There's no real reason to rehash the silly Greatest of All Time arguments again, but I had already been thinking about LeBron James' timeline. And then I saw that my pal Ian O'Connor, in an effort to make a viable argument for Kevin Durant to sign with the Knicks, tweeted this:
I realize that Ian's just trying to stir up some talk here, but, yeah, that hit me wrong. Well, first of all, it hit me wrong because, you know, KNICKS. Please.
But KD catapulting past LeBron?
So, let me show you the little timeline I had in mind.
(Before LeBron) 2003: 17-65. LEBRON! 2004: 18-win improvement 2005: winning record 2006: 50 wins and Conference Semis 2007: 50 wins and NBA Finals 2008: 45 wins and Conference Semis 2009: 66 wins and Conference Finals 2010: 61 wins and Conference Semis (After LeBron) 2011: 19-63
We'll come back to Cleveland in a minute.
(Before LeBron) 2008: 15 wins 2009: 43 wins and first-round playoff loss 2010: 47 wins and first-round playoff loss LEBRON! 2011: 58 wins and NBA Finals 2012: 46 wins and CHAMPIONSHIP 2013: 66 wins and CHAMPIONSHIP 2014: 54 wins and NBA Finals (After LeBron) 2015: 37-45
Back to Cleveland
(Before LeBron -- picking up from last stop) 2012: 21-45 2013: 24-58 2014: 33-49 LEBRON! 2015: 53 wins and NBA Finals 2016: 57 wins and CHAMPIONSHIP 2017: 51 wins and NBA Finals 2018: 50 wins and NBA Finals (After LeBron) 2019: 11-41, fighting for worst-team-in-NBA status
(Before LeBron) 2016: 17-65 2017: 28-56 2018: 35-47 LEBRON! 2019: 27-25, and 20-14 with 'Bron in the lineup
Nobody in NBA history has a record like that. And I imagine nobody will anytime soon. Bringing up Durant (whose Oklahoma City team made the playoffs the year after he left ... and we all know how good Golden State was before he got there) is a good reminder: If anything, we probably underrate LeBron James.
I put this in the comments, but figured I should put it out here so everyone can see it: I don't want to miss making the point, which is not that LeBron came to a bad team, made them great, and then they got bad after he left. I would hope every great player in basketball history would have some sort of similar impact on teams; that's what makes them great.
No, the point with LeBron is he dramatically did it FOUR TIMES with FOUR DIFFERENT TEAMS. He went to terrible Cleveland, made them excellent, then he left and they stunk. He went to mediocre Miami, made them great, then he left and they dropped off. He went back to terrible Cleveland, made them great again, now they stink. He went to terrible L.A., and he hasn't made them great yet, but he's made them better even though he's been hurt.
Nobody else has that kind of record. I don't think anyone else could. He's done it again and again, with screwed-up teams and multiple coaches and countless different philosophies. That's the point. That's the thing that I think separates him.