LeBron James is the greatest team of all-time
The NBA commissioner traditionally hands over the Larry O’Brien Trophy to the owner of the championship team. But when Adam Silver presented the trophy on Sunday, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss - at a microphone stand a few meters away, allegedly due to coronavirus concerns - called the players: "You guys, come and get the trophy".
LeBron James, who was standing in the background adjusting his championship hat, perked up.
There is no more apt player to break the trend of owners getting the trophy first. LeBron has defied traditional hierarchies and ushered in an era of gaming empowerment that takes control of the owners. This was his moment to step into the spotlight in a different way.
In perfect fool form, J. R. Smith was already sneaking around to grab Larry O'Brien. But the trophy still ended up in LeBron's hands.
It always does.
With the heat. With the cavaliers. And now with the Lakers.
Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time. Can LeBron catch him? Yes. Even at 35, LeBron still has the best player in the world. But LeBron's fourth ring, won in the bubble against relatively weak competition, doesn't fill the void.
Instead, LeBron - the first player to win the final MVP with three different franchises - goes beyond the debate.
He built a dynasty of one.
LeBron has had an unprecedented influence on the way his teams work - so much so that he jumps from one to the other and earns rings for everyone involved along the way.
Little Cleveland had no idea how to properly support him as a young player trying to develop into a champion. So he teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. This partnership proved extremely fruitful for all parties, but LeBron felt that Heat owner Micky Arison couldn't stop his end of the business.
So LeBron found someone who would - Cav's owner Dan Gilbert. LeBron asked for unconditional spending to improve player strength. Gilbert followed. The Cavaliers paid huge luxury tax bills and traded draft picks to give LeBron the best chance of winning. That paid off with the oh-so-satisfying 2016 title.
But the closet eventually ran empty. Asked Kyrie Irving. Veterans with expensive contracts became obstacles. The influx of young talent slowed when draft picks were placed elsewhere.
While Cleveland exhausted itself, the Lakers positioned themselves ahead of time to get LeBron.
He immediately increases his franchise to a higher level. Even after the Lakers missed the playoffs last season, they remained attractive. LeBron lured Anthony Davis to Los Angeles (relieved by their mutual agent, LeBron-empowered Rich Paul).
The Lakers traded a shipload of young players and draft picks for Davis. But LeBron is opening a championship window and it's important to take advantage of it while it stays in its prime. It's been going on for so long that it can end anytime.
LeBron has now won 39 playoff series - more than any other star. (Derek Fisher won 40 and Robert Horry also won 39.) This postseason LeBron outdid Tim Duncan, 35 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 37:
As you will hear during the eternal GOAT arguments that will ring out loud how long this off-season is, Jordan was amazing. His unique excellence made the bulls feel invincible. He won championships in his last six full seasons with Chicago.
But more than two decades later, Jordan is still lamenting the missed opportunity to claim a seventh title.
LeBron would never leave his fate to such an owner and manager. If the executives don't live up to his ambitions, LeBron will do whatever it takes - including vacation. He will win on his own terms.
Hardened by disappointment in his first tenure in Cleveland, educated by Miami's championship culture, backed up by his title with the Cavs, linked by the agent he empowered ... LeBron is the package
He's a perennial one-man championship contestant looking for the right side pieces (and he damn sure found them in Los Angeles).
He is the team.
LeBron James is the greatest team of all time, originally performing on NBCSports.com
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