The Z REPORT

Lance Zierlein: I'm good with Lebron now

Lebron James deserves your respect. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

I’m not saying that I’m changing my mind, because I’m not. It’s just not going to happen. There is nothing that can be done that can pull me off of the “MJ is G.O.A.T.” argument. How can I come off of it when so much of it is based on Michael Jordan rather than Lebron James?

Every generation believes the brightest star of their generation was the best, but with Jordan we have the statistics, iconic games/plays, and 6-0 run in championship series that usually featured brutal battles in the Eastern Conference as a precursor. So I doubt that there is anything that could happen to make me believe that Jordan isn’t the greatest that ever lived in basketball.

However, I’m finished arguing against Lebron. And you should be too.

Flaws corrected

There have been times during his career when doubting Lebron was a very natural and viable thing to do.

The Decision: Look, he’s never going to completely live this one down. It was a huge. He made it that was a broadcast even. He decided not to stay with his “hometown team” and instead decided to join two other superstars to form an alliance to boost their chances of winning a title. I thought it was weak then and I think it’s weak now. However, after Kevin Durant did something similar, it almost took some of the heat off of Lebron by those of us who had held him in continued contempt for that new school move.

Passive in the Finals: Miami’s loss to Dallas was a tough one for his reputation because he had promised a multitude of titles ( not one….not two….not three….) when he came to Miami and then looked passive in crunch time way too often in the Heat’s loss to Dirk and the Mavs. Despite winning titles in Miami, I felt like Lebron really elevated his stature and all-time standing when he brought the Cavs back from a 3-1 deficit to the Warriors with 41 point games in consecutive elimination games (5 and 6) and a triple double in game 7. That was some big dog sh*t right there.

Has to have stars: First it was the Miami Superfriends and then it was “coming home” to join with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson. Once again, it felt like Lebron felt like he needed to have the most advantageous situation to win. But then a funny thing happened. Lebron lost Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas was a non-factor when healthy. The Cavs made their big in-season trades and hit reset with a younger cast of role players who failed to make a big difference.

Lebron scored 46 and in an elimination game against the Celtics in Game 6 and 35 in a win in Game 7. Thompson and J.R. Smith are just guys now and Lebron had to attack the basket and hang 51 on the Warriors to give his team a chance to win in Game 1. The game was as close to an iconic level Michael Jordan game as I’ve ever seen. In Game 2, he was already at 15 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the first half of what became a blowout loss. Lebron has proven that he is more than willing to take on ALL of the heavy lifting that goes with being an elite, all-time talent.

If you are part of #LebronHive or #TeamJordan, then good for you. I think Jordan is the greatest of all time, but it’s time to admit that Lebron James has overcome any and all of the obstacles that were in front of him (whether self made or not) on the road to all-time greatness. He has multiple titles. He’s pulled his team from the brink of elimination and won a title. He has elite statistical production that will eclipse Jordan’s and he is a dominant two-way player. Did I mention he’s incredibly durable and never gets in trouble off the court?

I’ll always take Jordan if you give me a choice, but I’m done making any arguments against Lebron James anymore. He’s proven everything he needs to in his career. If there are fans who end up seeing him as the all-time greatest, I can respect their argument much more now.

 

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Houston now focused on postseason

Altuve and Correa homer, Astros drop final regular-season game

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With no playoff impact at stake if the Astros won or lost the game, Houston took Sunday's final regular-season game as a chance to get their lineup a few more at-bats before shifting focus to Tuesday's first game of the post-season. Here is a quick recap of the game against the Rangers:

Final Score: Rangers 8, Astros 4.

Record: 29-31, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Wes Benjamin (2-1, 4.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chase De Jong (0-1, 14.73 ERA).

Houston's main bats get a final tune-up

Knowing they'd only have a couple of at-bats to work with, some of Houston's big bats took advantage, starting with Jose Altuve. He crushed a pitch in the top of the first, a solo homer to put the Astros in front 1-0. After the Rangers tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the second, Altuve started the third with a walk before moving to third base on a Michael Brantley single, which improved Brantley's season average to .300.

Aledmys Diaz would pick up the RBI on a groundout to score Altuve, putting Houston back in front 2-1. In Correa's last at-bat in the top of the fourth, he extended the lead to 3-1 with a solo home run of his own.

Rangers hand Astros a loss to end the regular season

After getting the early run against Chase De Jong, the Rangers would put together a big inning against him in the fourth. After two one-out singles, Rougned Odor would give Texas their first lead of the day on a three-run homer to make it 4-3.

De Jong would continue to struggle in the inning, getting just one more out while loading the bases, prompting a move to the bullpen to bring in Nivaldo Rodriguez to try and eat up more innings. The Rangers greeted him with a two-RBI single to extend their lead to 6-3 before ending the fourth. Odor would hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, a solo shot to make it a four-run lead at 7-3.

Rodriguez allowed another run in the bottom of the seventh, making it 8-3. Diaz, who drove in a run earlier, would account for another RBI in the top of the eighth, getting Houston's third solo homer of the day. That would make it an 8-4 game, which would go final as the Rangers would win the regular season's last game.

Up Next: Houston's first game of the playoffs will be on Tuesday, with the start time and opponent TBD while the rest of today's games wrap up, and the schedule is announced. Regardless, the Astros are expected to begin that best-of-three series with Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

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