According to Sports Illustrated, LeBron James is the best player in the NBA.
In SI’s annual top 100 rankings, which wrapped up on Friday, James came in at No. 1 ahead of Warriors forward Kevin Durant, Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard. Durant, Curry and Leonard finished second, third and fourth respectively. Rockets guard James Harden finished at No. 5 overall.
Here’s part of what SI’s Ben Golliver wrote about LeBron, who is atop SI’s list for the fifth straight year:
Slowly but surely, some minor cracks have developed in James’s seemingly impenetrable reputation as the NBA’s best player. He hasn’t won MVP honors or led the league in PER or Win Shares since 2013. He hasn’t earned an All-Defensive selection since 2014. He hasn’t captained the league’s top offense or played for the league’s winningest team since 2013. He “only” finished fourth in 2017 MVP voting, second in the league’s most recent ranking of jersey sales, and third in 2016 All-Star fan votes.
But James (26.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 8.7 APG) maintains the No. 1 spot on this list for the fifth straight year because he continues to consistently reach heights that no other current player—and virtually no other player from any era—can touch. Even after 14 seasons and 12 playoff runs, his peak play tops any of his contemporaries’ peaks, and he’s proven in each of the past three years that he can sustain that transcendent level of dominance throughout an entire postseason run and against superior opponents whose game plans are specifically geared toward exhausting him.
There will certainly be a time where James won’t be the league’s No. 1 player. Maybe it’ll be next year, when he’ll be 33 years old. And even though he’s slipped in small ways, he’s still incredible. When Cleveland has fallen short in two of the last three NBA Finals, it’s not because of James - it’s because the Warriors as an overall team outclass the Cavs. Even as Durant and Curry go off and do what they do, James is, at the very least, at their level. And he often surpasses them both.
As the Cavs look ahead towards this season, they’ll need James to the league’s best player again. In the regular season, because of Kyrie Irving’s exit and Isaiah Thomas’ hip, he may have to do more even if the Cavs rejigger their offense to better incorporate Kevin Love. And when/if the Cavs get to a fourth straight Finals and likely face the Warriors for a fourth straight time, they’ll need James to be the very best to have a chance.