LeBron James has long been the best player in the world and is, by all accounts, one of the top two to ever put on a uniform. But he is mortal, bound by age, and will eventually not be at the top of his craft. There won’t be a major announcement that the torch has been officially passed. In reality, it will be a slow accumulation of things which build to a consensus.
Or so I think.
First Things First’s Cris Carter offered a clearer marker: if the Los Angeles Lakers miss the playoffs.
When it comes to public perception, Carter is probably right. It will be human to question James if the Lakers experiment yields dreadful results and there’s not much hope it won’t.
But here’s the thing. There are really no rules, but can the “greatest basketball player in the world” argument hinge on a player leading his team to the No. 8 seed in the West? That’s nothing. It’s not an accomplishment. It’s a low bar, a bare minimum, and something James has cleared before.
The argument that he failed to elevate a subpar team to meaningful playoff wins? That kind of forgets years and years of James doing that very thing in Cleveland.
And again, Carter could be correct. If Kevin Durant, James Harden, or, gasp, Giannis Antetokounmpo or Russell Westbrook leads their team to a title this year, it will be rough sledding to jam LeBron’s name into that conversation.
Perhaps the thing to take away from all this (and sorry sports talk shows) is that the whole title, which would be transferred, is pretty silly to begin with. It doesn’t really exist and if it did would certainly have bigger fish to fry than sorting out .500 teams.