Six is the bar, and LeBron James isn’t there yet. However, the Lakers‘ superstar has his own version of ‘quality over quantity‘ argument, as he tried to steer our attention from numerical and get us to focus on contextual. If that’s the criterion for players’ championship classification, LeBron believes he has the strongest case of all.
James added: “The 2016 Cavs coming back from 3-1 versus a 73-9 team, being down 3-1 versus one of the best teams that’s ever been assembled. And then what we went through in the bubble. And if you were not in the bubble, you don’t quite understand it. You will never ever understand how hard it was to win that championship, to be able to motivate yourself. This is literally out of your whole comfort zone.”
LeBron enters a slippery slope with this one. It’s another case of James self-praising and trying to initiate a LeBron worshiping session. It started when he called himself the GOAT for winning the first of ‘two hardest championships‘ ever, and it continued after James demanded respect after winning the second one. Re-boasting about his NBA legacy will once again rub some people the wrong way, as they’ll see past the objectivity of LeBron’s argument, solely for the fact it’s been made by LBJ himself.
But let’s disregard the source and focus on the merits. LeBron’s ’16 championship run is up there with one of the toughest paths to an NBA title ever. However, it isn’t up there for its totality. The Cavs opponents combined for a winning percentage of 67.4%, which is statistically the third toughest title run in NBA history. But it’s mostly because of the Warriors‘ 73-9 record.
Other than that, Cleveland had to go through 44-38 Pistons, 48-34 Hawks, and 56-26 Raptors. They swept their way towards the ECF, where Toronto took the Cavs to six games before LeBron activated the takeover mode and got his team into the NBA Finals. He did the same in the cross-conference matchup against Golden State, as Cleveland became the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the Finals. LeBron averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals, and 2.3 blocks, securing the organization’s first-ever Larry O’Brien, in what was without a doubt one of the toughest paths getting there.
I’m not so sure about his title with the Lakers tough. At no point during the ’20 NBA Playoffs were LeBron and his team the underdogs. They were expected to go all the way, and “all they did” was meet those expectations. Now, they did face the unprecedented challenges of being in the Orlando bubble. But guess what – so did every other team there. Fairly or unfairly, people will hesitate to give the Lakers extra credit for it, especially when LeBron talks about being a man of routine and having a hard time adjusting to not having his private chef with him. Stuff like that will make it hard for people to relate and look at the bubble run for what it really was – one of the most unique few months in NBA history.
But not one of the toughest championship runs ever. The one in ’16 belongs up there. The one with the Lakers, I don’t think so.