LeBron James Needs Another Title in 2013 to Be Considered One of All-Time Greats
Think it will be enough to soothe the withered souls of his critics? If you think that it would, then you obviously haven't watched much basketball over the past two years.
LeBron has been the best player in the league for the past three years, yet it has meant little to nothing to the masses who feel the need to scrutinize every move James makes. Not even playing on the Cleveland Cavaliers for seven years could give him a free pass for not winning a title, despite his most elite teammates being a 34-year-old Antawn Jamison, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mo Williams.
Because all of those players are extremely relevant today. The Cavaliers proved just how formidable of a team they were once James left the team, going 19-63 and suffering an NBA-record 26 consecutive losses.
Winning the championship and Finals MVP in 2012 was a start. James looked like a completely different player from the one who was shying away from the spotlight in 2011. He embraced the pressure-filled situation that surrounded him. Even when he only had a leg to stand on, James was still the one with five points in the final moments of Game 4.
James didn't score five points combined in every fourth quarter of the 2011 Finals, yet here he was in the 2012 Finals--converting a layup and draining a tie-breaking three-pointer in the waning moments of Game 4 to give the Heat the small cushion they needed. If you watched LeBron the year before, you would have no idea he was capable of this.
But he's always been capable of performing incredible feats. In fact, he's been doing it his whole career. Although nobody likes to bring it up because it didn't result in a championship, James legitimately put on some of the greatest postseason performances in the history of the game. His legendary effort against the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic are the first to come to mind.
It's not fair that we forget about this so easily, but it happens because we're programmed and hardwired to just remember the victor. You don't have time to recognize just what James was doing with a mediocre Cleveland roster for seven years, because we were so busy pinning the blame on the player who was the only reason they even got to that point.
Like they told you in history class, "History is always written by the winners".
And it wasn't until three months ago when James was finally able to write his story. What a story it was: James was incredible throughout the Finals averaging 28 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists per, while having to defend the league's top scorer for the past three seasons in Kevin Durant.
Durant got his shots, but he was no match for James' all-around skills as a scoring and passing facilitator. The league MVP had defeated the runner-up MVP with harassing defense, a developing post-game and making the big plays on both ends of the floor at the end of games to preserve victories.
Basically, it was the LeBron we've been waiting to see since 2003. We always knew he was perfectly well and capable of having series like that; we were just waiting for him to realize he was. Because as strong a player as he was physically, James had the tendency to over-think and become too unselfish in situations where his team needed him to score.
LeBron finally lived up to the occasion as a scorer in tough situations and he's now an NBA champion because of it. It's what we've all been waiting for. The narrative of wondering when James will finally win a title has to come an end and we're now reduced to talking about Dwight Howard trade rumors and who will be the team to beat the Heat.
Lord only knows how long the media would have stretched out the narrative of what the Heat could do to improve had they lost.
LeBron got to the point where he was doing everything just so nobody blamed him if the team did lose. Game 6 against Boston was proof-positive of it, as James recorded 45 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists in a blowout victory on the road to send the series tied at three games apiece back to Miami. You could say the same for his 40 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists in Game 4 against Indiana.
What else more is there to say about James? He's an incredible athlete and player, and winning the 2012 NBA Finals should give him the necessary confidence to open the floodgates for more titles and prestigious individual honors, as well as performing more consistently in late-game situations.
Just take a look at his recent game against Lithuania as an example. With his team struggling and James playing the role of passer, he decided that his team needed him as a scorer more than a passer. In the waning minutes, James had nine points, including several layups and a three-pointer to start the run that would eventually push the Americans to a 99-94 win.
Whether that will transition to the NBA, we'll see.
While many will say that because of his championship, James should be immediately vaulted to the realm of the all-time greats. Even before then it was disputed that LeBron's individual achievements alone garnered him the respect to be considered among the pantheon of the league's finest ballers. However, that couldn't be the case with the way James faltered in situations like the '11 Finals.
For reference here, we're going to say the all-time greats are the top 10.
Over the course of his career, LeBron has been nothing less than stunning. He has exceeded every heavy expectation that has been bestowed upon him since 2003 and has garnered more individual achievements than most NBA legends could ever wish for. Outside of winning a title, James practically did it all.
He's also become nearly unstoppable along the way. At 6'8", 270-pounds, James is a point guard in a small forward's body, who can facilitate and play the role of floor general better than a large majority of the league's point guards. With his unmatched strength and athleticism, James is constantly drawing the attention of multiple defenders.
Now equipped with a post game, James is only going to become even more of a load to handle.
But one of the all-time best after one championship? It's going to take more than that for James to be considered one of the greatest of all time.
Is it because I'm sort of tremendous LeBron hater? Not at all. LeBron James isn't one of the all-time greats because he's LeBron James and has the potential to do far more than just win one championship with this Miami Heat team.
For any legend that hasn't won one or more titles, they have a legitimate excuse as to why they didn't win more. Karl Malone, John Stockton, Clyde Drexler, Shawn Kemp, Charles Barkley and Gary Payton can all blame Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain can blame the Boston Celtics. James had a similar excuse playing with Cleveland, but he has none with the Heat.
The Miami Heat weren't even at full-strength last year and pulled out a championship in only five games. Now that they have Ray Allen locked up for three years, they'll have absolutely no excuses for not winning at least two titles in that span. If LeBron James can lead a team to a title, while Wade and Bosh are ailing mind you, then he should be able to do the same in the future.
If you noticed, I'm not referencing that "Not one, not two..." speech, either. That's only used by critics who want any excuse not to give James credit for winning anything less than seven championships. Why indict the guy because he gave his new fans a reason to be excited about their new-look sports team?
In Miami, we don't get much fun in the sporting world.
This is exactly where the problem with LeBron lies. There is so much expected out of him that it's going to take an unreasonable amount of hardware to convince us that he's one of the best to play the game. The things we have seen him do and the numbers he has put up have convinced us he's far better than just one title.
And, as I said before, he has no excuse not to win more titles. His game alone puts himself among the all-time greats, but his overall career has yet to. Nor should it; he turns 28 years old in December and has only played nine years. Perhaps we should allow him to get through more prime years of his career before we start making claims on whether or not a 27-year-old should be considered one of the best.
That alone is a testament to just how excellent of a player James is. The fact that a 27-year-old with one championship to his name can draw constant comparisons to the likes of Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Those types of comparisons aren't just given to any players; it's reserved for the most promising and gifted athletes.
By the end of his career, LeBron James will be one of the 10 best to play this game. With the type of roster he has surrounding him and the new-found confidence of winning a title, James should easily finish his career with at least three championships, and possibly a few more MVP's, to his name.
We spend too much time debating over the career of the world's best player. He still has so many years in front of him, so instead of wondering how close James is to the peak of greatness, we should just sit back, take in and appreciate the greatest player of our generation.
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