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LeBron is the greatest of all time

When the question is posed of who was the greatest player in a particular sport, most sports have lively debates with a variety of names posted. However, when it comes to the NBA, the debate is often stilted and lazy, the victim of some preordained consensus that Michael Jordan was the best, is the best and will always be the best. However, after 14 years of ludicrous levels of production, it is time to make a legitimate case for LeBron James as the best basketball player of all time.

As of the end of this regular season, LeBron has a career average of 27.1 ppg. In addition, he has averaged seven assists and seven rebounds per game. This year, LeBron’s passing ability has reached new heights, averaging a career-best 8.7 assists per game. The fact that LeBron is still setting career-bests at this stage is incredibly impressive, as is the fact that he has a better career three-point percentage than Michael Jordan.

Fourteen straight seasons at this level of production is something that leaves many all-time greats in the dust. LeBron’s ‘peak’ has been 14 years, and he has shown few signs of deteriorating. James has 13 seasons of averaging more than 25 ppg. Conversely, Larry Bird only had three seasons where he averaged more than 25 ppg. While Bird is not LeBron’s most immediate rival for the title of best ever, this example is illustrative of just how rare this consistency is, even amongst the game’s all-time greats. Oftentimes, detractors use LeBron’s injury-free history as a point against him, claiming that other players would have had similarly dominant fourteen-year runs if they just remained healthy. This line of logic is ludicrous. LeBron’s durability is part of what has made him an elite force, and using that trait in a case against him is a weak attempt to downplay his greatest attribute.

Bill Russell dominated in a league that had anywhere from eight to 14 teams. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson won their titles in a league that had 23 teams. LeBron James has dominated in a league that has 30 teams. While yes, the number of championships a player has won is a fair and important metric, it is one that will always privilege pre-expansion NBA players and those who were fortunate enough to have supplementing stars.

While Michael Jordan’s achievements don’t exactly fall into the pre-expansion category, he did win titles when the league had anywhere from 27 to 29 teams, fewer than the 30 that LeBron has been competing against his entire career. Additionally, Jordan benefited from supplementing stars to a degree LeBron has not. By his fourth year in the league, Jordan had a future Hall-of-Famer in Scottie Pippen. LeBron did not have a Hall of Fame teammate until his eighth. In this context, it is all the more impressive that LeBron James has made six consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals, and at the age of 32, he looks set to make another one. Jordan won six titles in six appearances, an undoubtedly impressive achievement, while LeBron has won three in seven. However, just judging the two on appearances and wins ignores the fact that LeBron’s teams have nearly always been the inferior participant in the Finals. In fact, in his seven Finals appearances, LeBron’s teams have been the betting underdog in five of those instances. Jordan’s teams were the favorite in every Final they appeared in.

Given the full story of his career, it is safe to say that, assuming another championship win in the next few years, LeBron might have done enough to clinch the exalted title as the greatest of all time.

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