Predicting LeBron James’ future titles and NBA legacy

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How many championships will Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James finish his career with? Can he catch Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time?

James and the Lakers enter the NBA restart in Orlando, Florida, as one of the top title contenders, though this will be unlike any of James’ 13 previous postseason appearances.

The ESPN NBA forecast panel — which comprises writers, editors and analysts — made predictions and answered the big questions about what’s next as a 35-year-old James gets another chance to add to his legacy. Here are the results.

MORE: Debating what the NBA restart will mean for LeBron

Where will LeBron rank in the restart?

When a panel of six ESPN analysts predicted the top 50 players in the restart, James finished No. 1 ahead of Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo. More than 97% of our forecast panel believes James will be at least a top-five player in Orlando, though there’s not consensus belief that he will put up the undisputed best performance.

Results: Which is most true?

  • James will be the best player in Orlando: 24.4%

  • James will be a top-five player in Orlando: 73.2%

  • James will excel but not be a top-five player in Orlando: 2.4%

MORE: Expert picks for the major NBA awards

The Lakers winning a championship this year would be …

Getting through the playoffs in the bubble and capturing a title will present all kinds of challenges, especially considering the Lakers are without some key parts of their rotation. But a majority of our panel doesn’t think James winning his fourth ring in this environment would top an iconic Finals run like coming back from a 3-1 deficit to knock off the 73-win Golden State Warriors in 2016.


  • About as impressive as James’ previous titles: 63.4%

  • More impressive than James’ previous titles: 19.5%

  • Less impressive than James’ previous titles: 17.1%

MORE: The 13 most fascinating lineups to watch in Orlando

Fact or fiction: James will be the NBA’s best player heading into next season

In the preseason version of NBArank for 2019-20, our panel predicted James would be the third-best player this year (behind Antetokounmpo and Leonard). With Antetokounmpo only improving, James turning 36 in December and plenty of young players on the rise, most of our panel thinks James’ reign as the very best player in the league is ending.


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