LeBron James and Final Step He Must Take to Fix His Image, Establish His Legacy

Peter EmerickSenior Writer IIDecember 15, 2012

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 12:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on during a game against the Golden State Warriors at American Airlines Arena on December 12, 2012 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

LeBron James still has a long way to go before he's considered the greatest NBA player of all time.

Sure, he has his first NBA title, his three NBA MVPs and a plethora of other NBA honors that most players never even come close to obtaining.

When you compare him to other legends of the game, like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it's clear that he still has some work to do.

Michael Jordan—Six-time NBA champion, Six-time NBA Finals MVP, Five-time NBA MVP, 14-time NBA All-Star, 10-time NBA scoring champion, 10-time All-NBA First Team, Nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team, Two-time NBA Slam Dunk champion.

Kobe Bryant—Five-time NBA champion, Two-time NBA Finals MVP, 2008 NBA MVP, 14-time NBA All-Star, Two-time NBA scoring champion, 10-time All-NBA First Team, Nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team, 1997 NBA Slam Dunk champion

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—Six-time NBA champion, Six-time NBA MVP, 19-time NBA All-Star, 10-time All-NBA First Team, Two-time NBA scoring champion and five-time NBA All-Defensive First Team.

LeBron James—2012 NBA champion, 2012 NBA Finals MVP, Three-time NBA MVP, Eight-time NBA All-Star, 2008 NBA scoring champion, Six-time All-NBA First Team, Four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team. 

While statistically speaking LeBron has a few more titles to win and two or three more MVPs to grab before he's considered the elite of the elite, there's one thing that he absolutely must do before his NBA career ends.

That one thing is to enter, and win, an NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest.

In the grander scheme of all things NBA, that certainly sounds quite trivial.

Participating in one of the most exciting and electrifying events in NBA All-Star weekend, however, is one of the final steps LeBron can take to first fix his image in the public's eyes—which would go a long way in enhancing his incredible legacy.

We all know the damage LeBron did to his image and reputation when he decided that the world wanted to wait in anticipation of a decision that would impact not only his career but the directions of a few NBA franchises.

LeBron damaged his reputation, and he only has himself to blame for that.

He's taken steps in the past few years to work his way back into the favor of many NBA fans, as evidenced by his jersey being the No. 1 seller this season—as reported by ESPN.com.

LeBron absolutely has to take part in a dunk contest, though, if he wants to truly return to being a player loved by the majority of NBA fans, as a little-known guy named Michael Jordan was.

The NBA Slam Dunk Contests have been decreasing in fan popularity as of late.

From Chase Budinger's lame push-off dunk over Sean "P-Diddy" Combs, to Jeremy Evans' ridiculously bad reverse throwdown with a web cam attached to his head, to Derrick Williams' windmill over a motorcycle, the dunk contest has gotten away from what it needs to be.

It needs to be a moment where fans watch their favorite NBA players, not Chase Budinger, Jeremy Evans or Derrick Williams, take part in an event that the league is known for.

No, this isn't about LeBron getting into an NBA Slam Dunk Contest just for the sake of proving that he can throw down some of the nastiest dunks in the game's history.

Him entering the 2013 or even 2014 NBA Slam Dunk Contest is about him making a statement to the elite of the elite currently in the NBA regarding the importance of sacrificing their time and efforts for the fans they play the game for.

LeBron needs to take a stand where his fellow NBA All-Stars won't, and give the game back to the fans who buy tickets to their games, buy their jerseys and spend their hard-earned money to follow and support.

Taking part in a dunk contest is also one thing that both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have done that LeBron hasn't. If LeBron wants his critics to have no fuel for their fire, he needs to do everything in his power to enhance his legacy, and a dunk contest is absolutely one of those things.

It's time for LeBron to step up and prove that he's a "fan's player." If he doesn't do this, his legacy will be tarnished, as will his reputation in the eyes of the most important people in the NBA world—the fans.

The ball is in your court, LeBron.