By Ryan Mayer

The Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James face elimination tonight in Game 5 of the NBA Finals down 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors. If the Cavs were to lose that would drop James’ record in the NBA’s championship round to 2-5 in his career. That has led many to criticize James and debate his place on the list of the legends of the game. NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry, however, isn’t among that group of people.

The former Warriors guard appeared on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney show on Monday morning. When he was asked whether LeBron’s legacy would be tarnished by a loss in this year’s finals, Barry emphatically said no. You can listen to the full interview below.

“No, not really. Without him, do you think these teams would have been in the Finals the last six years? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. So because they don’t win, you put it on him? That’s ridiculous. Nobody wins it by themselves. I just don’t understand why people want to do that. LeBron is the best three to play in the game ever.”

That’s high praise from the Hall of Famer, yet Boston fans will probably take umbrage with that statement. After all, Larry Bird was a small forward and is LeBron really better than the Legend? Conveniently enough, LeBron is currently wrapping up his 13th year in the NBA, which equals the number of years Bird played. Let’s have a look at the stats side by side.

Bird: 24.3 PPG, 10 RPG, 6.3 APG, 49.6% FG, 37.6% 3PT, 3 MVP awards, 3-2 NBA Finals Record

James: 27.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.9 APG, 49.8% FG, 34% 3PT, 4 MVP awards, 2-4 NBA Finals Record (pending this series)

Bird has the advantage in rebounds, three point percentage, and the most important category: championships. LeBron has the edge in points per game, assists, field goal percentage (barely), and MVP awards. So, Celtics fans, you decide. Who’s better?

Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.

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