Is This a Must-Win NBA Finals for LeBron James’ Legacy?


We say the word “legacy” all the time. Especially when talking about LeBron James.

It’s crazy how often LeBron’s legacy rides upon one playoff game or series. Most of the time fans are a bit unfair with their expectations for James, as he is always compared to Michael Jordan. Which being compared to MJ is obviously very difficult, and humbling for anyone, even LeBron James.

Michael Jordan is known worldwide as the best basketball player that has ever lived. Some people have other theories as to who is the “G.O.A.T,” but Jordan is the overwhelming favorite.

One of Jordan’s best accomplishments during his career was never losing in the NBA Finals, going 6 for 6 in his appearances.

It’s kind of hard to believe, but this year marks LeBron James’ 6th NBA Finals appearance, and 5th consecutive. LeBron has done all of that, and he is 30 years old.

How old was Michael Jordan after making his 6th NBA Finals appearance, and winning his 6th ring? He was 35 years old, the year was 1998 when he completed his second 3-peat.

LeBron obviously has not won a ring every single time he has played in the NBA Finals, as his current record is 2-3, winning in 2012 and 2013 with the Miami Heat.

His defeats came last year to the Spurs, 2011 versus the Mavericks, and 2007 against the Spurs, his first appearance with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Whenever there is a LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan debate, one of the top arguments for Jordan being the greatest of all time is that he has more championship rings than LeBron James does. To go along with that, MJ never lost in the NBA Finals, and LeBron has already lost 3 different times.

Although LeBron James’ 2-3 record in the NBA Finals isn’t very impressive at first glance. But when you look at some in-depth statistics, it isn’t as bad as it looks.

In fact, it’s kind of impressive that LeBron was able to even reach the NBA Finals with some of those teams.

According to an article on, the Cavs team that LeBron took to the finals in 2007 was the second worst team that has played in the NBA Finals since 1985.

Where does this year’s Cavaliers team rank? Well, it’s the third worst team.

If Kevin Love wasn’t injured, and Kyrie Irving wasn’t banged up, they most likely wouldn’t be ranked the 3rd worst, but that isn’t the case.

Here is the complete list:

The best team that LeBron James has ever taken to the NBA Finals according to this list, is the 2011 Miami Heat team that lost to the Dallas Mavericks in six games.

2012 and 2013 were next on the list, with both of those teams winning the championship.

Last year’s Miami Heat team was barely ranked ahead of this year’s banged up Cavs team, which might be surprising to some people. But then again, the Spurs just steamrolled through the Miami Heat in 5 games.

While losing three of his five NBA Finals appearances in his career, just taking some of those teams to the finals is impressive enough. James has taken 3 of the 8 worst teams on this list to the NBA Finals.

For Michael Jordan, during his second three-peat from 1996-1998, all of those teams were ranked in the Top 6 since 1985, with the 1996 Bulls being the best finals team. It was the same year that Jordan led that team to a 72-10 record.

The best team LeBron James has ever been a part of (2011 Miami Heat) was ranked 10th on the list.

The point of this article isn’t to criticize Michael Jordan because he had a lot better supporting cast than LeBron has ever had, but to give LeBron credit for taking inferior teams to the NBA Finals.

It needs to be pointed out that the East is a lot weaker today than it was in the 1990’s. It’s almost a joke how weak the Eastern conference is, the Cavaliers went 12-2 in the playoffs without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving healthy for a majority of that run.

Nonetheless, it’s still a great accomplishment to reach the NBA Finals. Not every player gets to experience playing on that stage.

Is this a must-win NBA Finals for the Cleveland Cavaliers?

My answer to that is no. And here’s why:

The term “must-win” is a very interesting term. What exactly does that mean?

I see it as another way of saying “do or die.”

So if the Cleveland Cavaliers lose to the heavily favored Golden State Warriors, does that mean this season was a failure?

Absolutely not.

With Kevin Love out with a shoulder injury, and Kyrie Irving not 100% healthy, this does not make losing in the NBA Finals a failure for the Cavaliers. Although it might be different if they were both healthy.

Here’s another question:

Why are the Golden State Warriors heavily favored?

The injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are the major reasons. But the Warriors have a pretty solid team themselves, and you can make an argument that they would still be the favorite even if Cleveland was 100% healthy.

In case you didn’t notice on the list pictured above, this year’s Warrior squad is ranked as the 14th best NBA Finals team since 1985 after going 67-15 in the regular season.

The duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combine to be the one of the best back-courts in the NBA, and Curry is arguably the best player in the NBA behind LeBron James. There’s a reason why Curry was named MVP this season.

Meanwhile, the 2015 Cavaliers are ranked as having the 3rd worst supporting cast, as we pointed out before.

Back to the main question of this article:

Is this a must-win NBA Finals for LeBron James’ legacy?

I say Yes. Yes it is. 

If LeBron wants to ever surpass Michael Jordan as the best basketball player of all time, he has to win this NBA Finals.

As we said before, Jordan is known for never losing in the finals. He won all 6 times.

This year is LeBron’s 6th trip to the finals. If Cleveland loses to Golden State, he would be 2-4 in his career in the NBA Finals.

Winning championships isn’t the only thing that matters, but it is very important. It will be very hard to argue that LeBron is better than Jordan if he has a losing record in the NBA Finals. LeBron’s legacy will be how many times he lost in the finals, as Jordan’s would be his undefeated 6-0 record.

I am not arguing that if Cleveland loses to the Warriors, that makes LeBron a failure. That’s ridiculous. Just because he isn’t Michael Jordan doesn’t tarnish his legacy.

But if LeBron James wants to surpass his idol Michael Jordan, it will make this NBA Finals a must-win for him.

Golden State might present one of the toughest challenges he has ever faced in his NBA career. When asked if he was an underdog, LeBron James laughed, saying “Huh? Underdog? Me? I would never be an underdog.”

Well, he is this time. Almost any sports site you look at, they have the Golden State Warriors as the favorites to win the 2015 NBA Finals.

LeBron is confident nonetheless. He recently came out and said he believes this is the best basketball he has played during his career:

This isn’t the first time LeBron is playing the underdog role in the NBA Finals. In 2007 the Spurs were heavy favorites to defeat James’ Cavaliers. As we all know, San Antonio went on to sweep Cleveland.

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In conclusion, is the 2015 NBA Finals a must-win for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season?


But, is this a must-win for LeBron James’ legacy?

LeBron has already established his legacy of being one of the best players of all time. But if he ever wants to surpass Michael Jordan, this is a must-win NBA Finals for LeBron.

If James leads the Cavaliers to an NBA Finals victory over Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, it will be the best accomplishment of his career. So far.

Next: Comparing Supporting Casts: '15 to '07 Cavs