Pressure on LeBron in Pursuit of Jordan

LeBron James would take a serious stride towards joining Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all-time by guiding the Los Angeles Lakers to their 17th NBA championship.

A decade has passed since the Lakers reached the summit of the league when the late Kobe Bryant operated at the peak of his powers to topple the Boston Celtics. It would be a fitting tribute to Bryant for LeBron to lead a charge to the NBA Finals, where he could pull within one ring of Kobe and two with Jordan.

Frank Vogel's men are in a prime position in the Western Conference and are the leading contenders in the NBA betting odds to lift the crown at +230. There is an element of pressure, but the 35-year-old has been a model of consistency over the last 10 years.

Before the last term, LeBron had reached the NBA Finals in eight-straight seasons. The disappointment in his first campaign with the Lakers was a humbling experience, although there was not a great deal of talent to work with on the roster.

The trade for Anthony Davis provided LeBron with an outstanding foil to ease the pressure on the forward at both ends of the court. When LeBron has performed at his best, he has always had a team-mate of a similar ilk — whether it be Dwyane Wade or Kyrie Irving — to share the burden, resulting in the ultimate success. Davis had been starved of success with the New Orleans Pelicans, although he was the focal point and main man in the Bayou.

The 27-year-old has had no issues allowing LeBron to remain center stage, and it might even be the best thing for him down the stretch and into the postseason. LeBron has been a proven playoff performer, reaching his peak in 2016 by downing the 73-win Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Davis only has 13 games of playoff experience and will need guidance, especially in the latter stages of the postseason, to maintain his composure.

Even elite players have struggled under the spotlight of the playoffs, with this being magnified when the team is a leading contender such as the Lakers. The relationship between LeBron and Davis will be more important than ever. They have delivered on expectations as a fearsome tandem thus far into the season, but the greatest challenge of rising to the top of the league awaits.

There's no Warriors team to face this time around as they sit bottom of the pile. The Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, and even the Utah Jazz could cause problems. However, pundits and players alike are anticipating the duel between LeBron, Davis, and the Lakers against the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals. It will be a battle of a rising star aiming to win his first crown in the form of Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron aiming to enhance his legacy.

Defeating a team of the Bucks' caliber would add further kudos to LeBron's stature. Winning his fourth ring would cement his legacy and close the gap on Jordan. The question is at the age of 35, whether he would have enough time left at the peak of his game to chase down a further two titles to match the Chicago Bulls great?

Winning this season is imperative as the window will not remain open forever. The Warriors will be rebuilding, while the Jazz and the Nuggets are seemingly teams on the rise. The Clippers could be a fearsome foe to topple their dominance of the market in Los Angeles. Getting the edge on them this season is vital to the short-term and long-term future of the franchise and LeBron's status.

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