Shortly after his 35-point performance in a playoff victory over the Toronto Raptors, LeBron James looked relaxed and satisfied. The Cleveland Cavaliers had their Eastern Conference rivals on the ropes en route to a 7-0 start to their postseason. James had officially tied Kobe Bryant for the most points scored through seven playoff games in NBA history. On the surface, it appears that James has little more to accomplish in his record-setting career.
“I’ve won championships, I won my first one and I’ve won for my teammates, I came home and won.” James told the media Friday after the game 3 victory. “There isn’t anything I have left to prove.”
The 32-year-old makes a valid point. He is a 13-time all-star and a 4-time league MVP. He has won two gold medals for Team USA as well. LBJ ranks seventh in all-time points scored with a legitimate chance to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabar for the most ever when all is said and done. To add to those accomplishments, James also has three NBA rings to his name. Yet, those three championships are the main source of the national media’s gripe against LeBron.
The James and Michael Jordan comparisons have been thrown around ever since the King entered the league in 2003. Jordan won six NBA titles and that has long been the bar set for James to either match or exceed. Even as LeBron shows no signs of slowing down, much doubt still remains about the possibility of him winning three more championships.
Perhaps James has grown more than tired of the Jordan association. After 13 years in the NBA, Bron has done more than enough to be considered the greatest player in history without matching Jordan’s six rings. He has already had a more decorated career than Jordan; going from the ‘chosen one’ in high school, straight to savior of his hometown Cavs. Then, he forms a super-team, becomes the league’s top villain, and wins two titles before returning home to become a hero once again in Cleveland. Maybe James suggested that he has given up his individual pursuit of the Chicago Bulls’ legend.
Problem is, we all know LeBron doesn’t actually think that way. He is perhaps the most driven and outspoken athlete professional basketball has ever seen. From the day he was chosen first overall by the Cavs, it has always been about chasing the ‘ghost that played in Chicago’ as James famously said last summer. He is destined to pass Jordan in nearly every important statistical category in the near future, but adding three more championships to his resume remains a burning question, and James knows it.
The King has been famous for deflecting and re-directing focus throughout his career. Known for his cryptic tweets, James loves to control the narrative surrounding his chase for greatness. What he attempted to do Friday was simply shift focus from the individual to the team. For the next few weeks, he can only hope the story-line is the Cavs’ chance to repeat titles, not his individual chase of a fourth championship.
James wants there to be no more discussion about his comparison to Jordan. Until of course, that story becomes how LeBron supplanted MJ as the greatest player of all-time. Disregard James’ comments after game 3 because until that narrative shifts, he will feel he has more to prove than any player in the history of the league.