Basketball, Basketball, Columnists, Sports

The 2-3 Zone, on LeBron’s greatness and quirky Lakers

The “2”

LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of all time. For me, it’s a clear answer. 

He became the Greatest of All Time on June 19, 2016, after defeating the 73-9 Golden State Warriors for his third NBA title. After beating the Miami Heat Sunday, James has won his fourth title and fourth Finals MVP with a third team.

In these latest Finals, James nearly averaged a 30-point triple-double, while playing tone-setting defense, which was a key to the series-clinching win for the Los Angeles Lakers. 

My biggest takeaway from watching James during these Finals: don’t take him for granted.

Almost every James touch gave me life. He controlled the games. He drew extra defenders to make amazing passes and find open shooters. He muscled through Miami defenders for an onslaught of buckets around the rim. He made plays on the break that made it clear why the Lakers have the best transition offense in the league.

Everything about James’ finals performance reminded me why I love the game of basketball. That is a sure sign of greatness.

Fortunately, the Heat were able to keep the finals a bit more interesting thanks to the heroics of Big Face Coffee owner Jimmy Butler, only to be blown out in Game 6.

Butler epitomized toughness and fight throughout the series. He put his body on the line, averaging 43 minutes per game. He did everything right for someone going head-to-head with the greatest basketball player in the world.

His insane Game 3 and Game 5 performances, triple-doubles and Heat wins will hopefully be remembered for a long time to come.

Butler likely ascended to superstar status with his finals performance, and I’m excited to see if he can continue to compete at this level in the next couple of years.

The “3”

James has won a title with a third NBA team. Along the way, he has played alongside truly great NBA players. 

James has had a clear second star for each of his titles.The spotlight on James means those players have a spotlight on them too, and that means many people like to argue about who James’ best teammate is.

In Miami, he had Dwyane Wade. In Cleveland, he had Kyrie Irving. And in Los Angeles, he has Anthony Davis.

In the finals, Davis averaged 25 points per game on absurd 57-48-95 splits. He did that while playing the type of defense that landed him 14 first-place votes for Defensive Player of the Year this season.

One thing I love most about this Lakers team winning it all is the roster. James and Davis were amazing, and they’re the reason the Lakers are champions. But Los Angeles had plenty of other characters in the locker room that gave this Lakers championship an assortment of funny quirks.

Dwight Howard, who once lost a finals series against the Lakers as a member of the Orlando Magic, has won a ring with the Lakers in Orlando. Rajon Rondo, who won a championship with the Boston Celtics 12 years ago against Los Angeles, has now also won a ring with the Lakers. Kostas Antetokounmpo has won a ring to show off to his brother, the NBA MVP this year.

This is one of the strangest teams to ever win it all during one of the strangest times in NBA history. Now that the season is finally over, the league can be proud of one incredibly impressive accomplishment: zero positive coronavirus tests in the bubble.

The NBA was successful in safely carrying out a season during a pandemic. And even if the ratings weren’t great, the games themselves were amazing both on and off the court. NBA fans got to watch amazing basketball throughout the time in the bubble, and the players made significant social justice efforts.

The 2019-20 NBA season is one I will remember fondly for a long time.

 

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