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Rick Zamperin: If Cavaliers lose, is LeBron still among the greatest?

Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James could only look on with amazement as teammate J.R. Smith mistakenly killed the clock in the final seconds of a tied Game 1 of the NBA Finals, rather than taking a shot to potentially win the game. Global News File

If the Cleveland Cavaliers lose, or even worse, get swept by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, does LeBron James take a hit in the debate of who’s the greatest of all-time?

Before you get all hot and bothered (yes, I’m looking at you Cavs’ fans), hear me out.

Game 3 of the Finals tips off Wednesday night in Cleveland and this is a game the Cavs have to win. They’re down 2-0 to the defending champion Warriors after a 124-114 overtime loss in Game 1 and a 122-103 drubbing in Game 2. All the while, LeBron has totalled 80 points (51 and 29) in those two games.

READ MORE: LeBron James dazed and confused as teammate’s Game 1 mistake leads to loss

James has played in nine NBA Finals, including the last eight in a row, a truly remarkable stat. He has carried the Cavaliers, that without him would likely struggle to make the playoffs, on his back for the last four years. But a series defeat against Golden State would drop LeBron’s record in the Finals to 3-6, including losses in four out of the last five years.

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By comparison, and this is what we do when comparing the best of the best of the best, Golden State’s Stephen Curry will have the same number of championship rings (3) than James if the Warriors end up repeating. And Curry, who is already arguably one of the best perimeter shooters of all-time, could end up winning a fistful of rings before he’s done playing.

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Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan, the player many fans consider the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) was 6-0 in the NBA Finals. Lakers and Bucks icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s career scoring leader, went 6-4 in the Finals. Although neither can hold a candle to Boston Bill Russell’s record 11 championship rings in 13 NBA seasons. He lost in the Finals just once to the old St. Louis Hawks in 1958.

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LeBron James is the best player of his generation, and some will argue he’s the best ever. And to be honest, they wouldn’t be wrong. Although, I’d still find it hard to put King James ahead of Jordan and Kareem.

It’s hard, impossible really, to anoint any one player as the G.O.A.T. To some, it’s James, to others, it’s Jordan. Some might say Kareem, Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson or even Kobe Bryant.

Win or lose, let’s just enjoy them.

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