Nothing has elevated Paul George’s name more than going up against the game’s highest-ranked royalty. The 23-year-old Indiana Pacers star isn't afraid of LeBron James—and it is catapulting him closer to the NBA’s elite superstar level.
If George leads the Pacers to a Game 7 win in the Eastern Conference’s finale on Monday, he will establish himself as the league’s newest nobility.
Beat the king in his house; wear his crown.
There have been plenty of NBA names, big and small, who have hoped for similar outcomes against James and the Heat. But George has been more than talk, hope or effort.
He's not fully stopping James, but he’s close to matching him and that says plenty. He doesn't need to be better than the game's greatest to be regarded as one of the best.
George is a challenging case for James and the Heat, and he could be the distinct antidote to the game's greatest player, the Heat superstar who otherwise looks able to steal annual Most Valuable Player awards and titles.
In the conference finals, George is averaging 21.5 points on 50 percent shooting, along with 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. James is averaging 28.5 points (51.6 percent), 7.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
But both have three wins.
George’s accolades obviously don’t yet reach James'—his Most Improved Player award from this season against James’ abundance of MVPs and at least one ring—but a win in Game 7 could arouse a trend out East.
Envision a Game 7 in which George goes for another high-scoring output while leading the Pacers to a win. A nation of NBA fans rooting against the heavily favored Heat would provide him a crown, even if it isn’t as laden in diamonds as James’.
And could you imagine if George brings the Pacers their first title since their ABA days of the early 1970s?
He’d explode into Reggie Miller territory.
But that’s still five wins away. For now, George needs just one more win, a masterpiece Game 7 in which he gets the better of the game’s best.
If George pulls that off, and especially in dramatic or convincing fashion, there’s no doubt he becomes regarded as one of the league’s elite superstars.