LeBron: Cavaliers championship 'made me the GOAT'

NBA.com Global on Jan 01, 2019 06:48 AM
LeBron: Cavaliers championship 'made me the GOAT'
FILE - CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 05: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates after hitting the game winning shot to beat the Toronto Raptors 105-103 in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 5, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

NBA.com staff report

Debating who's the greatest player of all time -- AKA "the GOAT" -- is a favorite pastime of NBA fans.

Players as well, apparently, and the choice is clear for LeBron James.

It's him.

His reasoning? Being the driving force behind the Cleveland Cavaliers' historic championship over the Golden State Warriors in 2016, a feat that not only secured the city's first professional sports title since 1964 but completed the first comeback from 3-1 down in Finals history.

"That one right there made me the greatest player of all time," James said in an excerpt from the latest episode of ESPN's "More Than An Athlete" series chronicling his career.

"That's what I felt. I was super, super ecstatic to win one for Cleveland because of the 52-year (championship) drought. And then after I stopped (celebrating), I was like, that one right there made you the greatest player of all time. Everybody was talking how they were the greatest team ever assembled, and for us to come back the way we came back, I was like, you did something special.

"That was one of the only times in my career I felt like, you did something special. I haven't had much time to sit back and think (about my achievements). But that was a moment."

While it may not be the most humble opinion James is offering up, it is impossible to argue the magnitude of James' performances in each of the last three games of that Finals:

* Game 5: 41 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks in a 112-97 victory

* Game 6: 41 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists, four steals and three blocks in a 115-101 victory

* Game 7: 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and three blocks in a 93-89 championship-clinching victory

For the series, James averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocks to secure his third Finals MVP award and third career championship. In that series, he led all Finals players in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, becoming the first player in any playoff series to accomplish that feat.

In story posted by Sports Illustrated shortly after that 2016 Finals, James told young players at a camp in Los Angeles that his motivation "is this ghost I'm chasing. The ghost played in Chicago." That "ghost", of course, is Michael Jordan.

Of course, competition for the very best of the best is fierce, including James' childhood idol (Jordan). But now we know where at least one person stands.

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