You won’t catch LeBron James caught up in too much talk about his progress toward becoming the best basketball player of all-time. But in a snippet of a new episode of his UNINTERRUPTED show, “More Than An Athlete,” James finally addresses the G.O.A.T. conversation directly by citing one moment of his career where he felt he was on top of the world — and the NBA history books.
“That moment right there made me the greatest player of all-time, that’s what I felt,” he said, in the episode that just released on ESPN+. “I was super, super ecstatic to win one for Cleveland because of the 52-year drought. The first wave of emotion was everyone saw me crying. That was all for 52 years of everything in sports going on in Cleveland. And then after I stopped, I was like, ‘That one right there made you the greatest player of all-time.’”
James left the Miami Heat to return to his hometown Cavaliers in 2014, but injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love cost Cleveland a legitimate shot at a championship in the 2015 NBA Finals. LeBron’s Cavs lost to the Warriors in their first year together.
His odds in the second year looked more bleak. The same Warriors went on to win more regular season games (73) than any other team in NBA history. They cruised through the first few rounds of the West playoffs and were favorites to repeat as NBA champions. After they took an early 3-1 lead over Cleveland in the NBA Finals, it looked as if they would do just that.
But James’ Cavaliers came raging back and iconic chase-down block on Andre Iguodala. Cleveland won the championship. James was on top of the world.
“Everybody was talking about how they were the greatest team of all-time, the greatest team ever assembled,” James says in the video. “And for us to come back, the way we came back in that fashion. I was like, ‘You did something special.’
“That’s like one of the only times in my career that I felt like, ‘Oh, shit. You did something special.’ I haven’t had time to really sit back and think about that. That was a moment.”
James has had many moments that vault him into the G.O.A.T. conversation, including climbing the all-time leading scorer’s list this season and winning two other championships in Miami. But the win over Golden State is what sits nearest and dearest to his heart.
It’s what actually made him declare — more explicitly than ever — that he was the best player ever.