Tom Sorensen

One against the world: Where would the Cavs be without LeBron James?

Should the Golden State Warriors sweep Cleveland in the 2018 NBA Finals, LeBron James’ legend is still intact, says Tom Sorensen.
Should the Golden State Warriors sweep Cleveland in the 2018 NBA Finals, LeBron James’ legend is still intact, says Tom Sorensen. AP

I like underdogs, but there was no way I was going to pick the Houston Rockets or Boston Celtics to reach the NBA Finals. Daring pick, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, don’t you think?

Would the Rockets have won if Chris Paul had been healthy for Games 6 and 7? If Golden State's Andre Iguodala had been healthy, would Paul's health have mattered? If anybody gets to complain about injuries, it's Boston. If the Celtics avoid them, they are Golden State good.

I never tire of watching the Warriors. I still get excited when Stephen Curry goes on a 3-fest, when Klay Thompson suddenly becomes the best player on the court, or when Draymond Green becomes Draymond Green. Love Green’s game. Kevin Durant can play a little, too.

On some teams, Curry would be the star and the players around him would be his assistants. Latte, Mr. Curry? Want us to keep feeding you, Mr. Curry?

If you are the greatest shooter in basketball history, and Curry is, you probably have the license to shoot when you want and from where you want. Curry chooses not to. He shares the ball, so his teammates do. Teammates that would be stars elsewhere accept their roles. They get to win another championship. That's a good role.

If you remove LeBron James from Cleveland’s roster, the Cavaliers are the Hornets. Wait. That’s not true. Without LeBron, the Hornets beat the Cavaliers.

The Warriors looked downtrodden in the first half against the Rockets. But in the third quarter Curry scored 14, and the Warriors outscored Houston by 18. I saw a typo on ESPN; it said the Warriors had outscored Houston in the third quarter by 68. That's how it felt.

To beat Golden State for the title, Cleveland’s LeBron James will have to go one against the world. The difference between Cleveland and Golden State is that if you take Curry (or Durant or Thompson or Green) away from the Warriors, they still are special.

If you remove LeBron from Cleveland’s roster, the Cavaliers are the Hornets. Wait. That’s not true. Without LeBron, the Hornets beat the Cavaliers.

Every time I write something positive about LeBron I hear from people that refuse to acknowledge his greatness. Whether he is better than Michael Jordan is subjective. What’s not subjective is that LeBron is, if not the greatest player of all time, a close second.

LeBron played 48 minutes in Game 7. Nobody else on Cleveland or Boston played more than 42. In Game 7 of the Golden State-Houston series, nobody played more than 44.

LeBron, 33, is not a small man, and hauling his 250 pounds up and down court is exhausting. He sneaks rest breaks the way tough kids in middle school sneak cigarette breaks.

LeBron has to be on the court. When he doesn’t play, his team can’t.

LeBron will have to tangle with Green in the NBA finals, and that is not a player you go against on purpose. Although LeBron will be the best player on the court, the Warriors will have the next four – Curry, Durant, Green and Thompson.

I can’t fathom Cleveland winning the thing. But should the Warriors sweep, LeBron’s legend is still intact. Even if you’re an adult that engages in Michael hero worship, LeBron’s legend holds up there, too.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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