LeBron James Says Beating Warriors in 2016 Finals Made Him the GOAT

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2018

FILE - In this June 19, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, celebrates with teammates, including Kevin Love, third from left, after Game 7 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif. James delivered on his personal pledge to bring home a title in June. And although it’s one he can never duplicate personally or for a fan base that had its heart broken and healed by him, the Cavaliers’ superstar and his teammates aren’t resting, getting comfortable or complacent. They want more. “We're still pretty much uptight,
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

LeBron James has taken a side in the Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James debate.

James revealed he believed defeating the 73-win Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals after falling behind 3-1 in the series made him the greatest player of all time. He said as much while appearing on More Than an Athlete on ESPN, adding, "That's probably one of the only times in my career I felt like, 'Oh s--t, like, you did something special.'"

That Warriors team set the NBA record for wins in a regular season and appeared well on its way to winning the title in back-to-back years when it won three of the first four games against James and the Cavaliers. However, James and then-teammate Kyrie Irving went on one of the most memorable three-game runs in NBA history to cement the King's status in his own eyes.

James and Irving each scored 41 points in Game 5, and James scored 41 again in Game 6. Irving drilled what proved to be the winning three in the closing stretch of Game 7, while James notched a triple-double and a legendary chase-down block on Andre Iguodala.

In all, the four-time MVP averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocks per game in that series, earning Cleveland its first major sports championship in 52 years and himself his third Larry O'Brien Trophy and third NBA Finals MVP.

At this point, the respective sides have been established in the debate between Jordan and James.

One dominated the '90s with the Chicago Bulls while winning six championships and elevating himself as a lethal scorer and global icon. The other has stuffed stat sheets throughout his career and can be part Jordan and part Magic Johnson, all while putting his own formidable touch on games.

Some will say count the rings; others will point to physical dominance and influencing the game in a number of ways. Both sides will attempt to use generational differences in rules and playing styles to their advantage.

The debate will continue as James adds to his legacy as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, but the King made it clear where he stands.

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