The whole “Finals record” argument.
I don’t think casuals look deeper than just looking at who won and who lost. They just look at W vs L and that’s it.
Basketball is a 5v5 game, it’s not like boxing or tennis, it’s not an individual sport. But at the same time, basketball doesn’t have as many players as soccer or football does. Basketball is a team game that is very affected by individual performance. There’s a reason why people don’t claim that Isiah Thomas is better than Jordan, Bird and Magic even though he beat them in the playoffs. There’s a reason why Robert Horry is not considered better than Jordan even though he has 7 rings / 7-0 and Jordan has 6. Because context matters.
When people decide to look at only who wins and who loses, and saying that the losing player choked, it means that they are not taking the time to do any research to see what each player contributed to that win and what that player did in the loss.
All time great NBA players are able to elevate their teammates, but there’s a limit to it. Let’s look at the best players in the league today – Lebron, KD, Giannis – even if you give them a bunch of high schoolers to play with, they could probably still take that team pretty far – but it’s not like they are still going to beat the best teams in the league or anything. There’s a limit to what even great players are able to do. Jordan with subpar teams wasn’t able to get past the first round, Kobe with subpar teams couldn’t get past the first round, heck look at Steph Curry leading the league in scoring and still couldn’t even make the playoffs. Nobody’s saying these players choked though.
But when it comes to Finals records and Finals losses, it particuarly infuriates me because not only do you disregard the teams that player had and the opponents that player played against, but you are also insinuating that it’s better to not make the Finals than to make it. Which is a ridiculous argument. Anyone who plays sports knows that the goal is to win a championship. In order to win that championship you have to make it to the Final round. In that Final round, one team always wins and one team always loses. There has to be a winner and a loser, every year, every time. But it doesn’t mean that the losing team necessarily choked (well, unless they were up 3–1 or something), most of the time it just means that one team happened to be better than the other. And even the NBA’s all time greats however great they may be, can’t turn lemons into the best lemonade, if they’re up against another brand of great lemonade. One person can only do so much. You can’t just say oh im afraid of losing in the Finals, so lets just miss the playoffs. In that case is Karl Anthony-Towns (0–0 Finals record) better than Charles Barkley (0–1 Finals record)??
Case in point lets look at three of the biggest ‘losers’ of all time: Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Lebron James
All people know is he’s 0–8 in the Finals. Well let’s look at how he did in those Finals losses
1959 Finals (loss): 22.8 PPG / 11.8 RPG / (no APG recorded on bball reference for some reason for this Finals)
1962 Finals (loss): 40.6 PPG / 17.9 RPG / 3.7 APG
1963 Finals (loss): 33.8 PPG / 15.0 RPG / 5.3 APG
1965 Finals – he actually didnt play in this Finals due to injury. So I don’t think this FInals loss even counts, yet people count it
1966 Finals (loss): 25.0 PPG / 15.0 RPG / 2.3 APG
1968 Finals (loss): 26.2 PPG / 12.5 RPG / 4.3 APG
1969 Finals (loss): 18.0 PPG / 10.3 RPG / 3.9 APG
1970 Finals (loss): 17.9 PPG / 11.3 RPG / 4.7 RPG
Now let’s look at Jerry West’s Finals losses – how can he be called Mr Clutch if he lost 8 times right?
1962 Finals (loss): 31.1 PPG / 5.0 RPG / 2.7 APG
1963 Finals (loss): 29.5 PPG / 6.8 RPG / 4.5 APG
1965 Finals (loss): 33.8 PPG / 5.6 RPG / 3.4 APG
1966 Finals (loss): 33.9 PPG / 6.4 RPG / 5.1 APG
1968 Finals (loss): 31.3 PPG / 5.8 RPG / 5.7 APG
1969 Finals (loss): 37.9 PPG / 4.7 RPG / 7.4 APG
1970 Finals (loss): 31.3 PPG / 3.4 RPG / 7.7 APG
1973 Finals (loss): 21.4 PPG / 3.2 RPG / 4.6 APG
See when you look at the numbers, It’s hard to say that Baylor and West ever ‘choked’ its more like they had no help in the Finals. The best teammate they had besides each other was Rudy Larusso who was a decent rebounder and physical player but when ur up against a team with Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Sam Jones, Frank Ramsey, Bailey Howell, all Hall of Famers, its easy to see why Baylor and West lost so many times. It’s essentially two guys against a stacked team.
And then let’s look at Lebron
Of course, everyone knows he lost 6 times in the Finals
2007 Finals (loss): 22.0 PPG / 7.0 RPG / 6.8 APG
2011 Finals (loss): 17.8 PPG / 7.2 RPG / 6.8 APG
2014 Finals (loss): 28.2 PPG / 7.4 RPG / 4.0 APG
2015 Finals (loss): 35.8 PPG / 13.3 RPG / 8.8 APG
2017 Finals (loss): 33.6 PPG / 12.0 RPG / 10.0 APG
2018 Finals (loss): 34.0 PPG / 8.5 RPG / 10.0 APG
So, aside from 2007 (where his second leading scorer was Drew Gooden with 13 PPG) and 2011 (where he gets his most criticism) I’d say Lebron pretty much carried the team in his other losses. Hard to say he ‘choked’ except in 2011, which is one Finals out of 10.
So the fact that casuals focus so much on Finals losses and think these guys choked makes me livid. Go play some actual sports and do some research.