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LeBron James: Where Does He Stand Now?

His Finals performance was one for the ages.

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Jun 22, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, forward LeBron James and guard J.R. Smith laugh during the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA championship celebration in downtown Cleveland.
Jun 22, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, forward LeBron James and guard J.R. Smith laugh during the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA championship celebration in downtown Cleveland.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland celebrated its title Wednesday and it was, by all accounts, a remarkable celebration.

We heard an Italian reporter on the radio who compared it to World Cup celebrations, saying it was even bigger.

Fans and team reveled in the win.

For his part, former Blue Devil Kyrie Irving, when he spoke, said this:

"Man, I've been watching The Block more than anything because there's no shot without The Block. You see a guy chasing down a shot like that and then I get a chance on the biggest stage, Game 7, man, I wouldn't trade it for the world."

He's referring to the block LeBron James made before he made his big three to give Cleveland the final lead of the game.

As we said the other day, the comparisons between James and Michael Jordan have fallen off recently.

Charles Barkley recently ranked his Top Seven (?) NBA players of all time:

  1. Michael Jordan
  2. Oscar Robertson
  3. Bill Russell
  4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  5. Wilt Chamberlain
  6. Kobe Bryant
  7. Tim Duncan

As far as his list goes, we'd change it to this order:

  1. Bill Russell
  2. Michael Jordan
  3. Wilt Chamberlain
  4. Oscar Robertson
  5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  6. Tim Duncan
  7. Kobe Bryant

The most talented guys on this list are Jordan and Chamberlain; the best basketball players are probably Oscar Robertson and Tim Duncan.

Let's be clear here: Jordan was immensely talented and a superb basketball player. But in terms of overall skills, in terms of mastering the game, on this list the best are Robertson and Duncan. Robertson is really an unknown to most people today

For that reason, we'd have put Larry Bird ahead of Kobe. Kobe was great, but early Kobe wasn't that great. Extraordinarily talented? Sure. Immensely skilled?

That took awhile, and Bird's overall skills, not least of all passing, were way beyond Kobe's.

We've always seen Russell as the greatest for a simple reason: when he was healthy, his team won every championship possible except for two years.

As a sophomore at San Francisco, his team finished 14-7.

In his last two years, the Dons were 57-1 and won back-to-back titles.

His Olympic team won.

And in the NBA, his Celtics teams won every years except his second, when he was injured and couldn't play, and in his first year as player-coach, 1967, Boston lost to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then Boston won the next two titles before Russell retired.

Imagine that. Jordan won one title in college and six in the NBA but it pales next Russell's 13 - 14 counting the Olympics (give Jordan two there, but still).

It's a mind-boggling accomplishment.

But taking Barkley's list as a starting point, what about LeBron?

Time will tell where to rank LeBron. Up until this point, he's taken some criticism for not being assertive enough in the clutch - not being Jordanesque if you will.

Because if you rank Barkley's list by competitiveness, Russell and Jordan were the top two (but how much difference can there be between the rest? All of these guys were incredibly competitive).

After this year's title, that criticism of James is a lot harder to sustain. Not that it was really that fair anyway.

But if you look at what James did in this year's Finals, who has ever done anything like it?

Not Jordan.

Jordan was incredible. He was a superb defender and no one could stop him offensively.

But playing every aspect of the game as James did? No one has ever done that.

The closest is Robertson, who was an early big guard, but he couldn't play all over the court the way James does. But he averaged a triple double in 1961-62.

Neither could Russell, Chamberlain or anyone else on this list. Bird could do it on offense but on defense? Not even close.

Wherever LeBron ends up ranked by future historians, he'll be a new kind of player, almost a point center. Unlike every one of Barkley's players, and our suggestion of Bird, he can do anything on a basketball court.

No one has ever come close to doing what he just did. Like Jordan and Russell, he's utterly unique.

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