During a recent appearance on his ESPN series, “More Than an Athlete,” James talked about beating the heavily favored Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals while a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs had faced a 3-1 deficit in the series against the Warriors, a hole that no other team in the league had ever come back from in the Finals.
But James, helped by Kyrie Irving, was able to lead the team back from the brink of elimination and beat the Warriors in Oakland to win the franchise’s first championship.
When reflecting on what the feat meant to his legacy during the episode, James simply said, “That one right there made me the greatest player of all time.”
The comment launched a sports-wide debate — with many basketball fans questioning not only if James is the greatest of all time, but whether he was right to give himself the title.
In an interview on the Toucher & Rich radio show, Ainge — who is currently the general manager and president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics — compared James’ comment to those of President Donald Trump.
“His career’s not over,” Ainge said, according to NBC Sports. “I’d just like to — why he’s saying that, I don’t know. Maybe he thinks that that sells. Maybe he’s taking the Donald Trump approach and trying to sell himself. I don’t know.”
Ainge went on to say that while James is in “the conversation” of being called the greatest athlete to ever play basketball (an argument that usually involves the likes of James, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant), he believes the title should be given only when the 34-year-old’s entire career can be put into perspective.
“Obviously LeBron is in every conversation with who is the greatest player of all time,” Ainge said on the radio show, according to NBC Sports. “But time will tell. I don’t know if anyone knows who the greatest of all time is, because the years are so different.”
Defending Ainge against backlash for his comments, host Fred Toucher said in a 985thesportshub.com blog post, “They both say they’re the greatest. Trump won the presidency … and he got there largely on his ability to market himself and just say he’s the greatest over and over again, and the more that you say it the more people believe it. The point Ainge was making … is so phenomenally obvious.”
James has, of course, been highly critical of the president — and vice versa.
“You know, we are in a position right now in America where this race thing [has] taken over,” James said in July. “I believe our president is kinda trying to divide us. He is — I don’t want to say kinda. He’s dividing us.”
James is a three-time NBA champion, has earned four MVP awards and multiple All-Star appearances. He left the Cavaliers to join the Los Angeles Lakers last summer.