The best player in the NBA debate will always be subjective; it just depends on how you see the game. If you have embraced the NBA’s pace-and-space era, then Stephen Curry could be a valid choice. If you love the analytics, then James Harden could be a great choice, too. If you love the one-man wrecking crew, then Kawhi Leonard or MVP Giannis Antentokoumpo could get easy votes. A healthy Kevin Durant also had a good claim, though his Achilles injury takes him out of the running.
But unless there is a drastic drop-off in performance and stats, LeBron James is still the NBA’s best player, despite what some experts are claiming these days. James has been the league’s model of consistency since he entered the league. The aforementioned players have been doing their thing for a while. James has done it for a decade and a half with no signs of slowing down.
Of course, James had an abbreviated season in 2018-19. Still, he managed to churn out another James-esque, all-around statistical masterpiece. In 55 games, James averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game. He also shot 51% from the floor, his fourth consecutive season shooting above the 50% mark and ninth overall. Until his groin injury, it appeared his Los Angeles Lakers were well on their way to a playoff berth. Sadly his 17-game absence in the middle of the season caused the Lakers to collapse.
The Lakers’ collapse without James illustrates his standing as the league’s best player. In today’s NBA, triple-doubles are no longer rarities and high scoring outbursts are the norm. It’s common for Russell Westbrook (triple-doubles) and James Harden (triple-doubles and high scoring nights). However, neither player has had much success in the playoffs the last few seasons, with either first-round exits (Westbrook) or failure to show up accordingly (Harden) plaguing them.
For James, he has mastered the command of stat-stuffing, but with a catch: remaining as efficient as possible while mostly preventing attrition. When James plays, his play and stats lead to wins and NBA title contention just about automatically. His stats aren’t just standing alone; they make an impact, too.
So while it’s fairly easy to salute the accomplishments of Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antentokounmpo, James has done everything they have accomplished and then some. Even with mileage on his tires, he still has shown he’s the gold standard performance-wise.
Over the years, James has proven himself to have the complete offensive game. Post game? All there. Mid-range and 3-point shot? There, too. Passing ability, in-game IQ and finishing ability? Don’t forget who this article is about. While Leonard and Giannis are the likely takers of James’ crown, unless Giannis gains a jump shot and Leonard stuffs the assist stat, the NBA’s mantle remains with James.
As Colin Cowherd always states, it’s important to not out-think the room. Leonard will likely continue to dominate, and the league will be Giannis’ kingdom to lose in the near future. But we still haven’t seen a physical specimen with the basketball skill set as we have with LeBron James.
When healthy, James’ impact on the game is something that can’t be ignored. Ask the 2018 Cleveland Cavaliers if they had any business being in the 2018 NBA Finals. In fact, the question should be: Would they even have been a playoff team without James? If you examine their record since James’ departure (19-63 in 2018-19), it’s not difficult to answer.
With Anthony Davis in tow, the Lakers have two of the NBA’s top superstars, and LeBron James seems primed to prove any doubters wrong with a massive 2019-20 campaign that will assert his place as the league’s best player.