LeBron James has the Cleveland Cavaliers back in the NBA Finals, and Fred McLeod, for one, is pinching himself.
“It’s still surreal at times when I look at him on the practice floor,” the Cavaliers television play-by-play announcer said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “The four years were tough, there’s no doubt. He was one of ours. And to see him flourish and win championships in Miami was tough for the fan base to swallow. But once he wrote that letter to come back, it was, again, surreal. And then to have him at the highest level deliver so far within four wins of what he came back for, it’s Hollywood-esque. It really is. And if he does win a championship or championships here, there’ll be a movie someday. Heck, he could even produce it if he wants. But he’s obviously a generational player and this is the first time, as you know, he’s really been thrust into the role of a true ultimate leader among players who are a lot younger, and he’s relished that. This is the next phase of his development as a human being and as a leader – just to have that voice and the actions to follow. He’s done it beautifully.”
James was outstanding in the Eastern Conference Finals, averaging nearly a triple-double and leading Cleveland to a four-game sweep of an Atlanta team that won 60 games in the regular season. Still, people are saying the Cavs have no chance of beating Golden State in the NBA Finals.
“Good, let them say it,” McLeod said. “LeBron (was) kind of amused (by that) about a week ago. (He said), ‘Underdog? Me? Underdog? I’ve never been an underdog.’ I wouldn’t pick against them. Are they the favorites? No, but . . . don’t fall asleep on what these guys have done. I don’t want to hear all the talk about (how) the Eastern Conference (is weak) and all that stuff. Obviously the West is stronger one through 10, but (the East was still competitive at the top).
“When you’ve got the best player in the world – I know Steph Curry is a phenomenal talent and was the most valuable player, but if any general manager in the league had a chance to pick one guy right now to win a championship or to raise the level of their play, they’d pick 23. I don’t put anything past this guy.”
If James wins a title this year, that would give him three by his age-30 season with presumably several more elite seasons in sight. Is it possible that James, when it’s all said and done, could go down as the greatest player in NBA history?
“Could be,” McLeod said. “Michael Jordan is always going to be in that discussion. I think it will come down to championships. Let’s face it. Michael with the six rings, that’s hard to beat. And when you’re splitting hairs of greatness, it many times does come down to rings and LeBron still has time to do it. That’s the thing about this guy. I frankly think they’re maybe a year ahead of schedule in terms of challenging for championships. Because man, next year, with Anderson Varejao, who’s a key piece coming off the bench, Kevin Love – assuming he comes back and I think he will – if this team’s healthy and they’e going to add some sort of piece in the draft, we’re looking at a five-, six-year window of at least challenging (for championships). I’m not saying they’re going to win four in a row, but they’re going to be in that conversation. Let’s see how it all shakes out, but in terms of impacting the game at both ends of the floor, we’ve never seen a guy with his size and skill set. He’ll be in the talk when it’s done among the two or three greatest ever.”