LeBron James is the most polarizing player in the NBA. “The King” is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time, next only to Michael Jordan.
However, now that the Lakers have been eliminated from play-in tournament contention after losing to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, James is catching the bulk of the crticism, and for some that it is now affecting his entire legacy.
Stephen A. Goes In
“This is the worst season of LeBron James’ career because I’m not talking about his numbers,” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said last week on “First Take.” “I’m not talking about what he did as a player; I’m talking about what he did as a player; I’m talking about what he’s a part of.
“The GOAT conversation is officially over. It was never there for me; it was always Michael Jordan first, LeBron second. But if ever there was any doubt, this cemented the fact that LeBron James cannot be considered the GOAT; that conversation is over, and you know why it’s over? Because LeBron James was on the Lakers averaging 29, 30 points a game and this still happened.”
As GREAT as LeBron James the player has been this year, I can not say the same about LeBron the GM. This Lakers season ends all GOAT discussions TO ME!!! pic.twitter.com/OpKV0GB7Bx
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) April 7, 2022
It Ain’t Safe
On Friday, the Lakers announced that James was not going to play in the final two games of the Lakers’ season due to soreness in his left ankle. But Stephen A. is giving James no safe quarter.
“If he was injured and missed games and he was playing hobbled, and we looked at him, and he’s averaging 16 or 17 [points], you know what he can get away with that; we can look at him and say ‘damn he was really hurt, he just wasn’t healthy.’
“Oh no, you were good enough to average 29 a game, how come you weren’t good enough to get your troops in order so you can be considered a respectable team?
“This is a man that spoke out and said he was against the play-in. Now you ain’t even make the play-in.”
.@stephenasmith reacts to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's criticism of LeBron James.
"Our deference and respect for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar knows no limits. Having said all of that does not mean that we can't respectfully disagree with him.. … You cannot question [LeBron's] character." pic.twitter.com/NvyutmYA1F
— First Take (@FirstTake) April 4, 2022
Championship Caliber Or Not?
With all the hype about the Lakers’ potential, the headlines have abounded with takes about their failures. The team, on paper, looks like a championship team of the highest caliber.
“OK, the New Orleans Pelicans without Zion Williamson and the San Antonio Spurs, years removed from the retirement of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker, nowhere close to .500, they are going to the playoffs ahead of a team led by LeBron James, and when you look at it from that perspective, the GOAT conversation has officially ended. It’s done.
“Again, you miss the playoffs because you go 41 and 41 or 40 and 42 with those injuries; we’ll accept it. But this team quit weeks ago. That’s a part of it. You’re a leader. They quit. And when you talk about Jordan or Magic or others, what are you talking about?”
GOAT Level Accountability
“You got to hold cats accountable when you’re that dude. I’m saying they would have been a better team.”
As the face of the league, LeBron James is expected to overcome all adversities. However, discarding him from the GOAT conversation opens up questions about what the criteria really looks like to be considered the greatest basketball player of all time.