Sports Specs with Sam

Lakers championship gives enormous addition to LeBron James’ legacy

Sam Janssen

More stories from Sam Janssen



When the NBA Season began last October, the Los Angeles Lakers were facing a heavy task: to prove the previous season’s disappointment was an aberration and that they could build a championship team with their new cast of players.

Many doubted if the Lakers were even the best basketball team in Los Angeles.

LeBron James faced many doubters who were asking if he could win a championship in the Western Conference alongside a supporting cast who (other than Anthony Davis) had to prove they were a championship-caliber unit.

James and his teammates proved the doubters wrong on Sunday, finishing off the NBA Finals with a 106-93 win in Game 6 against the Miami Heat and giving James his fourth NBA championship.

Last year the Lakers missed the playoffs with a 37-45 record in a season that was stalled by a LeBron James injury and plagued by trade rumors and a lack of team chemistry in James’ first season in Los Angeles.

The Lakers looked like a different team from the beginning this year and while the addition of Anthony Davisone of the league’s best players was by far their biggest improvement. The supporting cast has also vastly improved.

Davis’ signing was the headline of the Lakers’ offseason. But moves like acquiring Danny Greena much-needed three-point shooter — and Dwight Howard — who mostly played off the bench but also saw some starts at center in the playoffs — helped drive the Lakers’ improvement.

Frank Vogel, the Lakers’ first-year head coach, did a great job of balancing the use of the teams’ role players in the playoffs, like leaning on Rajon Rondo off the bench at point guard and subbing in Alex Caruso into the starting lineup in the Finals.

Davis is one of the five best players in the NBA along with James, but he did not have much playoff experience before this season. The case could easily be made that he was every bit as valuable as James in this postseason run, especially on the defensive side.

Even Dwyane Wade, James’ all-star teammate with the Miami Heat for his first two championships, has acknowledged that Davis complements James on the floor better than any teammate ever has.

James also took home his fourth NBA Finals MVP award, winning the vote unanimously and becoming the first player in NBA history to win the award with three different teams.

The debate will continue for the rest of James’ career about whether he has surpassed Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time, but the reality is that it’s unlikely there will ever be a consensus on which player stands above the rest.

Jordan played in a different era than James, during which the game was much more physical, but nobody had ever seen an athlete with the physical dimensions and skills of James until he burst onto the scene in 2003.

James has already surpassed Jordan with 10 finals appearances and he more than likely is not done.

However, many point to Jordan’s perfect 6-0 record in the finals, whereas James’ record currently sits at 4-6.

Many other factors come into play in what has become known as the “GOAT” (Greatest of All Time) debate, including the teams they had to go against. Many argue Jordan never had to face a team as good as the Golden State Warriors when they were in their prime, whom James defeated once with Cleveland but also lost to twice.

They also played two different styles and it is difficult to compare the two as James has undoubtedly learned from different aspects of Jordan’s game and applied them to his own.

When asked about the “GOAT” debate in a GQ interview in 2017, James acknowledged their differences and layed out his goal to be known as the greatest of all time.

 “My career is totally different than Michael Jordan’s,” James said. “What I’ve gone through is totally different than what he went through. What he did was unbelievable and I watched it unfold. I looked up to him so much,” James said. “I think it’s cool to put myself in position to be one of those great players, but if I can ever put myself in position to be the greatest player, that would be something extraordinary.”

James, at age 35, is still in the prime of his career, and the Lakers will be the favorites to repeat as champions next year, so the story of James’ career is far from over.

There is no doubt this years’ championship with the Lakersbringing them from a non-playoff team last year to dominating their way through the postseason to a championshipis an enormous addition to James’ legacy.

Janssen can be reached at [email protected].