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#pounditMonday, November 28, 2022

Ex-teammate has interesting take on LeBron James’ legacy

LeBron James looking on

Jan 21, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James is probably saying, “Et tu, Brute?” to an old teammate.

Former Cleveland Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson went viral this week for his take on the legacy of James, his teammate on the Cavs from 2015 to 2017, when it comes to the Los Angeles Lakers. What set off the debate was an Instagram post by Shaquille O’Neal suggesting that James might be one of the greatest Lakers of all-time.

On an episode this week of “Road Trippin’,” Jefferson came out guns a-blazing against that take.

“LeBron has not done enough as a Laker to be on that list,” said Jefferson. “This is his fourth season [with the Lakers], right? They’ve been there four seasons. Two years, they haven’t made the postseason. One year, they lost in the first round. And one year, they won a championship.

“There hasn’t been a consistent level of greatness,” he went on. “You could win a championship, that’s great. But part of LeBron James being famous for being LeBron James, part of the Lakers organization, is [the] consistent greatness. Not like, oh, one year you’re trash, next year you’re great. No, it’s like, are you consistently those dudes? It just hasn’t intersected [for him on the Lakers].”

Jefferson is right that one championship, though it might on a less-storied franchise, does not make you an all-time great for a Lakers franchise that has won 17 of them. O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Magic Johnson all delivered three or more championships to Los Angeles. Even players from earlier eras (e.g. Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and George Mikan) and more complementary players (e.g. James Worthy, Jamaal Wilkes, and Pau Gasol) are probably comfortably ahead of James when it comes to the greatest Lakers ever.

While James’ story as a Laker is still being written, the fact of the matter is that the team during the James era has been in the litter box more often than they have been in the winner’s circle. Absent further championship wins, James will not go down as an all-time great Laker (though one top figure in the organization already seems to believe that he is).

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