The Number 7 and LeBron James

Now that the playoffs are here, it’s all about LeBron James…

What has to happen for LeBron James to finish this off and get to the Finals for the 7th straight time?

C.J. Hampshire: The usual. It’s nothing new for LeBron. He found out in 2015 he can’t do it alone. So he and [his team} have to have health and shake off apathy. The Cavs have to be careful though. Despite the aesthetics, they are not invincible.

Brendan Gillespie: Can they stay healthy? That’s their biggest opponent.  Keeping Love involved in everything they do, rebounding the ball and the ‘others’ like Derrick Williams, Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye, making sure they are not sleep walking.

Mallory Stith-Wheat: Doc Rivers was right, you need luck. The ball has to bounce his way. LeBron has been the best NBA player the past decade and the most overworked. Not to hate but he has four NBA Finals losses. Paul George is going to make him work hard.

Julian Billick: I think he can get it done. He thrusts the Superman cape over his shoulders and the city of Cleveland is tagging behind him with hopeful breath waiting for a repeat. Just think about it. Seven straight trips to the Finals. That’s unprecedented, particularly with the league getting faster, more explosive, younger.

Who gets the blame for the regular season slide, LeBron or Ty Lue?

Mallory: 60% Lue, 40% LeBron. Lue sets the tone. I am not sure if anyone is listening.  LeBron is the leader and he has looked dazed at times. That is when Lue has to step in. Last season, Lue did an excellent job at getting LeBron to check his privilege at the door, restore the confidence in Kevin Love and systematically create a strategy for Kyrie, knowing that he is one of the worst defensive guards in the league. He had do all this under pressure. This year he hasn’t been great.

Julian Billick:  LeBron still gets most of the credit because he is out there on the floor. He is the team leader. So let’s hold him accountable. What he says goes. How he approaches the game, his teammates, his role, all of it trickles down to the least common denominator.

C.J.:  It was painful to watch the Cavs. If LeBron wasn’t on that team no way would they be considered a front runner in anything.

Brendan Gillespie:  LeBron. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be the best player ever and then walk away from the misery.

Is LeBron’s Finals loss history now a forgotten tale? Does three titles absolve him? Does he have to get to 4 or 5?

Brendan:  This is 2017. What we remember is the last thing we see. If he balls out and they lose then he won’t take the blame. But if he has brain freezes then no. We won’t forget Dallas.

Julian:   It shouldn’t matter, his record, but this is the era of hyper-evaluation where numbers are used as a way to define, explain and justify a player’s significance. He came back from 3-1 deficit and won a game 7 on the road. All is forgiven. Until he loses. Then last year is forgotten.

Mallory: This question is so unfair because on the one hand you should be judged on your ability to overcome adversity and pressure and use your skill and lead your team to the championship trophy. But on the other hand we say- this is not an individual sport. All those great champions who came before LeBron also had great teams. But at the end of the day we don’t judge Michael Jordan by Steve Kerr. We judge Michael Jordan by Michael Jordan and those six rings.

C.J.: It’s totally fair. He is supposed to be the greatest player of his generation. Every great player of their generation dominated in the Finals. Kobe and Duncan did. MJ and Olajuwon did. Magic and Bird did. Can’t rewrite the rules for LeBron because he has so many MVP’s.

How many Finals Appearances in a Row for LeBron? He is at 6 right now. 

Mallory: I’ll say 9. This year and two years after. Then the decline starts.

Julian: 7. At some point his body is going to quit. I think this year will be his last of that streak.

Brendan: 8. I think he is going for the Cavs three-peat, join MJ and Kobe in that stat and then it will end there.

C.J.: I am the outlier. I think his streak ends at 6. I don’t think the Cavs make it back to the Finals. They just don’t seem right.

What odds do you give LeBron this year to tie Shaq with 4 titles?

Julian: 40%. The Spurs have Kawhi Leonard who has a way of turning LeBron into an inefficient scorer. And the Warriors have Draymond Green. The Cavs health is still a question mark.

Brendan: 65%. I trust LeBron James more than I trust Kevin Durant.  The Spurs have overachieved because of Kawhi but in the Finals he and LeBron cancel each other out which leaves the Kyrie problem for the Spurs.

C.J.: I don’t think he wins it this year. So that would be a 0%. I like the Warriors with Durant and all those shooters plus revenge as their motive.

Mallory:  60% if they play the Warriors. 35% if he plays the Spurs.

What active player has a chance to equal the LBJ 6 Finals in a row record, if any?

Brendan:  Is that a joke? There is no player. Maybe he is in diapers. But no current player can lead his team to 6 straight NBA Finals.  Maybe if they get the roster right around Anthony Davis he might have a chance for 3 times. But…

C.J.: This is what is so crazy about that question. LeBron has done it 6 times. Of active players Steph Curry is at 2. It’s a ridiculous stat. Unbreakable.

Mallory: No one. Think about this. Chris Paul is the greatest point of his generation, a two way player and he hasn’t appeared in a conference final.  And Blake Griffin is on his team. Durant has only been there once. LeBron is everything.

Julian:  LeBron has had a lot of ups and downs in his career but generally things have gone his way. He has never been injured.  That in itself is an anomaly, particularly with how fast the game is being played. I would say his consecutive Finals record will be as hallowed and immortal as Wilt’s 100. But it is LeBron so it is totally underplayed, like he is supposed to do that being as great as he is. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

photo via llananba

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