I, and the city of Cleveland, hoped this day would never come. But he's too good.
Winning an NBA title is really, really difficult. Just ask Dominique Wilkins, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, Karl Malone and John Stockton. Or, for those of you from a slightly older generation, ask George Gervin.
There are certain players that, for one reason or another, just will not win a championship anytime soon. Either they themselves are fatally flawed or their agent led them astray when they signed on to their teams.
Similarly, there are certain teams that, for one reason or another, just will not win a championship anytime soon. Either they're fatally flawed or just have certain imperfections that will block their way in the playoffs.
On the other hand, some players are too good not to win a championship. LeBron silenced all his critics by leading the Miami Heat to a dominating five-game series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals.
Like LeBron, Chris Paul and Kevin Love are both excellent players. After getting a taste of gold this summer in London, they will both be hungry for a championship. While a change of scenery will be required for this, I envision both of them finding greener pastures and a championship on a new team.
Obviously, basketball is a team sport, but the nature of the game is that one great player can take over and exert his will on the opposition. There are only five guys on the court at one time, and truly elite players rise to the occasion in the playoffs. There are no excuses.
All the players on this list have a concrete flaw that will prevent them from ever winning an NBA championship. Either they are already too old, or too injury-prone or just have personal flaws that will doom them and their teams in postseason play.
So with that, I've peered into my crystal ball to give you this list of 10 NBA All-Stars who will never attain a championship.
'This is just as good as an NBA title. Right, LeBron?'
Carmelo Anthony is a very, very talented player. He's one of the best pure scorers in the NBA. He even showed late last season that he can play defense.
James Dolan has given Melo the keys to the Knicks and put him squarely in the driver's seat. His chance at a championship is now. But he won't be able to convert.
The Knicks were far from perfect last year, and injuries to Jeremy Lin, Iman Shumpert, Baron Davis and Amar'e Stoudemire doomed them in the first round. Also, the Miami Heat are really good.
Melo was downright awful in Game 1 (3-of-15, 11 points, four turnovers) and Game 3 (7-of-23 shooting, 22 points, five turnovers) against Miami in the playoffs. And this was no fluke. While Miami coach Erik Spoelstra designed a defense to front Anthony, deny him the ball and keep him far from the hoop, Melo's playoff futility is nothing new.
Aside from 2009 when the Denver Nuggets went to the Western Conference finals, Anthony's teams are a combined 7-32 in the playoffs. That's a horrible record for a player who carries himself like a superstar.
Even with a drastically improved Knicks roster for 2012-13, it seems like a long shot that Anthony will bring a title to New York. And the clock is ticking for the 28-year-old, who is entering his 10th NBA season.
'Los Angeles, we have a problem.'
Steve Nash is no stranger to adversity. He was born in South Africa, where violent crime and murder are rampant. Then his family moved to Saskatchewan, where he grew up playing soccer and ice hockey.
The NBA should never have heard of Steve Nash. Instead, he won two MVP awards. Unfortunately for him, he played for the Phoenix Suns for 10 seasons.
Now, he's made the move to Los Angeles, and—like so many other aspirants who move to LA with the hope of attaining their long-held dreams—he will be drastically disappointed.
Nash is 38 years old. He'll be playing with a great shooting guard in Kobe Bryant (who will turn 34 in August), a great center in Dwight Howard (who just had back surgery) and one of the NBA's finest "finesse" power forwards in Pau Gasol (up 3-1 on Denver, Gasol put up nine points on 4-of-11 shooting, followed by three points on 1-of-10 shooting with just three boards as the Nuggets tied the series).
Sadly, referees no longer allow hand checking and pushing off defenders as they did in Michael Jordan's day. Also, back issues are not kind to NBA big men, and "finesse" too often translates to "wussy" in the playoffs.
Expect two or three seasons of second- and third-round exits for the Lakers before Nash retires ringless.
'Get me OUT OF HERE!'
Dwight Howard played for eight seasons in Orlando. And he hated it. They only made the playoffs in each of the past six seasons and averaged a winning percentage of 65.4 percent in five seasons under Stan Van Gundy.
Ugh. What a trial!
Now he's in LA with two other aging superstars. And he hates it (probably). He wanted to go to Brooklyn with his friends (via ESPN.com). Life is so not fair.
I can't decide whether the bigger problem will be Dwight's aching back (which was operated on in April), or Dwight's pain in the neck of the Lakers coaches and front office (you may recall that he's playing on the last year of an expiring contract).
