By Andrew Porter (@And_Porter)
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — You loathe him. Even when he dominates you find a way to spin it. You feast on the flopping vines and Instagram videos. You love bringing up “The Decision.” You call him soft for unknown reasons. You refuse to admit it’s even possible for him to be regarded as the greatest basketball player. You know who you are. You are a ‘LeBron hater.’
In a recent poll done by ESPN.com, in which over 250,000 votes were tallied, approximately two out of every three people said Tim Duncan’s fifth title would be more impressive than LeBron James’ third in a row. That struck a nerve with me.
I would refer to those 165,000-plus people ‘LeBron haters.’
Duncan is already largely regarded as the greatest power forward of all-time. Duncan’s 16-year illustrious NBA career consists of four NBA titles, three NBA finals MVP awards, two regular season MVP awards, 14 all-star game appearances, one all-star game MVP, a rookie of the year award, and a bunch of all-NBA and all-defensive team awards.
Now, at age 38, Duncan is no longer the best player on his team. He doesn’t have any pressure on him. If the Spurs lose to the Heat for the second straight year in the NBA finals, no one will blame Duncan. This late in his career, still averaging 15.1 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game–down from his career averages of 19.9 points per game and 11.1 rebounds per game–is over achieving on one of the all-time elite NBA teams seeking it’s fifth championship since 1999 under head coach, Gregg Popovic.
As a pure power forward, post-scorer, Duncan is compared and contrasted against other power-forwards, and frankly, he’s already there win or lose. It’s all gravy now.
LeBron, on the other hand, is seeking his third straight NBA championship in only his 12th NBA season. Unlike, Duncan all the pressure is on LeBron, arguably the most polarizing athlete in America today. The Heat go as LeBron go and make no mistake about it, if the Heat fall to one of the all-time great teams in NBA history in the Spurs, the narrative will be spun into LeBron failing in the Finals.
Before his 30th birthday, LeBron is appearing in his fifth NBA finals–fourth straight–and a third straight win would likely bare his third Finals MVP award. LeBron already has four regular season MVP awards, 10 all-star game appearances, two all-star game MVP’s, a rookie of the year award, a regular season scoring title, and a number of all-NBA and all-defensive team awards.
LeBron, who can play and guard every position on the floor, has led the Heat to their fourth straight NBA Finals appearances, only the third franchise to ever accomplish that feat and the first to do it since the 1984-1987 Celtics. A three-peat would make Miami only the sixth team to ever win three straight titles and the first team since the 2000-2002 Lakers.
This post-season LeBron passed Jordan for the most all-time 25 point, five rebound, five assist playoff performances. LeBron already has more career assists than Jordan and is only about 600 career rebounds behind him, in 230 less games played. Nevertheless, if LeBron wants to reach Air-Jordan’s status–fair or unfair–he needs to keep racking up the rings.
Whether the “LeBron haters” want to admit it or not, LeBron is already approaching MJ’s status and a three-peat would close the gap even further. The most impressive part is, at age 29, LeBron still has about ten NBA seasons left.
Many people may have convinced themselves Duncan’s fifth title at 38-years-old will be more impressive than LeBron’s third straight before the age of 30, but really, they’re just ‘LeBron Haters.’