It’s not often that you just know someone is destined for greatness at only 17 years old. However, a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio graced the cover of Sports Illustrated on Feb. 18, 2002 and was dubbed “the chosen one.” The basketball world has never been the same.
Fast forward to more than a decade later and LeBron James is at the peak of his game, standing alone as the best player in the NBA. James is willing his Miami Heat towards a record that was previously thought unreachable: a 33-game winning streak owned by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. The Heat have currently won their last 24 games, now good for second-longest in the sport’s history.
Earlier this week they visited a bitter conference rival, the Boston Celtics, who hoped to derail the streak behind a career-high 43-point performance by forward Jeff Green. It looked bleak for the Heat, who found themselves down by 13 points in the fourth quarter.
The Heat rallied in the fourth to make it a game, but Celtics guard Avery Bradley hit a three-pointer to put Boston up 103-101. James quickly responded with a game-tying layup with 1:23 left. Then, during what could have been Miami’s last possession of the game, James hit a long jump shot with just 10.5 seconds left to put the Heat up 105-103, enabling the streak to survive.
The clutch basket brought James’ point total to 37; he also added 12 assists, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks. The man had his fingerprints on every facet of the game, and it seems to have been that way night-in and night-out for the past couple of years.
Then last night, James returned to play against his former team the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Heat found themselves down by 27 but woke up to get the 98-95 victory for their 24th consecutive win.
James is a three-time league MVP, nine-time All Star, two-time All Star Game MVP and Rookie of the Year. Despite these accolades, James had been the target of much criticism as he opted to put on his infamous one-hour special, “The Decision,” to announce his exodus from his home state of Ohio, thus taking his talents to South Beach.
Then he vanished in the NBA Finals during his first year with Miami, and was labeled as a player who couldn’t finish big games. He was even voted the No. 2 most hated player in the league behind New Jersey’s Kris Humphries in a Nielsen/E-Poll Market Research survey in 2011.
However, this all changed once James was finally able to win his first NBA Championship last June. Now, no one questions his ability to close-out games, and in February of this year he was even left off the list of “America’s 10 Most Disliked Athletes” by Nielsen/E-Poll. What a difference winning makes.
If James continues to perform this way, there is a possibility he could go down as the greatest basketball player ever. That title is unquestionably associated with Michael Jordan—the man who almost single-handedly globalized the NBA.
When comparing the careers of Jordan and James, Jordan has a better per-game average in points (30.1), steals (2.10) and turnovers (2.73). James’ career average in points is 27.5, which is lower, but he bests Jordan in rebounds (7.3) and assists (6.9) per game.
The fact that James is so close to Jordan statistically is quite impressive, but there is one area where there is a big margin: NBA Championships. Jordan has racked up six, while James is currently seeking his second. Until James catches up, he won’t be in the discussion for greatest of all-time. But if he comes close to or exceeds Jordan’s number, I believe he has to be considered.
Whether or not James will go down as the greatest, he is still a spectacle to watch and is considered by many to be the greatest modern athlete. He gives his all on the hardwood every night, and NBA fans need to relish in the greatness they can ‘WITNESS’ every time he sets foot on it. He may be five rings away from Jordan, but he’s the best thing the NBA has going right now.