Consider the tough breaks LeBron has had in his career:
- Though it was his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers were a bottom-feeding organization and that was where he was drafted. Throughout his first seven years in the NBA, he was consistently surrounded by sub-par talent and the Cavaliers were unable to attract any high-level free agents to surround him with.
- So basically his first seven years were wasted, even though he had become the best player in the world by about year four, arguably even at the end of year three.
- In the 2014 Finals, D-Wade was a different player. He was past his prime by that point. Plus the Spurs shot a ridiculous 55% from the field, the greatest shooting performance in NBA Finals history.
- In 2015, Kelly Olynyk, the dirtiest player in the NBA, deliberately yanks Kevin Love’s arm out of its socket in the first round of the playoffs and Love is done for the playoffs. In OT of the Finals Game 1, Kyrie Irving injures his knee and is done for the series. LeBron’s Cavs go on to lose that game and the series.
- After the 2016 Finals, Kevin Durant joins the 73-win Warriors creating arguably the greatest superteam in NBA history. They easily beat LeBron’s Cavs in 5 games in the 2017 Finals in a year that, given what had just happened in 2016, was setting up pretty nicely for LeBron’s Cavs to repeat.
If all those unlucky breaks count against LeBron’s legacy (“3-6 in the Finals! No excuses!”) then this ring absolutely counts. No excuses. I don’t want to hear about “the bubble” or the pandemic–everyone else had to deal with it, too.
I don’t want to hear any of this nonsense about how “LeBron had it easy” or this ring doesn’t count. LeBron deserved this. He’s had some bad breaks in his career, and now that he finally got the good breaks. He should already have at least four rings. This is a make-up ring.
But while this was LeBron’s easiest path to a ring, it was not an easy path to a ring in a vaccum. It was only easy because he made it look easy.
This Lakers team was not some juggernaut coming into the season. I know everybody is saying AD is a top-5 player in the league and LeBron has the best #2 in the NBA, but where would this roster be without LeBron? Anthony Davis spent seven years on the Pelicans and only made the playoffs twice, never making it past the second round. Take LeBron off this roster and the Lakers are lucky to even make the playoffs.
If the Lakers imploded and did not make the Finals, the rap on this team would be simple: “LeBron is old and washed, AD puts up numbers but is soft, Dwight is old and washed, Rondo is old and washed.” etc. People laughed at this roster coming into the season. It looked like a Superteam–from 2012.
The Clippers were consistently considered the title favorites this year not only before the season but all the way up until the moment they blew a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets.
Don’t let the sports media forget how much they were drinking the Clippers koolaid:
Do not let the revisionists tell you the Lakers were the heavy favorites this year.
In July 2019, ESPN conducted a poll of 20 NBA executives, scouts and coaches, and here is what they said about the upcoming season:
- On the question of “who is the best player in the league?” 12 said Kawhi, 6 said Giannis and 2 said Harden. None said LeBron
- “What was the best move of the offseason?” 10 said the Clippers getting Kawhi and Paul George. 2 said the Jazz getting Bogdan and Mike Conley. 2 said the Pelicans’ offseason moves. And 2 said the 76ers getting Josh Richardson and Al Horford. None said they liked the Lakers getting AD, and in fact more said they liked the Pelicans trading him.
- “Who will win the Western Conference?” 16 votes for the Clippers, 2 for the Denver Nuggets, 1 for the Rockets and 1 for the Jazz. Zero for the Lakers.
- “Who will win the NBA title?” LA Clippers 13, Milwaukee Bucks 2, Philadelphia 76ers 2, Utah Jazz 1, Denver Nuggets 1, Houston Rockets 1. Zero for the Lakers.
This is what those anonymous NBA figures had to say about the Lakers:
In the West, Leonard’s new squad was the runaway favorite, although several of those polled, while choosing the Clippers, indicated that this will be very difficult field of competitors.
And while the Lakers came up as several people debated who their ultimate choice to win the conference would be, they were not among the four West teams picked by at least one person to reach the Finals — let alone win the title.
“I’m going to say the Clippers right now,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “Certainly I’d understand why someone would say the Lakers, but I don’t trust the Lakers to get anything right.”
Don’t let them revise history now and say the Lakers were always going to win this title.
“LeBron didn’t have to play the Clippers! He lucked out!”
Please. The Lakers would’ve handled the Clippers. The Clippers had zero chemistry, two choking superstars, the most overrated NBA coach of the past 20 years, and on top of that, they didn’t even want to be in the bubble.
It’s not LeBron’s fault the Clippers imploded before the Conference Finals. It’s an odd argument to make that LeBron “lucked out” by not having to play a team that couldn’t even make it out of the second round. The reality is that the Clippers weren’t as good as everyone hyped them up to be.
The Clippers losing to the Nuggets should have made clear to everyone that they were wrong about the Clippers, and that the Lakers would have handled them. Instead people just further doubled-down on being wrong by saying the Lakers got lucky they avoided the Clippers.
And on top of that, people have already forgotten that in the very next round, the Lakers easily handled the team that the Clippers lost to.
Don’t let people forget how much they were hyping up the Blazers prior to the Lakers first round series, either. Remember all the talk about how the Blazers were “the greatest 8th seed ever”? Charles Barkley picked the Blazers to win the series against the Lakers outright. However, in fairness Charles was only one of the few experts to pick the Blazers in that series. Still, people were hyping the Blazers up big time.
The Rockets had two superstars, either the second or third best duo in the league depending on who you ask. Clearly they’re behind LeBron and AD but you could make a case they’re better than Kawhi and Paul George.
“The Nuggets!” They were good enough to beat the vaunted Clippers, weren’t they? Now, because the Lakers beat them easily, they suck?
“The Heat are the weakest Finals team in years!” Other than the 2018, 2015 and 2007 Cavaliers, yeah. But the Heat were good enough to beat the #1 overall seed Bucks in 5 games. The Bucks had the back-to-back MVP and current DPOTY, Giannis, who apparently NBA writers thought was better than LeBron.
Don’t let anyone tell you this ring “doesn’t count” for LeBron. If the Lakers had lost this Finals or even prior to it, you better believe it would’ve “counted.” The same people who are about to say the bubble diminishes this ring for LeBron would have been singing a completely different tune if the Lakers had fallen short in the bubble.
And if the Lakers somehow blow this 3-1 lead, then we will never hear the end of it. LeBron haters can’t have it both ways.