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Why the 2020 NBA Playoffs Severely Impacts LeBron James’ Legacy

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Playoffs in sports always mean a lot for any athlete. The case for LeBron James is different than most athletes, though. He has a massive legacy to represent.

 

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James is already regarded by most as a top-five talent of all time, but that does not mean he does not have more to prove. He can further prove himself or get criticized even more by people who think he can’t win without a super team. In this article, I will explain to you why, in this Orlando Bubble, the 2020 NBA Playoffs will severely impact the legacy of King James.

 

 

King James has been criticized repeatedly for how he chokes in the playoffs and is nowhere near the talent of Michael Jordan.

 

That debate can be an article of its own, but if James hasn’t proven himself already, this playoff series can put him in a more comparable position to Jordan if he leads the Los Angeles Lakers to their 17th championship. People often say he can’t win without a super team, and he’s had an easy playoff series on the way to the finals for most of his career.

A reason this one playoff tournament pushes his all-time credibility is that his team relies on him more than ever before. Even though he has typically controlled the ball while being the small-forward, he also led the league in assists and runs the entire offense as a point guard. The difference between that and previous years is that all the plays and offensive strategies rely solely on what he does or calls.

 

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Averaging 10.2 assists compared to the previous years 8.3 and the year before that 9.1, shows that he is clearly involved in the offense more. He attempts more three’s per game than any other season and shoots around the same amount two-pointers per game. He attempts 6.3 threes per game this season. His second-most attempted per game in a season is 5.9 and third-most he’s attempted was 5.1. He attempts 19.4 total field goals per game.

There have only been five seasons of his career where he’s averaged at least 20 attempts per game, and in all those five seasons, he averaged less than nine assists per game. These numbers prove that he is attempting nearly the same amount of shots per game while being relied on more on the passing side of things.

Most people thought that was not even possible. If he wins the finals while being relied on this much with a less talented team than his Miami Heat squad or arguably his Cleveland Cavaliers squad, all criticism against him will be inaccurate. He is already seen as an all-time great, but this victory should easily shut up nearly all criticism against him. 

 

Now on the flip side of things, how much will it mean to his legacy if he loses? In a general sense, it should not mean that much, but to the public it will.

 

People have seen the downfall of the teams he’s left. He left the Cavaliers and the Heat in terrible positions. He has a system of getting all the players he wants, then when he loses, he gets mocked for not producing with the team. Even though he has already proven he can win the big one, fans do not appreciate someone messing up their franchise without a trophy, especially die-hard fans of the Lakers.

 

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People have been saying that acquiring Anthony Davis and having more control of the game leaves no room for excuses. Some people are ready to roast him on all their social media platforms if he loses this season, where he’s gotten nearly everything he wanted on the most popular team in NBA history. While the views of overly critical fans should not mean much, a lot of legacies are based on public image. If the fans of the most popular basketball team hate James, it will damage his legacy.

More than likely he will be with the Lakers for a while and could easily win it next year or in the future, but losing in the playoffs with a handpicked team and no Golden State Warriors super team to stop him will severely damage his legacy. If he were to lose in the playoffs this year, rebounding off a loss and winning the finals next year would help make up for his case a ton. The problem will be how he wins in future years.

Kawhi Leonard has been known to give him some trouble, so if he does not beat the Los Angeles Clippers, he will be criticized for facing non-elite teams. The only way to repair his legacy to the public if he were to lose this season is to face elite teams for all three rounds of next year’s playoffs. 

The big deal about this year’s playoffs is that his team does not have more elite players than most teams, and the competition will be strong in every round. Most of the teams in his conference are not facing serious injuries, and his team is not either. The odds that all those specific factors fall perfectly into place are low, meaning this is his time to shine and further improve his legacy.

 

Personally, I do not think he should be criticized because I feel he put the nail in the coffin when he beat the Warriors after trailing three games to one.

 

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He stepped up when his team needed him the most in the biggest games and won. The problem is that people believe he was helped immensely by Draymond Green’s suspension, Stephen Curry’s possible injuries (he still played though), and Andrew Bogut’s injury. I think everything besides the suspension is part of basketball, and James, along with Kyrie Irving, had to play out of his mind. Once again, judging legacy by people’s opinions may be a never-ending cycle because critics will always have something to say. The primary reason this year’s playoffs matter is because everything it takes to prove his legacy and beat all his criticisms have fallen into place.

He has one of the most challenging playoff roads he has ever faced, battling a strong Portland Trail Blazers team in the first round.

After that, he must face the Houston Rockets or Oklahoma City Thunder, who are both great teams. In the conference finals he will face the best team of the conference, and no matter what happens, it won’t be easy. Then in the NBA Finals, he will most likely meet the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, or Milwaukee Bucks, who all have some of the best team chemistry seen this year. Every round will be difficult. He will once again be heavily relied upon — arguably more than he ever has been before — and it is all with the team he handpicked.

 

The odds that things fall into place as perfectly as they have are low. This playoff run will severely impact his legacy because winning will prove all the criticisms to be wrong.

 

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-Kyle Randolph – Franchise Sports Media

@KyleRandolphFSM

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