With LeBron James reaching the NBA Finals for an unprecedented eighth consecutive time, it sent the debate of the greatest player of all-time is into overdrive. Michael Jordan once comfortably sat atop the throne, with the likes of Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson among his most-mentioned challengers.
But as James has now played into his 15th season and moved to the top of several all-time statistics list, he’s been anointed by many as the greatest to ever step foot on the hardwood. Complicating matters is James’ 3-6 record in the NBA Finals.
Furthermore, some devalue James’ titles because they came after he left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join a superteam with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat. It’s the argument Bryant’s most ardent supporters often cite.
When it comes to the five-time champion himself, Bryant explained to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report how he viewed winning titles and what James must do in order to further cement his legacy:
“All I thought about as a kid personally was winning championships. That’s all I cared about. That’s how I valued Michael. That’s how I valued [Larry] Bird. That’s how I valued Magic [Johnson]. It was just winning championships. Now, everybody’s going to value things differently, which is fine. I’m just telling you how I value mine.
If I’m Bron, you got to figure out a way to win. It’s not about narrative. You want to win championships, you just gotta figure it out.”
When James and the Cavaliers advanced to the NBA Finals, Bryant called for an end to the debate over his standing among the greats. He championed Jordan’s six championships, his five, and James’ three.
More recently, Bryant went on record to dismiss the notion that James didn’t have adequate help from his teammates. Bryant’s stance was they were capable players, which didn’t diminish James’ importance or stature.
James averaged 34 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10 assists in four games against the Golden State Warriors. The Finals ended in a sweep for the first time since 2007, when the San Antonio Spurs ousted James and the Cavs in four games.
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