The Kang And His Argument’s Status As The Greatest of All Time
The Kang was pontificated about during the 2018 playoffs. I just published this because I didn’t before for some reason, and I miss sports.
LeBron James aka King James. Shannon Sharpe, myself and a few others call him the Kang with an emphasis on the a (pronounced kaaaang). I think reality allows us to acknowledge that he has surpassed Kobe Bryant as a player. Is he better than Michael Jordan, the acknowledged best by many? A better question is how do we quantify better.
For the record, we have LeBron as the third best player of all time behind Kareem and the aforementioned MJ, but the argument between the Lebron and MJ, and to a much lesser extent Kobe (13th best player of all time), revolves around the idea of clutchness and when it counts. Seeing that the argument Jordan and Kobe proponents lead with is rings, this means clutchness and “when it counts” is limited to the playoffs, closeout and elimination games, and the ends of games.
The Kang has been on the kind of run this playoffs where we need to examine the GOAT argument. I mean really revisit it.
The Kang And The Playoffs
Kudos to Indianapolis who won Game 1, snapping James’ 21-game winning streak in the first round; won Game 3, battling back from a 17-point halftime deficit to take a 2-1 series lead; and thoroughly trounced the Cavs 121-87 in Game 6 to knot the series at 3-3. It was never about them. It was always about the Kang.
He’s 13-0 all time in the first round, and 5-2 in Game 7s with five consecutive victories.
The Kang hit his 4th buzzer beater in the playoffs breaking the tie with Michael Jordan for most in playoff history. In the playoffs, Mike was 45% (5/11) in potential go-ahead shots in the final five seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime. Lebron is 46% (6/13) in those same situations.
Kobe Bryant is 25% (7/28) on potential game-tying or go-ahead shots taken in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime during postseason games, per ESPN’s Aloki Pattani. If you expand it to overtime, LeBron is 48% (13/27) while Kobe is 27% (10/37).
The Kang goes for 45 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals becoming the first player in NBA history to reach those numbers in a Game 7. He also became the first player ever to score 45 in multiple Game 7s. In 2008, he dropped 45 in Boston in Game 7. This was also James’ 200th time scoring 20 or more points in a playoff game — the most of all-time. He also became the NBA’s all-time leader in postseason steals (396), passing Scottie Pippen.
This was the fifth playoff series of James’ career in which he averaged at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, something no player in NBA history has done more than once, according to NBA.com/stats.
In Game 2 of the Raptors series, the Kang gave us 43 points, 14 assists, and 8 rebounds. First player in NBA history to record a 40 point, 14 assist game in the playoffs. He only had 1 turnover by the way.
40 point 11 assist 8 rebound games in the playoffs? They happen all of the time right?
Well, if you remove LeBron, they happen once about every 25 years. Jerry West did it in 1969. Clyde Drexler did it in 1992. Russell Westbrook did it last year. LeBron has done it in 2015, 2016, 2017, and now 2018.
Is The Kang The Best?
That’s for you to decide of course. I just want you to have the facts. It is interesting to see how these three greats compare.
Michael Jordan played in 179 playoff games and averaged 33.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists shooting 49 percent from the field. Kobe played in 220 playoff games and averaged 25.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists shooting 45 percent from the field. LeBron James has played in 226 playoff games averaging 28.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 6.9 assists shooting 49 percent from the field.
Postseason Player Efficiency Rating
I believe in sabermetrics. Sue me.
PER is my favorite as it strives to measure a player’s per-minute performance, while adjusting for pace. A league-average PER is always 15.00, which permits comparisons of player performance across seasons.
PER takes into account accomplishments, such as field goals, free throws, 3-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals, and negative results, such as missed shots, turnovers and personal fouls. The formula adds positive stats and subtracts negative ones through a statistical point value system. The rating for each player is then adjusted to a per-minute basis so that, for example, substitutes can be compared with starters in playing time debates. It is also adjusted for the team’s pace. In the end, one number sums up the players’ statistical accomplishments.
Jordan’s postseason Player Efficiency Rating was 28.6. Kobe’s postseason Player Efficiency Rating was 22.4. LeBron’s postseason Player Efficiency Rating is 28.2.
This measures an individual player’s efficiency at producing points for the offense. Points can be produced through field goals, free throws, assists, and offensive rebounds. Individual possessions are the sum of a player’s scoring possessions (field goals, free throws, plus partial credit for assists), missed field goals and free throws that the defense rebounds, and turnovers.
When Jordan was on the floor during the playoffs, his teams scored 118 points per 100 possessions. Kobe’s team’s scored 110 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor. LeBron’s teams have scored 116 points per 100 possesions when he was on the floor.
This measures an individual player’s efficiency at preventing the other team from scoring points. It is the expected amount of points that an individual player will allow on defense over 100 possessions. This stat can’t be significantly influenced by the defense of a player’s teammates.
Jordan’s teams surrendered 104 points per 100 possessions, per Basketball Reference. Kobe’s teams surrendered 106 points per 100 possesions. LeBron’s teams surrender 102 points per 100 possessions.
Win Shares is a player statistic which attempts to divvy up credit for team success to the individuals on the team. It’s calculated using player, team and league-wide statistics and the sum of player win shares on a given team will be roughly equal to that team’s win total for the season. Negative Win Shares would mean a player was so poor that he essentially took away wins that his teammates had generated.
Michael Jordan playoff winshares is 39.6. Kobe Bryant’s is 28.3. LeBron James is 48.4.
Value Over Replacement Player
VORP demonstrates a player’s contribution to their team, as compared to an imaginary “replacement player.” A replacement player is categorized as a less than average offensive and defensive player. VORP is used to gauge a player’s importance to his team, because it uses actual stats, and not projected or assumed stats.
The replacement player is assumed to be below average because it is assumed that the team would try to replace the player at a minimal cost, which is also called “freely available talent.” In general, a replacement player is assumed to reach 80% of the league average in any statistical category.
Michael Jordan’s playoff VORP is 22.9. Kobe Bryant’s is 13.99. LeBron James’ is 31.1.
Scouting The Kang in 2018
After the Game 2 performance against the Raptors, LeBron credited current Raptors head coach, but former Mavericks assistant coach Dwayne Casey for what the latter inspired LeBron to do following the 2011 finals:
I wasn’t that good of a player… I wasn’t a complete basketball player. Dwane Casey drew up a gameplan to take away things I was good at and make me do things I wasn’t very good at. He’s part of the reason why I am who I am today.
The scouting report on LeBron today? Sean Woodley from Raptors Blog gives it to us.
LeBron defies schemes. Stay disciplined and leave his primary defender on a island, while staying in the shirts of the shooters around him, and he’ll hit seven spine-shattering jumpers in a half. Give in to the temptation to help, and you give the greatest passer in a generation a target to hit with dead-on precision.”
Whether he’s pressed into it or just doesn’t feel like expending the energy to power his way to the rim, he can turn Lance Stephenson shot quality into Larry Bird results. Gargantuan minutes totals don’t slow him down. Nothing outside of a match-up proof, anomalous super team does.