His surgeon is "very optimistic" that he will play in the 2012-13 season (via Sporting News). If and when he returns, look for opponents to continue to hack-a-Dwight and test out his balky back. "Superman" shot a villainous 49.1 percent from the charity stripe last season.
Regardless, the Lakers won't be winning a championship anytime soon, and neither will Howard.
'The ball fouled me! C'mon ref!'
Blake Griffin is the Adam Dunn of the NBA. Every now and then, he wows the crowd with a spectacular score that few players are capable of.
But most of the time, he just strikes out.
Griffin is known for jumping over cheap, Korean-made cars, and also making some really excellent dunks and showboating about them. Apparently, for some reason, other players don't like that.
Some, like Lakers coach Mike Brown, even think that these throwdowns are offensive fouls (h/t ESPN Los Angeles). So how do Griffin's opponents respond? They foul him. Hard.
At some point, NBA coaches noticed that Griffin is worse at free-throw shooting than most high school benchwarmers. Last season, he averaged 52.1 percent from the line. So it seems like hack-a-Blake is a pretty sensible strategy.
So what does Griffin think of all these hard fouls and missed free throws? As he told the Orange County Register:
I’m definitely sick of taking hard hits...I’m sick of it, but it’s going to keep on happening...It’s affected me this year a lot, especially with the referees. I’m just getting frustrated and getting my self in trouble with officials...I’m sure if I was shooting better from the free-throw line, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. It probably could eliminate some of them, so I guess it’s kind of my own fault in a sense.
Yes, Blake, it is your own fault. Welcome to the NBA. Grow up. Stop complaining and getting technical fouls. Stop concentrating on highlight-reel dunks and practice your free-throw shooting.
Did I mention that Adam Dunn has 401 career home runs, 1,985 strikeouts and has never played in the postseason?
Ladies and gentlemen, your Brooklyn Nets.
Deron Williams wasn't exactly happy to be a New Jersey Net.
He was traded from the Utah Jazz towards the end of the 2010-11 season. The Nets finished 24-58. Then they failed to land any significant free agents in the offseason.
In the 2011-12 season, the Nets were stinking up the state of New Jersey again. Williams told Yahoo! Sports, "I want to win. At the end of the day, I’m not getting any younger."
The Nets finished their run in the Garden State by going 22-44, a slight improvement from their horrible record the previous year. Williams opted for free agency and didn't exactly sound like he held much affinity for the Nets: “I didn’t ask to be here. I got traded. I didn’t come here being a free agent. This is the first time that I’m a free agent in my career.”
Then, he re-signed with the Nets, and now he's thrilled to be back with the team.
According to Newsday, when the Nets acquired Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks, Williams felt that it "got me over the hump." I guess that hump was the island of Manhattan, because he'll now be playing for the Nets in Brooklyn on a five-year deal.
This doesn't exactly sound like a player who will do anything to help his team win. He sounds more like a selfish player who cares primarily about me me me. Hopefully, everything goes his way.
Considering that Joe Johnson is a thoroughly underwhelming postseason player whom the Hawks practically FedEx'd out of town, and the roster is exactly the same from last season's 22-44 team aside from Johnson (although I'm sure Brook Lopez will manage to play more than five games this season), the Nets have a humongous mountain to climb to even sniff the NBA Finals.
The East also boasts talented squads in the Pacers, Knicks, Bulls and Celtics. Oh, and the defending champion Miami Heat. It could be a long five years of wanting to win in Brooklyn for Deron Williams.
'Tough luck, but you shouldn't have shot 37 percent from the field.'
You can read all about my skepticism of Joe Johnson's lack of clutch ability in the postseason here. There's a reason they call him "No Show Joe" in Atlanta. And they'll be calling him "Ringless Joe" in Brooklyn.
The Hawks were delighted to ship Johnson off to the Nets, along with the four years and $89 million remaining on his contract. In exchange, they happily selected some bric-a-brac from the Nets' sidewalk sale as the Nets moved to Brooklyn. The six-time All-Star netted Atlanta four expiring contracts and two draft picks (per The Star-Ledger).
The 31-year-old Johnson joins a very talented point guard in Deron Williams, and some other guys the Nets didn't particularly want to keep.
They gave over $15 million a year to Brook Lopez, a center who can't rebound and sustained multiple injuries to his feet last season, which limited him to just five games. The Nets also gave up a lottery pick and $10 million a year for the services of 30-year-old Gerald Wallace, a forward who can't rebound.
Consequently, after failing to land the big fish of the offseason in Dwight Howard, the Nets have saddled themselves with a host of large contracts for some questionable players, leaving them practically no cap room for the foreseeable future.
