Forget about how many championships LeBron James has won with the Miami Heat. Don't worry about the MVPs he's racked up over the years and cast the All-Star selections, All-NBA nods and All-Defensive honors aside.
LeBron is done worrying about his legacy, as reported by Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver and the NBC 6 Sports Twitter feed:
"I don't get involved in what people say about my legacy. I think it's actually kind of stupid." LeBron James— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) June 4, 2014
LeBron cont: "I play for my teammates. I play for out team, the city of Miami, my friends & family. I don't get involved with what people..— NBC 6 Sports (@NBC6Sports) June 4, 2014
The 2014 NBA Finals, a rematch against the San Antonio Spurs that would give James exclusive access to the Association's three-peat club, are drawing his sole attention.
Wait. Scratch that.
Apparently we aren't supposed to worry about the rematch aspect of this clash, nor should we be concerned with Miami's ability to three-peat, seeing as both of those factor into James' no-longer-important legacy.
In fact, there's no pressure at all, according to Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick:
LeBron says he puts no pressure on this Finals as it relates to legacy. "I don't really care what people say about me."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 4, 2014
I hate to call bull on the league's best player, but that's exactly what's about to happen. There's no way that he's suddenly stopped caring about what people think, seeing as he's spent his entire career trying to become one of the greatest players of all time while lobbying for support.
Remember the time that he decided he deserved more credit for his defensive efforts? Or how about all those times that he declared he wants to be the best of all time? And yes, I'm thinking about those dreaded Mount Rushmores of basketball.
"I want to be the best of all time. It's that simple," James told the Associated Press before the 2012-13 season, via ESPN.com news services.
One year later:
LeBron on motivation: "I wanna be the greatest of all time. It's that simple... I'm far away from it, but I see the light."— Israel Gutierrez (@IzzyESPN) September 30, 2013
And then we had the Rushmore talk, also via ESPN.com news services:
I'm going to be one of the top four that's ever played this game, for sure. And if they don't want me to have one of those top four spots, they'd better find another spot on that mountain. Somebody's gotta get bumped, but that's not for me to decide. That's for the architects.
This is an abrupt about-face, and it's one that we really shouldn't be okay with—not in any way, shape or form.
Additionally, it's not a question of semantics.
Sure, he's currently saying that he doesn't care what people think about his legacy. He's presumably ignoring the incessant and unavoidable conversations that compare him and Michael Jordan while staying away from any discussions about whether or not he's already cemented himself as one of the top 10 players of all time.
But what exactly does "best of all time" mean? What does it mean to be the "greatest of all time," even though that's only a slightly different distinction from the previous inquiry? How does one go about being "one of the top four" who have played basketball?
Last I checked, those are designations determined by people. There's no overriding entity that has the ultimate say in any G.O.A.T. discussions, nor is there a committee who helps decide a basketball player's standing in the annals of history.
It's all based on the consensus of the masses, which is one of the reasons there's so little agreement whenever a historical debate like this is brought up. A legacy is a free-flowing entity, one that constantly changes and is largely based on popular perception.
Maybe the manner in which his legacy is discussed is often nonsensical, but the conversations themselves are ingrained in the fabric of this sport. They're a quintessential part of what makes basketball so much fun, as well as part of the reason that he's able to earn such a large salary year in and year out.
I wish I could claim otherwise, but there's no single, all-encompassing metric that represents a player's legacy. The closest we have to that is the rings argument, which is inherently flawed in so many ways that it's impossible to list them here without going off on a serious tangent.
As Skolnick, who has access to LeBron on a daily basis, writes while discussing the four-time MVP's future with the Heat, "I'll be surprised because James cares about his legacy, a concern that probably boxes him into at least one more Miami season."
It's just commonly accepted that he cares, and that's an acceptance based on years of hearing LeBron—get this—explicitly make statements that have to do with his legacy.
Kudos to him for making the next four, five, six or seven games his singular focus, but let's be real here.
His legacy is just as important to him as it's always been.