Commentary: LeBron James’ greatness needs to be appreciated not disparaged

The clock had yet to strike all zeros before the haters took to social media on Sunday night to denounce “The King.”

Despite the fact that LeBron James led Cleveland with 35 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists while playing all 48 minutes in an 87-79 Game 7 road win against Boston in the NBA Eastern Conference finals, it just wasn’t enough for some.

Most naysayers tried to diminish LeBron’s latest feat by saying that the Celtics’ postseason luck had simply run out and their latest loss to James had been only a matter of time. As if Celtics fans truly believed their team NEVER stood a chance despite having a 2-0 series lead at one point and a 3-2 lead after Game 5.

Others simply dismissed LeBron’s victory altogether as if winning the Eastern Conference title and heading to the NBA Finals for an eighth straight time – ninth time overall – was no big deal.

Detractors such as these focus on the fact that out of those nine trips to the NBA Finals James has – so far – only won three times. As if that’s not enough to prove his worth. Ask Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Allen Iverson or Reggie Miller if one NBA ring would have been enough. Ask Steve Nash, George Gervin, Pete Maravich, Artis Gilmore or Dominique Wilkins if one trip to the Finals would have sufficed.

Of course everything LeBron does ultimately gets compared to what Michael Jordan did during his heyday. MJ went to the NBA Finals six times and won every time. Like it or not, that’s the measuring stick LeBron and all future NBA players have to live up to.

And while it’s natural to try to compare one player to another, when it comes to LeBron the comparison to Michael has clouded a lot of people’s judgment and that’s unfortunate because it’s allowing James’ time in the spotlight to pass us by unappreciated.

Regardless of what MJ did in the 1990s, what LeBron is doing right now is absolutely incredible and we’re missing it because we can’t stop focusing on how it all compares to what Jordan did 20 years ago. We can’t stop trying to determine who is the GOAT (greatest of all time) instead of appreciating that LeBron is the GOTT (greatest of this time).

Of course there are those who won’t even let LeBron hold the GOTT title and will try to convince us that Kevin Durant is the best player in the game right now.

That’s ironic since Durant has been to only two NBA Finals in his 11 years in the league and won one and lost one – both times against LeBron James teams.

Well, actually, he’ll now have made three trips to the Finals as Durant helped the defending champion Golden State Warriors beat the Houston Rockets on Monday night in the Western Conference finals. We’ll see how it turns out this year against LeBron and the Cavs.

Regardless, somehow the fact that Durant’s playoff accomplishments don’t come close to LeBron’s doesn’t seem to matter. And, of course, should Durant’s Warriors beat the Cavs in this year’s Finals, LeBron will feel the full backlash of the loss. There’s simply no winning for James.

Which all leads back to the fact that haters will always hate, especially when it comes to LeBron.

What a shame.

Dave Favila is sports editor of the Valley Morning Star. Follow him on Twitter @dfavila