This should be a fun cast of characters to watch struggle through an increasingly talented Eastern Conference for the next four years. By that time, Joe Johnson should be ready to retire, ringless.
Thus ends the Bulls' 2011-12 season. And 2012-13. And Rose's career.
Derrick Rose won the 2010-11 NBA MVP. Then he led the Chicago Bulls to the best record in the Eastern Conference. Then he guided them to a 99-87 lead over the Sixers with less than two minutes left in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs.
Then he tore his ACL and Bulls lost four of their next five games.
Then the Bulls lost Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson in the 2012 offseason.
Rose is expected to come back for the Bulls sometime between the middle of January and the start of the 2013-14 season (via Sporting News).
No word yet on whether he has considered changing his Jeremy Lin-esque style of play so he doesn't end up flat on the court every time he drives the lane.
Until he refines his masochistic style of running the point that is jeopardizing his career, and until the Bulls decide to actually sign some other players who are worth their contracts, Rose's shot at a title look very slim.
'This is just like being on the Grizzlies...'
Marc Gasol is a 7'1", 270-pound grizzly bear. He's a force in the paint for Memphis and he brings a wealth of experience from his days playing in Spain since the tender age of 19.
Gasol will turn 28 next season, and as age increases, waistlines expand. Marc may be battling his glandular body clock in pursuit of a title. There's also always the danger of Gasol and chubby teammate Zach Randolph developing a postgame ritual of "fourth meal" at Taco Bell.
And even in his physical prime, he's battled inconsistency in big situations.
In the playoffs, Memphis dropped a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Clippers in the first round last season. Gasol went through a lackluster stretch in Games 2, 3 and 4, averaging just nine points per game. Suddenly, the Grizz were in a three-games-to-one hole that they couldn't climb out of.
Between his age, inconsistency and love of burritos, Marc Gasol is doomed to remain title-less. Maybe Pau will let him borrow his rings for a special occasion.
At least the Nuggets will have one person playing defense next season.
Andre Iguodala led the Philadelphia 76ers to a a gritty seven-game series against the Celtics in last year's playoffs. It was a tough second-round exit for the Sixers, and an amazing run considering the team's scoring leader was a point guard who didn't start a single game.
Now, in the car crash that was the seemingly unending Dwight Howard trade talks, Iguodala was thrown clear of Philly and landed in Denver.
The Nuggets have a nice little squad shaping up for next season, but unfortunately for Iguodala, no one ever succeeds in Denver.
Just ask Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony or Dikembe Mutombo. Or Kiki Vandeweghe or LaPhonso Ellis. Or Mike D'Antoni, or Dick Motta or Paul Westhead.
I'm sensing that Nuggets fans are cringing right now. And who could blame them?
While the Nuggets sometimes enjoy a modicum of success, and they may be poised for a surprisingly deep playoff run this season, a championship is still very far from their grasp. Iguodala is only 28, but that leaves him with precious few prime years to grab a title.
Stoudemire has a promising career impersonating DMC from Run DMC.
Amar'e Stoudemire's nickname is STAT. It's an acronym which means "Standing Tall and Talented." You can read all about it in his children's books.
When STAT came to New York in 2010, he proudly proclaimed, "The Knicks are back" (per Yahoo! Sports). He seemed to be making good on his promise when he set a franchise record with nine consecutive 30-point games.
Then, eight years of running up and down the court in Mike D'Antoni's "seven-seconds-or-less" offense began to take their toll. Stoudemire had never exactly been an ironman, missing 27 games in 2003-04, all but three games in 2005-06 and 29 games in 2008-09.
But as 2010 turned to 2011, STAT began to show signs of wearing down. He was usurped by the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony, and further added to his woes by tweaking his back attempting a dunk during warmups for their second playoff game against the Celtics. The Knicks were swept in the series.
In the 2011-12 season, the 29-year-old Stoudemire looked more like a 49-year-old, displaying uninspired, "matador" defense and sluggish activity on offense, also failing to knock down his familiar jumpshot from the elbow.
He missed 13 games in March and April and returned just in time for the playoffs, which was just in time to lacerate his own hand by punching a fire extinguisher case after a loss in Game 2 to Miami.
I admire Stoudemire's heart and passion for the game, but he's not the brightest bulb in the box. This is the man who tweeted a gay slur on Gay Pride Day (via NY Daily News).
Between his age, his decaying physique and his penchant for unwisely timing his follies, STAT will never win a championship.