LeBron James has finally claimed his first championship.
After nine years in the league and some very immature decisions along the way, LeBron James, the man, won his first ring and the smile could not have been broader.
Where does this land all of the other ringless superstars?
Unbeknownst to the controversy surrounding LeBron and his empty hand after a couple of trips the NBA Finals, there are other superstars in the league yet to prove themselves at that level. Winning an NBA Championship ultimately rests on the shoulders of the team, but these men’s hourglasses have been flipped upside down.
From least pressure to most, here are the power rankings for the weight on each player to finally achieve a task that took LeBron two franchises to complete, and win their first NBA Championship.
Derrick Rose is heir to the Bulls’ throne, if only he can get the job done. You see his heart in the way he plays the game, but now that James has won his ring, the clock has started on Rose’s career for him to achieve the same.
Rose, not one to thrive in the spotlight, has just been heaved into a massive pack of wolves during a crucial time in his career. After injuring himself in the first game of the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, the Chicago Bulls were completely written off when they were just favorites to challenge the Heat coming out of the East.
Rose’s injury, as bad as it may sound, buys his career time to get to the NBA Finals and eventually win his first ring in the league.
It will take time for Rose to regain the confidence and strength of his game.
Fans of the league will accept that and give him ample time to recover, as well as give the franchise executives time to assemble a supporting cast with the best attributes to suit his game.
Now, teamed up with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and sporting a Los Angeles Clippers jersey, the pressure is on him to play at that level of excellence.
The first season has passed. It’s time for Paul to begin his journey to the NBA Finals while molding Griffin into the player that he needs him to be to adequately follow him down that path.
It’s no secret that Paul joined the Clippers and immediately became the head of the monster in that franchise.
With more experience, sculpted talent and basketball IQ than any other player on that team, Paul has become responsible for the aspirations of the organization. Whether it is fair or not, he is the face of how far the Clippers can go with the best point guard in the league.
Griffin will go as far as Paul takes him.
The pressure is on.
Last night, four players from the 2003 NBA Draft won a championship ring. Three of those players won their first and one man won his second. Three of those four players were selected with one of the top five picks in the 2003 NBA Draft.
LeBron James – No. 1 pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers
Dwyane Wade – No. 5 pick to the Miami Heat
The number two and three picks in the draft? Carmelo Anthony and Darko Milicic. Discounting how horrendous a draft choice Milicic was among the other four players, where are Carmelo’s championship aspirations in the melee?
How far is he from achieving the feat that plagued James for so many years? While the pressure on him had not been so strong up until this point, the fact that he is the only one in that group to remain ringless will be a driving factor throughout his career.
With his ability to score and even close out games with money shots, Anthony should be in a better position in the Eastern Conference than he sits today. Amare Stoudemire, as much as injuries seem to have curved his effect on a game, is still offensively capable of assistance.
Tyson Chandler, an amazing defender, has been incredibly influential on the creation of a defensive identity for the New York franchise.
With those two players, there is no reason why Anthony should be in EC purgatory.
He wanted to be the King of New York. A king must earn his throne. LeBron James did.
It's Carmelo's turn.
Dwight Howard has watched his franchise be reduced to a sideshow.
After making public each franchise that he would be comfortable residing in, he refused to sign a document waiving his Early Termination Option. Soon after, he signed and then rumors arose that he had stipulations. No more Stan Van Gundy.
What did Orlando do?
There is no more Stan Van Gundy and no more Otis Smith.
Even with how the franchise has placated Howard occasion after occasion, they sit in a place still worried about whether or not he will exercise his loyalty to the organization.
If Howard decides that his future is better being carried out with another team, the pressure for him to perform and win what he knew Orlando could not right now, is going to be insurmountable.
It may not mirror exactly what LeBron faced. However, it will be just as crushing to the perception of Howard’s personality and game if he fails. Had it not been for how he carried along the past two seasons, he may not have even had a fraction of the weight faces now.
Yet, now that he has claimed somewhat of a superiority to the Orlando franchise, fans will look to him to be everything his talent level and potential say he can be. Not to mention, he’s closely following in the footsteps of one of the greatest centers of all time in Shaquille O’Neal.
Time to put up or shut up.
After standing strong heading back to the visitor’s lockerroom in Miami, Kevin Durant collapsed into his mother’s arms, crying after a crushing defeat sent him home empty-handed. No one can blame him for the display of emotion.
Just the year before, Bosh was virtually inconsolable after the Heat lost the opportunity to win a championship after five years.
The general assumption is that Durant will come back with ferocity and an aggression that was missing for large chunks of the Finals. As LeBron was criticized previously in his career for not performing in the game’s entirety, Durant fell victim to disappearing throughout quarters 1-3 and only showing up in the fourth.
It became frighteningly apparent that this would not be enough against a team that refused to wilt.
Durant was too quickly named the best player in the world without having to adequately prove himself against someone in the running for the title as well. Although his youth could be counted as a fraction of why the moment seemed too big, it appeared as if Durant had broader holes in his game than expected.
In the 2012-13 NBA season, fans will predict the return of a much different Durant defensively as well as with a more alpha male personality. To be the greatest, he has to develop an entity of his game that forces the command of his team.
Plainly stated, he can’t disappear anymore.
To be great, you have to prove yourself against the greatest. It’s time for him to show proof of greatness.
Follow Joye Pruitt on Twitter @JoyetheWar