And Danny Green believes James has brought the Lakers back to the level of play they experienced during Kobe Bryant's prime years with the team, he said on The Herd with Colin Cowherd Tuesday (1:50 mark):
James and the Lakers might need to win a title together before it can be safely said they've reached the level Bryant had them at in the past. After all, Bryant won five titles in his career. Three of them came with Shaquille O'Neal as his running mate, the other two with Pau Gasol as his sidekick.
This Lakers team is really good, no doubt. And Bryant didn't win a title every year, he simply had the Lakers in the playoffs for most of them. At 49-14, this Lakers team is heading back to the postseason and has the second-best record in the NBA, trailing only the Milwaukee Bucks (53-12).
But when talking championship aspirations, there are some question marks worth examining.
For one, how have they fared against the league's top teams? Well, not great. Against the other top-five teams in the league by record—Milwaukee, the Toronto Raptors (46-18), the Los Angeles Clippers (44-20) and the Boston Celtics (43-21)—they've gone 3-5.
Contrast that to the Bucks, who have gone 6-2 in those matchups. Or the rival Clippers, who are 5-4 against the top five teams.
Granted, the Lakers are going to be the top seed in the Western Conference, so they wouldn't be facing the Clippers until the conference finals or the Bucks, Raptors or Celtics until the NBA Finals. It's hard to imagine this Lakers team failing to go deep into the playoffs.
But to live up to comparisons of Bryant-led teams of the past, James and the Lakers will need to win a title at some point. James has done so before, winning two with the Miami Heat and one with the Cleveland Cavaliers. His NBA legacy is secure. But his legacy as a Laker is yet to be written.
This season, disjointed as it has been because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is an important chapter.