Game 4 of the NBA Finals tips off at 9 p.m. ET on Friday night as the Golden State Warriors look to sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road to close out the postseason with a perfect 16-0 record. LeBron James hopes to prevent that from happening, aiming to avoid the second Finals sweep of his career.
If the Warriors do close the Cavs out on Friday night, what will it do to LeBron’s legacy? Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe debated the topic on Friday’s “Undisputed.”
Greg M. CooperGreg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron is already on Mount Rushmore
It would do absolutely nothing. Magic Johnson got swept twice. He got swept in ’83 by the Sixers, he got swept in ’89 by the Pistons. Magic Johnson is regarded as a top-five player, so it did nothing to his legacy. LeBron James is a four-time league MVP, he’s won three Finals, he’s been the MVP in all of those. He’s an 11-time first-team All-NBA player. Seven straight Finals. Two teams, four straight. This would do nothing to his legacy.
For all intents and purposes, unless he comes back and does something spectacular over the next three years, take this Golden State team down as it’s currently constructed, then maybe we start having the conversation again. But this doesn’t tarnish what he’s already accomplished. He’s the first player to lead his team back from a 1-3 deficit. That means something.
Put it like this, no matter who the President is, he can have the greatest economic boom in the 240-plus year history of America, he can come up with cures for cancer, diabetes and heart disease. He’s not going up on Mount Rushmore. Those guys are already carved in. LeBron James is already a Mount Rushmore player, and he’s not going anywhere. This would do absolutely nothing to his legacy because what he’s accomplished, we can’t erase.
Brian SpurlockBrian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Fans are trying to sweep his failures under the rug
Look, I’ve always concurred with you: LeBron James is still the best player on the planet. I have never disagreed that he’s not an all-time great player. But here we go again with the “Walking Dead” apologist. ‘I must defend LeBron.’ This is nothing but LeBron apology run amuck. … But instead of fixating on the Golden State potential sweep that I think we’re going to see tonight, everyone here in Cleveland is going to try to sweep, sweep, sweep LeBron’s epic failures under the rug. And in this case, LeBron is about to fall to 3-5 in Finals. LeBron, I think, will get swept out of the Finals for the second time in his career. That never happened to Michael Jordan in the Finals, right?
Rick OsentoskiRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
His history in the Finals isn't great
Just so we’re not too delusional here, let’s reiterate what’s happened to LeBron James. After four seasons in this league, he found himself in the Finals against the San Antonio Spurs – a team that a lot of people on Undisputed say is not that great, a little bit overrated. And obviously, LeBron got swept. If you look at what happened in the two games in that building – Games 3 and 4 – LeBron had a chance to win both. And he shot 19-for-53 combined from the field in those games. That’s 36 percent, which is not LeBron-esque. He went 2-for-12 from three in those two games, 17 percent. He had five turnovers in Game 3, six turnovers in Game 4. And in Game 4, a one-point loss, he went 2-for-6 from the free throw line. You could say he was a baby against Duncan, Ginobli and Parker, but that happened.
Then the owner, in 2010, in his last playoff series here before he took his talents to South Beach, accused LeBron of quitting in Games 4, 5 and 6 against the Boston Celtics as they collapsed then. Then he goes to South Beach, and in Finals No. 1, 2011, LeBron James suffered the worst superstar meltdown that I have ever witnessed in Games 4, 5 and 6. That did happen. Then it took the greatest clutch shot I have ever witnessed in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals to save LeBron’s legacy as he came apart down the stretch with three turnovers and a late missed three that could’ve sent it to overtime, cancelled by Ray Allen’s late three. Way to go. And then the 2014 Finals, LeBron lost by a record margin. But he was by far the best player on the floor.
USA TODAY SportsSoobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Jordan struggled in the playoffs early on
Skip: “How can I stain remove all that? I can’t. It happened. Michael Jordan didn’t have these things happen in his career.”
Shannon: “Michael Jordan, in two of his first three years, he got swept out of the playoffs. Michael Jordan, his team won the championship in ’91, ’92, ’93. He retired in ’94, minus Michael Jordan, they won one more game with Scottie Pippen than they won the year before, and Pippen had them in Eastern Conference finals. He got swept in two of his first three rounds. LeBron James has never lost in the first round of the playoffs.”
Skip: “It took LeBron James nine years before he won his first ring. That’s a long time.”
Shannon: “As a 22-year-old, LeBron James had a team in the NBA Finals. As a 22-year-old, Michael Jordan was getting swept in the first round. Are you gonna erase that?”