How Far Can LeBron’s Legacy Climb in the 2017 NBA Playoffs?

He came into the league at the age of 19 with expectations and potential matched only by the game’s greatest players. He wasn’t just expected to make the All-Star team year after year or win MVP’s or even win championships. He was expected to create a legacy and make history.

Four MVP’s and three rings later, LeBron James has done just that. Now, the NBA world wonders, how much more can he add to his already established greatness?

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – October 11, 2014: NBA – Global games (Miami Heat and Cleveland) preseason games in Rio de Janeiro
Editorial Credit: A. Ricardo

LeBron is already regarded as a top-10 player all time. He has been selected to the All-Star Game an outstanding 13 times. The next highest among active players is Warriors’ star Kevin Durant with eight. He currently sits 20th all time in total points with 24,913 in just 911 games. And James has finished in the top five of every MVP vote since the 2005-06 season.

Yet this still isn’t enough for NBA fans, as there is one stat that looms over his individual achievements: his 3-4 Finals record.

In his first NBA Finals appearance in 2007, LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. This later prompted “The Decision” in the summer of 2010, when he left the Cavs for the Miami Heat and formed the Big Three with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. LeBron went on to go 2-2 in his four NBA Finals appearances with the Heat. After falling once again to Gregg Popovich’s Spurs in 2014, the face of the NBA returned to his hometown Cavaliers after a four-year hiatus. He has since gone 1-1 in the Finals, both series being against the Warriors.

And as the 2017 NBA Playoffs have gotten underway, LeBron is here once again looking to make his seventh straight Finals and eighth total. That would be two more than Michael Jordan, who appeared in six. The main contrast between them is that Jordan never lost a Finals series, going a perfect 6-0. Will James ever be able to match Jordan in the win column and in legacy?

This often sparks a debate among nearly all NBA fans. Some will say he’ll never be able to top or even match Jordan. Then there’s the crowd that argues what LeBron does in the next couple seasons will decide where he ends up on the list of the game’s greatest.

This is starting with the 2017 playoffs. LeBron and his Cavs open up their postseason against the Indiana Pacers. If they can get past Paul George’s bunch, they’ll have a matchup set with either the Toronto Raptors or the Milwaukee Bucks. If they can advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, there’s a strong chance they’ll face off against the Boston Celtics, who are the East’s first seed. Even without home-court advantage for a possible Cavs-Celtics series, LeBron and the Cavs are still the heavy favorites to represent the East in the NBA Finals.

This means he’ll most likely be unable to aid to his legacy before the Finals, but he definitely could hurt it. An unforeseen loss to any of these teams could cost LeBron any chance of placing next to the likes of Jordan or even greats like Magic Johnson. If he were able to make it to the league’s grandest stage, however, there is one team that the Cavs could meet that could re-shape LeBron’s role in history forever.

That team is the Golden State Warriors.

When the Warriors signed Kevin Durant to a two year, $54 million deal in the offseason, they looked like the clear favorites to win it all in the 2016-17 season. They already had one of the more loaded rosters the league’s ever seen with the likes of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and now with Durant they were said to be “unbeatable” and the “new edition of the dream team.” If they and the Cavs were to meet up in the Finals for a third consecutive year, LeBron would have a chance to take down this super team and win his fourth NBA championship. While that is still less than Jordan’s six, none of the teams MJ defeated were quite like this Golden State team.

LeBron James is, without a doubt, headed to the NBA Hall of Fame. He has won multiple MVP’s and Finals MVP’s; he’s won gold with the USA basketball team; he’s won championships; he holds numerous records. No matter what happens in the 2017 playoffs, this will not change.

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