win-or-go-home scenario without Kevin Love. Boston threw everything they had at him, but he willed the team to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals; his eighth in a row. It was a sight to behold.
You can mention Jordan’s six rings and throw in your Bird, Shaq, Magic, Russell, Kobe or Chamberlain arguments in there, but none of these players got better in their 15th campaign. The King’s biggest competition for G.O.A.T. is Michael Jordan, who played for a Hall of Fame coach. LeBron has played for countless coaches and none of them are Phil Jackson. His Airness retired three times, the last time after his 15th season.
Father Time will take its toll eventually, but right now I don’t see why he couldn’t play another ten years, if he wanted. And LeBron may just for the chance to play professionally with his son one day. With his size he’ll become more of a post player as time goes on where he won’t have to rely on speed as much. With his skill set, he will still be better than most at that position for years to come. He will own almost every record by the time he retires.
I think LeBron will stay with the Cavs. The elite teams can’t afford him and we have a good young core now with the eighth overall pick in a talent rich draft on its way. (I’m thinking best point guard available.) Even if he does leave again one day, he will always be our greatest Hometown Hero, talked about for generations even if he retired tomorrow.
There has been some talk about putting up a life-sized LeBron James statue in Akron. I love the idea, but life-sized?! C’mon! King James is bigger than life already. We need to do better than this. My idea? Let’s raise enough money for a much larger statue. Like the size of The Statue of Liberty, but a robotic one with lasers, fountains and fire. Where do we put this enormous statue? Summit Lake. He first picked up the game at the community center there and there can’t possibly be better future plans for that lake. The view from I-77 would be awesome!
Thanks for listening,
Leslie “Bleeds The Wine and Gold” Nielsen