You might dislike LeBron James for whatever reason. You might hate him. But after what he has done this season – and this postseason – you have to respect him.
At one point this year, the Cleveland Cavaliers were 19-20. Then they went 34-9 the rest of the way, swept the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, overcame a 2-1 series deficit to the Chicago Bulls in the second round and then swept the 60-win Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“A few people have said this – and I’ve been saying it since day one – I think this is LeBron’s greatest playoff accomplishment,” NBC Sports Network NBA Insider and Sports Illustrated senior writer Chris Mannix said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Even if they don’t win in this series, to take this team from where it was in the opening game of the season – with a rookie coach, a revamped roster, to the midseason changes with the trades they made with (Timofey) Mozgov, (Iman) Shumpert and (J.R.) Smith – to get to this point after a Kevin Love injury . . . I mean, championships are the pinnacle, no question. But in terms of achievements, this to me is LeBron’s greatest.
“Granted, they did play lesser competition,” Mannix continued. “Atlanta, it turns out, was as overrated as some people thought they were doing to be. The Bulls lost Pau Gasol mid-series. That affected them. But what he’s done here is nothing short of remarkable. Steph Curry earned the MVP, but I’m telling you: You ask any coach, executive in basketball who the best player is, none of them won’t say it’s LeBron James.”
The 2015 Finals will be one of the most anticipated Finals ever – in part because there was a week off after the conference finals, and in part because, well, it’s Curry vs. LeBron. It’s Warriors versus Cavaliers. It’s the most exciting team in the league versus the best player in the world.
“(The Warriors are) incredibly fun to watch,” Mannix said. “The entertainment value you get from watching Golden State, it’s similar to the entertainment value you got when you saw Mike D’Antoni’s Suns teams back in their heyday. The difference is this team was great at both ends of the floor. And look, if Golden State finishes this, if they win a championship, they’re not going to go down as one of the great all-time sort of dynasty franchises; that remains to be seen if they can pull that off. But they will go down as one of the greatest singular seasons teams in NBA history.”
Sixty-seven wins in the regular season, first or second in offensive and defensive efficiency, 12-3 in the Western Conference playoffs and, potentially, beating LeBron James in the Finals. That would truly be incredible.
“They’ll be right up there, frankly, with that mid-90s Bulls team that won 72 games,” Mannix said. “For one season, this is about as good as it gets.”