One of the hardest things to do is to compare players from different eras. But with the greatness of Miami Heat superstar LeBron James, we are often forced to look at his place in NBA history.
The one thing always holding LeBron back has been his failure to win a championship, but what if the does this season? If he gets that elusive ring, where will that rank James among the all-time greats?
That’s what I’m about to figure out.
With LeBron it’s hard because you simply can’t look at just his career stats. His career numbers, which read 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists, are Hall of Fame-like, but they don’t tell the entire story of LeBron the player.
I’ve often said that his talents are so great that statistics can’t define him.
So how do we measure where James ranks among the greatest in NBA history?
Do we look at his MVP’s (three), finals appearances (two), championships (none)? With LeBron, it’s worth looking at a bit of everything.
His career numbers are Magic Johnson or Oscar Robertson-like, but you have to take them with a grain of salt.
Robertson played in an era where the game was much faster. Team’s scores back that up and everyone’s individual statistics were inflated at that time, which makes it very hard to compare players based on statistics.
The problem with stats as it relates to James is people tend to focus too much on them and individual awards and not team success.
Without that ring, it’s hard to make the case that he’s even the best at his position in history. How can I realistically put him ahead of the likes of Larry Bird or Julius Erving or even Scottie Pippen for that matter?
But with a ring, it’s a different story. A championship to go along with his talents puts him probably ahead of the likes of James Worthy, George Gervin and other great small forwards throughout time.
Team success has to play a role on where James is ranked.
On talent alone, James is a top-five player in the history of the game, but where does he actually rank?
I have him as the 14th greatest player of all-time.
That’s taking into account his monster numbers to go along with one ring. If he gets it. If he doesn’t, that knocks him down between No. 20 and 25
Who are the 13 players ahead of him?
In no particular order I have: Michael Jordan, Bird, Magic, Robertson, Kobe Bryant, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan, Karl Malone and Jerry West.
Then comes LeBron, followed by the likes of Charles Barkley, Erving, John Havlicek, Elgin Baylor and other greats.
He will only move up further by winning more rings and given LeBron’s situation in Miami, that’s quite possible.
But how high can James reasonably go?
It will probably take four or five rings to realistically crack the top 10, and that’s something that I really don’t know if he will be able to do.
But as for current times, one ring this summer will earn LeBron a place among the NBA’s greatest of all-time.