LeBron James reaches peak of greatness in illustrious career

The Lakers’ LeBron James takes a shot during a game against the Cavaliers on November 25. (Tim Ferriss – News Herald)

I just want Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff to explain what makes LeBron James a great basketball player. He does it better than any sportswriter, so why get in his way?

“If that makes sense, it’s easy to see but hard to explain,” Bickerstaff said after an independent practice on Nov. 24, one day before James and the Lakers made their only appearance in Cleveland this season.

“Greatness is more than just a personal basketball trait,” Bickerstaff continued. “There are a lot of good players in the NBA who can score, who can rebound, who can pass, who can impact the game. There are very few players who have the size and ability to change a team and an organization and bring it to a championship level, and It turns out he can do that no matter where he is.”

In the 2003 draft, the Cavaliers selected James with the first overall pick. After seven seasons in Cleveland, he took his talents to South Beach, where he helped the Miami Heat win two NBA championships in four years. He renewed his contract with the Cavaliers in 2014 and led the Cavaliers to the only league championship in team history in 2016.

In 2018, James transferred again. He signed with the Lakers — it’s hard to believe this is already his sixth season in Los Angeles — and helped them win their first league title in 10 years in 2020.

James’ control over his followers’ emotions is immeasurable. Cavaliers fans felt betrayed when he first left Cleveland, especially when he was so elated when he announced his decision to produce an ESPN special for the event. When he was introduced and touched the ball during his time with the Heat, he was continually and loudly booed.

Time and the 2016 championship have earned James forgiveness in the hearts of Cavaliers fans.

At Rocket Mortgage Field, the visiting team is always introduced first. James was the last Lakers starter to take the court on November 25th. The cheers for him were even louder than any of the Cavaliers’ starters.

Early in the timeout, the Cavaliers played a video tribute to James on the Humongotron. It shows everything from his rookie season in Cleveland, fresh out of Akron St. Vincent St. Louis. Marie High School, where he surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time NBA scoring record and highlights in between, including a highlight reel from Game 7 of the 2016 Finals.

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James was resting on the Lakers bench during the tribute. He waved to the crowd and then raised his arms, forming a heart-shaped symbol with the index finger and thumb of each hand.

Even as the game was about to end, the fans in the stadium were still cheering for James. With 1 minute and 12 seconds left in the game, he cut to the basket from the right side of the court and dunked hard, giving Los Angeles a 117-112 lead. The Lakers won 121-115.

The debate over whether the best player in NBA history is James or Michael Jordan has no answer. But the facts are undeniable: James has played the most minutes (11,690) of any player in league history — more than 2,000 minutes more than the next closest player, retired Hall of Famer Tim Duncan. LeBron is the only player in NBA history to score more than 30,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 10,000 assists.

James will turn 39 on December 30. He is the oldest active player in the NBA, 126 days older than P.J. Tucker of the Los Angeles Clippers. But James’ tires still have 10 years of wear left. Tucker didn’t start playing in the NBA until the 2012-13 season. Tucker has averaged only 16 minutes per game this season.

James averages 34 minutes per game. In the game against his old club on November 25, he scored 22 points in 36 minutes.

The Cavaliers have seven jerseys retired: Austin Carr (34), Bingo Smith (7), Nate Thurmond (42), Zydrunas Ilgauskus (11), Mark · Price (25), Larry Nance (22) and Brad Dougherty (43).

LeBron’s No. 23 jersey will one day be retired. When that happens, he earns his place in the rafters.

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