Much has been made of the inability of LeBron James to show up in clutch moments and win his first ring. However, the idea that James needs that ring to get into the Hall of Fame some day is absolutely ludicrous.
The 27-year-old small forward is one of the most complete players in the history of the game and is very likely going to win his third MVP within the next few weeks. Not only does he not need to win a ring, but he could even retire right now and still be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Before I go on, let me clarify myself in relation to this player. I am in no way a fan of LeBron James. In fact, I’ve been very critical of him, even before The Decision. I think he has shrunk in the big moments of big games and that he hasn’t been the type of leader that a championship team requires. I am not a LeBron-homer.
What I am is a rational NBA fan who knows a great player when he is sees one. You can say all you want about how the “clutch gene” should factor into a player’s greatness and how James is severely lacking in that department. You’d probably be right on both of those points.
However, the ridiculous lead that James has in all the other categories that make up a good player makes up for his lacking in that area.
The idea that James wouldn’t get into the Hall of Fame right now just for that reason is a product of being a hater of LeBron James. Reggie Miller was just inducted into the Hall of Fame. If Miller is now in the HOF, what case on Earth could a person make for not letting James in? This comparison is appropriate considering that Miller, like James so far, never won an NBA title.
James is arguably the most physically dominant athlete in the NBA’s history. The only reason it is even arguable is because of Wilt Chamberlain. At 7’1” and with the type of speed and coordination he had, Chamberlain is the only player in NBA history that anyone could make the case was a better physical specimen than James.
Dwyane Wade’s teammate is 6’8” tall and weighs 250 pounds. He is lean, yet all muscle, and combines blazing speed with incredible leaping ability. Those attributes make him one of the best, if not the best, defenders in the game today and possibly of all time. He can guard literally every position on the floor and is a nightmare to have to score against.
Remarkably, James’ defense is the smaller part of his game. The former Cleveland Cavalier can score (27 points per game this season), can pass (6.2 assists per game this season), can rebound (7.9 rebounds per game this season), and has become incredibly efficient (shooting 53 percent this season). He is the best-rounded player in the game today and deserves to be among the historical greats in that area as well.
No player affects a game more than James does, and few have in the history of the NBA. If James wins his third MVP this season as is expected, he will join an elite club. The only players to win the award that many times are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who won six MVPs; Bill Russell and Michael Jordan who won five MVPs each; Wilt Chamberlain who won four MVPs; and Moses Malone, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson who each won three MVPs.
Still think that James hasn’t earn HOF honors? That’s alright. James, now that he’s paired with Wade and is only 27, still has a great chance to win that ring that so many require of him.
The point, though, is that it is something we should not require of him. He has done plenty already to be counted among the NBA’s greatest, has done more than most HOFers, and isn’t done padding his resume yet.