- The basketball world foolishly counted Cleveland out and now LeBron James is playing his best basketball in Year 15, with the Cavs in clear position for another trip to The Finals. Ben Golliver and Andrew Sharp debate if James is the best ever.
Andrew Sharp: We have a question here from Shawn who says – Would you consider LeBron James the consensus greatest player of all-time if he beats the Golden State Warriors this year? That’s a big if but if he does what is your take?
It is funny that Shawn asked that because I posed the same question to our Sports Illustrated group the other day and Rohan our millennial-esque co-worker responded, “What are you talking about? He already is the greatest player of all-time”
Ben Golliver: Oh come on.
Sharp: I don’t know if I am going there but look first all if LeBron with this broken Cavs team beats the Warriors I am absolutely willing to call him the greatest player of all-time.
Golliver: Why do you do this greased pig with this conversation every year Andrew? It’s like you have a spring season and a fall season. Your spring season is that LeBron is going to be the GOAT and by the fall season rolls around it is Mike; he is the GOAT and untouchable. Why do you do it?
Sharp: This is baseless. I don’t think I ever said LeBron is going to be the greatest player of all-time.
Golliver: You said the same thing the last two playoff runs!
Sharp: No. If he beats these Warriors I would be so shocked that you have to make that claim. It’s hard to explain what is different with this season’s LeBron but I have never seen him this comfortable with himself. He knows he is the best player on the Earth. He knows it’s him and MJ and he is out there doing whatever he wants. He slows the game down and takes these iso-shots where he is staring down the defense. It is like the ultimate F you moment. It’s not even good basketball what he is doing half the time, but he is just going out of his way to demoralize people because he can and there may have been better versions of LeBron but I don’t think he has been more fun to watch like he has been the last two years. Ever since he won that first Warriors title and probably his only Warriors title he’ll ever won, but ever since he won that there has just been a level of confidence and a absence of fear in him that elevated his game to an even higher plane.
Golliver: He was so good in Game 2 that he was giving me delusional thoughts like did Kyrie Irving hold LeBron back? (laughs) Was that what the problem was? We have analyzed that Kyrie thing from every angle and did we ever say that previously? I was honestly thinking that like he is averaging 40-point plus because he never has to give the ball up. This is unbelievable.
In all seriousness though there was a very telling post game comment from LeBron that where he was asked what kind of improvements has made since winning the 2011 finals when Dwane Casey was then an assistant coach for the Mavericks and basically dared him to shoot jumpers and he wasn’t really able to respond. LeBron just came out and said at that point in my career I wasn’t a complete player. I wasn’t actually that good and now I am.
Now he is capable of doing the some things that you were talking about where that he is thinking about the game on a different level. He understands exactly where he can go. He is comfortable calling his shots hours before he does it when he is talking to his teammates during shootaround.
It reminded me of an interview I did with Casey last season when he told me “You can’t surprise LeBron anymore. His intellect has caught up with his athletic ability. He coaches his teammates, he calls out our plays, he is so ahead of the game, it’s not even funny.” So now you are getting both sides of this evolution right. You are getting LeBron saying what he is capable of doing and you are hearing basically one of his victims saying basically yeah this guy is so much better than he was when was actually able to beat him that I am not sure what you want to ask us to do. His mastery wasn’t just those crazy fadeaways. It was his assists; his timing and ability to just orchestrate everything like a puppet master.
Sharp: The fadeaways are more just for the spectacle. It is more like the icing on the cake for LeBron. We know he is great at getting everyone involved and playing the right way and he has been kind of a departure from the MJ and Kobe school of basketball. But then to watch him add the hero ball elements in this final chapter of his career is just wild.