One thing that really bothers me about sports is “the narrative”. You’re familiar with it. Joe Flacco wasn’t an “elite QB” until he won the Super Bowl. LeBron James wasn’t “clutch” or a true “winner” until he defeated OKC in last year’s Finals.
While James seemingly vanquished this mostly baseless argument last summer (seriously, check out his career playoff averages, especially 2008-2009), we’re seeing a different version of it now that James may be defeated in his third of four career Finals. Now, especially in Chicago, we’re hearing all about how James can never be the greatest and “Michael never would have let this happen”. While these things might be true (I do have trouble with the “GOAT” losing three out of four finals), context is huge. Jordan failed, often at the hands of Detroit, year after year before his monstrous dominance. Magic Johnson lost FOUR Finals–but won five; he’s still widely considered to be one of the best to ever play. Even Larry Bird dropped a couple (it didn’t help that he and Magic had to play each other half the time).
Finally, making this argument based solely off this year’s Finals fails to respect the greatness James is up against. Timmy Duncan and Coach Pop are no slouches themselves–they’re only one win away from (likely) finishing 5-0 in their shared Finals career. So as Games 6 and 7 unfold, remember that “the narrative” only means as much as you say it does. Regardless of what happens this week, Tim Duncan and LeBron James will go down as two of perhaps the ten greatest to ever play the game. But LeBron would save himself a lot of trouble by unleashing two performances remniscient of last years’ Eastern Conference Finals.