It’s about time LeBron James won an NBA championship.
Even while the anti-Miami Heat sentiments were at their all-time high, the fact that arguably the best player in the NBA still had not won a ring before Thursday felt wrong and out of place, and the corny “I have as many rings as LeBron does!” jokes were getting old and cliché.
Fans and analysts are always comparing James to the NBA’s greatest players, but since James only has one title, I feel he has a ways to go before he joins the highest tier of elites who refuse to settle for winning just one championship.
To safely put him in the conversation, he needs at least two more titles.
Although the sports world may have forgiven him for it, “The Decision” still hurts his legacy. Teaming up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh has to be brought up. It’s a standard Kobe Bryant regularly got criticized for when he played with Shaquille O’Neal en route to his first three championships. Although Bryant wasn’t the leader of that team, he still had nearly as valuable of a contribution as O’Neal.
Also, the Heat’s composition of the “Big Three” through free agency is unheard of compared to how other great teams were formed.
There’s still more questions for James aside from how many more rings he can win. Now that he has a clutch postseason mentality, can he keep it going for years to come? Is his jumper now consistent, and can he still play fundamentally sound when he passes his athletic prime? The greats are judged by how they perform in the twilights of their careers a stage Bryant is currently going through.
So where does James stand in the mighty list of legends, you may ask? For now, I believe he is just one class below the greats, in the same tier as Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain. Both were fellow stat-padding pioneers whom reached the same accolades, but Chamberlain relied on Hall-of Famers Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Gail Goodrich to win just his second championship with the Lakers. Robertson did the same with Abdul-Jabbar in Milwaukee for his only championship.
It’s really not a shabby group of players to be cast with at this stage of LeBron’s career.
Don’t get me wrong, after Game 5 on Thursday, James has solidified himself as one of the top-ten players to ever pick up a basketball.
Championships aren’t the sole measure of greatness (which explains why Robert Horry isn’t close to being elite despite winning seven), but having led a team to several of them defines a legend with little dispute.
There’s no doubt LeBron will eventually get there, but to call him as one of, if not, the greatest of all-time right now is premature. Let’s keep watching and let the rest of his career unfold.
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