By now, the Cavs are going to have to make the decision of whether to keep LeBron James, the superstar guard, or take on the role of the superstar.
The decision will be made by Cleveland’s owners, not James himself.
But one of those owners, owner Dan Gilbert, has made it clear that the Cavs should do the latter.
“If you look at LeBron’s play and what he’s accomplished and what his impact has been, it’s not even close to Kobe Bryant’s,” Gilbert told reporters last week.
“It’s a different breed.”
It’s the sort of language that can be used by owners of the most successful franchises in NBA history to make it seem like they’re the only ones who can judge their franchise, especially when the most prominent basketball players in the league have also taken up the mantle of being the best players in their respective arenas.
LeBron’s team was the best team in the NBA this season.
LeBron averaged 34.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game, while also shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 71.5 percent from three-point range.
Kobe Bryant averaged 34 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 4.1 steals per game.
The Cavs won two of their final three games by double digits, winning by seven points in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Celtics, and by seven in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals against the Spurs.
If the Cavs do end up keeping James, they’ll likely be able to claim a bit of the credit for the rise of the league’s best player, even though they didn’t win the championship this season by much.
LeBron won’t be the only one to take the title of best player in the game.
He’ll be joined by a pair of superstars, along with the likes of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson’s nephew and current teammate, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant.
And those are just the top five players on the Cavs roster.
LeBron is also the best player of the five-time NBA champions, with the Lakers, Celtics, Clippers, and Warriors also being ranked higher than the Cavs in terms of individual statistical achievements.
(This season, Kobe Bryant has led the NBA in assists per 36 minutes, assists per 100 possessions, and steals per 100 points.)
Kobe is just a little bit ahead of LeBron in both categories, with his 39.4 points per game averaging over a third of the Lakers’ total scoring, while LeBron is averaging 36.9 per game and shooting 41.2 percent from beyond the arc.
LeBron has had an uncanny knack for creating offense, particularly with his jumper, and his numbers aren’t likely to change significantly when he gets to the Cavs.
Bryant is arguably the most prolific scorer in the history of the NBA, and he’s also the league leader in three-pointers made per game (22.4), three-points made per 36.3 minutes (18.4) and three-possession scoring per game with 16.3.
(For comparison, Kevin Durant is averaging 19.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game on a league-low 21.8 minutes per game.)
Bryant has also been a better defender than LeBron in the playoffs, but LeBron has averaged 17.2 points per 100 minutes, which is only a tad better than Kobe.
Bryant also leads the NBA with 9.1 blocks per game in the postseason, but James is averaging 15.9.
And LeBron is shooting 47.3 from the floor and 68.5 from three.
It’s difficult to compare the Cavs’ success to that of the Celtics and Warriors, because they’ve been playing at the same level for much longer.
But the Cavs have done enough to be considered the best in the East, and they’re likely to be the best-case scenario for the Cavs this season, barring an injury to LeBron or a trade for a top-three free agent, LeBron’s former teammate and current Lakers teammate Chris Paul.
If LeBron continues to play at a level that is similar to his career level, he will be the favorite to win the title this season and possibly win the MVP award.
The Cavaliers have won two championships in the last three years, but it’s the most recent of those seasons, when they won the title in 2017.
The last time the Cavs were the best basketball team in their conference, they were the defending champions in 2017-18.
But with the addition of LeBron, the Cavaliers are likely to start the next season as the clear favorites to win it all.
That means they’ll have to figure out how to stop James from continuing to lead the NBA and winning it all, because the Cavs may have to give up a lot of wins this year to do so.
“I think the Cavs can go out and have a really good year,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said last week