LeBron James is currently in a battle with father time and coming out as the victor. In his 17th season, at 35, he is still the best player in the league and on the verge of his fourth NBA Championship ring. James has consistently had his critics through the years, yet he’s maintained the same level of play throughout. However, Mark Cuban believes that the 2020 version of LeBron James differs greatly from the James the Dallas Mavericks played in 2011.
‘The King’ has been playing against his age in the Playoffs this season, leading his Los Angeles Lakers with Anthony Davis to the NBA Finals while averaging nearly a triple-double every game with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. His play has also allowed Davis to focus on specific aspects of his game that are strong, such as defending and scoring, rather than having to worry about creating chances which he had to do during his time in the Pelicans.
LeBron James is playing in his 10th NBA Finals, a record only matched by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He had five appearances in his two stints with the Cavaliers, four consecutive Finals with the Miami Heat, and now his first Finals appearance with the Lakers. His win-loss record in the Finals is one of the biggest arguments made against James, especially in the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) conversation. But perhaps no Finals appearance was more disappointing than James’ first Finals with the Heat in 2011, against the Dallas Mavericks.
Cuban has high praise for LeBron James
Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, spoke with Etan Thomas of Basketball News. When asked about the difference between the LeBron James from the 2011 Finals and the present day, he said, “It’s night and day…He has the basketball-IQ level now; he’s just a basketball savant. The way he sees and reads what’s happening on the court in real-time and stays three steps ahead is incredible. And that’s what makes him special – in addition to his athleticism. He didn’t have that [back in 2011]. We would run a zone against him and he would hesitate and not know what to do. He’s not going to hesitate now. He knows exactly what’s coming and what to do and anticipates it.”
James’ biggest failure, in the eyes of many, is his disappointing performance in the NBA Finals in 2011 against the Dallas Mavericks, where he was out-played, and smartly defended. His decision to leave Cleveland for Miami was driven by the idea of winning championships. That he lost in the Finals again was more ammunition for his critics. Since then, LeBron James has won three NBA Championships and is now on the verge of his fourth.
Do you think Mark Cuban is spot on with his comments? How has ‘The King’ changed since his Heat days?