Make no mistake, Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals was always going to be (and will always be) the biggest and most important game of LeBron’s career. The difference this one game has made to LeBron’s legacy is off the charts and you’ll be hard pressed to find another single game that has ever had so much riding on it for a player’s career.
Lose – and LeBron goes 2-5 lifetime on the NBA Finals. He also fails to bring his home state the professional sporting championship it has been starved of since 1964: for another year and possibly for good. Worse still, he becomes Steph and Draymond’s bitch, possibly for life.
A soon to be 32 year old LeBron and his legacy simply could not afford this. Name me any other top-5 (or even top-10) of all-time player that has that kind of ignominy on their CV.
Now that he’s won, he’s a more respectable 3-4 on the NBA Finals. However, more importantly, his legacy now includes carrying his home town underdog to a championship against a seemingly invincible juggernaut. Not a bunch of ‘super friends’ to a manufactured title – but his hometown underdog that couldn’t possibly win without him carrying the whole thing on his back (together with a well timed Irving three point dagger of course).
For good measure, LeBron also has a couple of extra cherries on the cake – taking home the Finals MVP award (that he should also have been given last year) and leading the first team in history to a championship from a 3-1 deficit. The latter achievement should not be underestimated: doing something unprecedented like this – against a team that set the NBA regular season record at 73-9 and which has generally been pooping on everyone for the last two seasons – is what great legacies are built on.
When LeBron went to Miami, he dented his legacy by choosing his own team mates so that he could manufacture his first title (and second). In doing so, he turned his back on his home state and gave four years of his prime to Miami. Now that he’s supposedly past his prime and come back to put his legacy on the line to win this title, all is forgiven.
LeBron has finally earned his first title (albeit not in the way I had hoped for because… you know, the Miami super friends thing). His legacy is now finally secure – which is no less than his remarkable talent and work ethic deserve.