LeBron James Is Still Building His Legacy

David DeRyderCorrespondent IFebruary 16, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 29:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on during a game against the Chicago Bulls at American Airlines Arena on January 29, 2012 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

With all due respect to Jeremy Lin, LeBron James is still the most fascinating player in the NBA. This season offers a plethora of storylines, but LeBron stands front and center. The NBA has never seen a player like a him. As long as we're talking about the regular season, he is the king.

While he is putting up his greatest statistical season, his past postseason failures hang over everything. LeBron has exceeded the hype preceding his entrance to the NBA in every way except the one that matters most: titles. His no show in last year's Finals only makes his pursuit of his first ring more compelling. If one judges by championships, he is a dramatic underachiever.

I have been critical of LeBron since he left Cleveland. I couldn't understand why the best player in the game would "take the easy way out" by teaming up with two elite players. I couldn't understand why someone so talented would shrink during crunch time.

In the midst of thinking about his performance in the Finals, it hit me. Losing to Dallas was the best thing that could have happened to him. I know, it sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Aside from unceremoniously leaving Cleveland, James was criticized for "The Decision" for joining forces with his supposed rivals. Plenty of commentators predicted unparalleled success for the Heat's dream team. His preseason proclamation of multiple championships didn't seem unrealistic.

Then the 2011 Finals happened.

The Heat's flaws were on full display. They sacrificed depth for star power. They learned that three elite players do not guarantee a championship.

Miami entered this season as the favorite, but no one could argue that they were that superior compared to the other elite teams. In other words, for the Heat to win the championship, LeBron will have to continue producing at phenomenal levels.

By losing to Dallas, Miami proved that there is no easy way to win a little. Yes, LeBron was naive to believe there was. Regardless, it is clear that if Miami wins it all he will need to have a large role.

Barring injury, LeBron James has a long career ahead of him. However, unlike last summer, it seems that if he wins multiple championships it won't be the result of taking a shortcut.