How LeBron James came to rub shoulders with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant

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Even though there really can't be a true way to calibrate just who is the greatest player of all-time, the debate rages on eternally, nonetheless.

The perpetual journey to legendary standing never truly ceases. Even in retirement, a player's status is measured by the next generation and their triumphs.

With time, the significance of the those who paved the way for the talent of today has become distorted amongst the money, exposure and, in some cases, a three-point line.

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However, two names that will generally creep up in the conversation for G.O.A.T are a pair of shooting guard's called Kobe Byrant and Michael Jordan.

With 11 NBA titles, 32 All-Star appearances, six regular season MVP awards, eight Finals MVP awards and 12 scoring titles between them - which are admittedly largely substantiated by Jordan - their legacies have tangible evidence behind them.

Their longevity is what has truly gotten them a seat at the immortal table. It's worth noting they didn't ever go chasing a championship, they won all their titles with the teams that drafted them.

Until recently, that was a criticism that hung over LeBron James. Sure, he's a marvellous player and probably the best of his generation, but, many questioned if he was among the very best to ever grace the hardwood.

After getting drafted by his hometown franchise as the number one overall pick, King James spent a frustrating seven years in Cleveland as a nearly man. This period included a whitewash visit to the Finals in 2007 where the San Antonio Spurs swept them with consummate ease.

This fuelled the small forward to head to South Beach and link up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He needed that elusive NBA ring.

The now 31-year-old won two championships with the Miami Heat off four trips to the Finals and finally scratched the itch that had cast a cloud over his true greatness.

And yet, those question marks persisted. The move was perceived as James moving to a great team to win a title, whether he led them or not.

As a result, James took on the ultimate challenge. He decided to return to Cleveland - a lottery team in his absence - and try and drive them to their first ever title.

The pressure must have weighed huge on LeBron's lucrative shoulders, but the four-time MVP insists he's never had a problem coping with the scrutiny.

"I hear that word pressure all the time," James said before his rookie season. "There is a lot of pressure put on me, but I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself. I feel if I play my game, it will take care of itself."

In a recent trip to China, even in retirement, Bryant maintains a stance towards pressure that shows the type of mindset the game's greatest players appear to have in common.

“Pressure isn’t real," Kobe said. What is pressure? Pressure is your ego because you want to win something, prove something, achieve something… It’s not real. It’s ego. I haven’t dealt with it since I can remember.”

James and an injury-ridden Cavaliers faltered at the last hurdle in his first season back at the Quicken Loans Arena. The Golden State Warriors would deny a valiant James with a 4-2 win during that series, but 12 months later, the two heavyweights would collide again on the same stage.

This time, James would not be denied. Despite trailing the Warriors - who had surpassed Jordan's Chicago Bulls as the greatest regular season team ever with 73 wins - 3-1 in the series, James rallied to truly lead his Cavs to a historic title.

LeBron led all players in points, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals to pick up his third Finals MVP award and help the Cavaliers overturn a deficit no team in NBA history had managed in the Finals before.

Kyrie Irving showed what a difference maker he can be with a sensational Finals performance too, of course. Had he been fit one year prior, it could have been a difference story. But, still, the stats show just how influential James was against, arguably, the greatest team in history.

To gain entry to that immortal table we alluded to earlier, those credentials seem quite fitting to me.

NBA Finals
LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
LA Lakers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Miami Heat
Southeast Division
Kobe Bryant
Michael Jordan
Chicago Bulls

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