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Is LeBron James Really In GOAT Conversation With Just 4 Rings?

In a world where the word GOAT is thrown around like dirty laundry, LeBron James’ legacy took a slight hit Monday when his Los Angeles Lakers were swept by the Denver Nuggets. No matter how you slice it, the NBA is still a team-based league, but for some players, legacies are based on individual performances as well. From scoring titles to MVPs, it’s all on one man. But to be compared to the best that has ever played like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Bill Russell, and others, one also has to win. So far, LeBron has failed to do so, to an extent.

He has been named MVP, led the league in scoring, been named All-Defensive Team, and more. But when it comes to being the best on the court where it matters most, he doesn’t belong in the GOAT conversation.

This is where it gets a little wild when it comes to LeBron. When people mention or even debate who the GOAT is, the argument usually comes down to championships. But when LeBron is mentioned, it comes down to longevity, winning rings with multiple teams and playing well into his 19th season in the NBA. But they never have the argument against championships because he doesn’t fit the criteria, just yet. 

Everything else, LeBron is the man, Hell, he’s the All-Time leading scorer in NBA history. That alone says something but when you stack his titles against those like Russell, Kobe, and Jordan, he falls short. Let’s keep it 100, he’s tied with Stephen Curry for title wins. If Jordan is indeed the pinnacle at which the bar is set, LeBron is not at that table. 

Years back, when asked about the LeBron and Kobe debate, Michael Jordan had this to say.

Five beats one every time I look at it. And not that (James) won’t get five. He may get more than that, but five is bigger than one.”

For the greats, this is how they measure their greatness. It’s all about the rings. For those who don’t see that, that means they haven’t won enough to think like that. In 2013, LeBron had this to say regarding his legacy.

He said he would take Kobe over me because…five rings are better than one and last time he checked five is better than one. But that’s his own opinion. At the end of the days (sic), rings doesn’t always define somebody’s career. If that’s the case, then I would sit up here and say, I would take Russell over Jordan. But I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t take Russell over Jordan. Russell has 11 rings, Jordan has six…It doesn’t matter to me, I go out and I play for my family, I play for my coaching staff.

And after winning the title in 2020, LeBron had this to say regarding the lack of respect he was receiving in terms of that GOAT talk. 

We just want our respect. Rob [Pelinka, Lakers general manager] wants his respect, coach [Frank] Vogel wanted his respect, our organization want their respect, Laker Nation want their respect and I want my damn respect too.

That comment goes to show exactly where his head was at. He knows he trailing those great players and while he wants the respect of others, he does have to earn that by winning. 4 rings are less than Jordan, Kobe, Duncan, and Russell. Whether he likes it or not, he’s chasing them. That’s what drives the greats. They never want to leave room for reasonable doubt. 

10 trips to the NBA Finals are outstanding. There was a stretch where he went to 8 straight. Damn!!! What can you say about that? But in that stretch of 8 straight, LeBron won 3. You can miss me with the argument regarding teammates. He was on super-teams. His teammates were Hall of Fame players in Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Then he joined up with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in Cleveland and went to 4 straight finals and walked away with just 1 title.

In LA, the mystic of LeBron James continued to grow but he needed to win. he was coming into the house that Kobe built. In 5 seasons with the Lakers, they have just 1 title to show for it and that was during the COVID-Bubble season. Other than that, James has led the Lakers to 3 playoff trips while missing the playoffs twice as a Laker. 

In no way is anyone saying that LeBron is a bad player. Truthfully he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. But when debating that GOAT title, he gets a nod because of the amazing things he has done on the court but we all know that GOAT title is also tied to leading teams to championships. He’s won enough to earn a mention, but not enough to argue for. 

For years, it’s been Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone atop the scoring record books and how many times have their names come up in GOAT discussions.? So, just because LeBron passed them in points scored, he also has more accolades than Kareem now?

Yes, it’s a hard pill to swallow but when someone says Jordan, the first thing that comes out of their mouth are the 6 rings or 6-0 Finals record. Kobe and Duncan have 5 apiece. They earned their seat and mention in the debate. But LeBron, he’s still chasing that 5th, and until then, no, he’s not in that conversation, yet. 



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