If you're a Miami Heat fan, the last thing you want to hear is your superstar saying that not winning the championship doesn't mean you failed. LeBron James said exactly that after the season ended on Thursday.
When asked by the SunSentinel if the season would be a failure if the team didn't win the championship, James said,
"The season won't be a failure. You put too much work into a season to automatically call it a failure, but it would be a disappointment."
James may be unfairly picked on at times, but statements like that warrant the the reputation he's earned—a great player, but not a winner.
Considered perhaps the most talented basketball player to ever put on a uniform, he's now in his ninth year, and still looking for his first ring.
You can say he was the team in Cleveland, but he disappeared more times than you would hope for a player with his ability.
He's often been accused of not wanting the ball in late-game situations, and while that's not always the case, he defers more than you would like.
The coming together of LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh was supposed to change that. It was about championships, as LeBron promised in their garish introductory celebration promising multiple rings. As the saying goes, "the ring is the thing."
If that's the case, why would he say before the first playoff game that losing is okay? I know he's not saying he wants to lose, but he's already anticipating failure.
It brings me back to something former Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella said the last week of the 2008 season when the Cubs led the National League with 97 wins and were a favorite to win it all.
I don't have the exact quote, but it goes something like this. "I don't want to hear this wasn't a successful season if we don't win the World Series?"
I remember I was livid hearing that because in my mind, he was expecting to lose and was already making excuses. He went even further when he admonished Mark DeRosa when the Cubs second baseman said before Game 2 against the LA Dodgers that it was a must-win after the Cubs dropped the first game at home in a best of five series.
I couldn't believe my ears. The player had a sense of urgency and wanted to win, while Piniella was thinking, "Don't worry about it, let's have another cocktail."
After the playoff debacle last year when Dallas cleaned Miami's clock and LeBron did a disappearing act, he put down his critics by saying he was rich, and they would go back to their pedestrian lives after a few days of gloating.
Could it be that he expects to lose again, and is setting everyone up for that possibility?
It's not what you would expect of a player who is supposedly so hungry for a championship.
Maybe that's why he aligned himself with Wade. In the same article, Wade said,
"If you don't win a championship, you had a failed year."
LeBron knows his shortcomings, and one of them is, while he's an amazing athlete, he doesn't have that killer gene, the one that separates the winners from the losers.
All of the greats think winning is the only thing. Only LeBron seems okay with the alternative.
BIll Russell is looked at as a winner because of all the championships his team won, and Wilt Chamberlain, while a better player, isn't, despite winning a couple titles.
It's not about the benjamins, it's about the rings.
Maybe he had too much too soon. He was the "Chosen One" while a junior in high school and on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
He has more money than he knows what to do with. You would think winning would be the only thing that mattered to him, but apparently it's not.
In his mind, it would be nice to win, but if Miami finishes second, third, or whatever, it's okay. Life goes on. He'll still be rich.
And he'll still be a loser.