Fact Or Fiction: Winning Championships Solidifies Legacies!

John C. Sease, Jr.Correspondent IJuly 7, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Kobe Bryant #24 holds the Larry O'Brien trophy as he rides on the top of a double decker bus at the start of the Los Angeles Lakers NBA championship victory parade outside the Staples Center on June 17, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Recently, I watched an interview of Kobe Bryant after the Lakers won their championship a few weeks ago.

When asked what motivates him for each season, he immediately responded..."Winning Championships...rings!"  Also, with the help of a little creative paraphrasing, he went on to state that every player's goal is to win championships and for the most part, their careers are defined by the number of championships won throughout their years of competition.

Well folks...let me be the first to go out on a limb and say that his thought process is not only ridiculous, but also a major lie!

I have always disagreed with the notion that an athlete's greatness within the confines of a team sport is by any means correlated with "team championships" based upon the following reasons:


Reason No. 1It's a team sport.

If you are willing to judge an athlete's legacy, then let it be judged by the accuracy of the sport in which they participated.  For instance, it is easy to judge the legacy of Carl Lewis, Tiger Woods, Pete Sampras, Serena or Venus Williams because their success is indeed defined by the number of titles won throughout their careers.

Therefore, placing the aforementioned athletes in the "hallowed halls of greatness" is warranted because their championships were all won with 100 percent of their sweat and hard work in an individual sport!

Conversely, when you are dependent upon other people to help you win a championship (i.e football, basketball, etc.), then you never win it alone...regardless of how talented you are in the sport. 

That being said, a superior athlete participating within the confines of a team sport does indeed have an impact on the team winning a championship, however, the athlete is hardly the sole reason for winning the title.


Reason No. 2:  The Lie.

The following is the biggest lie most frequently told by professional athletes: "The most important thing in my career is to win a championship."

It is a major lie simply because it has always been at best the No. 4 thing on every athlete's list when they first start their career.

Very few athletes come from college or high school with the thought of winning a championship as their top priority.  For the most part, their prioritized hierarchy is always comprised of the following:

1. Massive contract with a huge signing bonus.

2. Massive endorsement opportunities with shoe companies and corporate America.

3. Stratospheric fame that transcends their sport.

4. Winning a championship...if it happens!

The truth of the matter is that athletes in team sports only care about winning championships when they are "years" in to their careers after achieving the fame and fortune they were seeking prior to joining their respective leagues.  If they have never won a title after achieving fame and fortune, then they will chase the title.  For examples...see Karl Malone, Gary Peyton, Charles Barkley, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, etc.

If they have already won a title and also achieved fame and fortune, then the only thing left for them is to strive to win more titles.  For examples...Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, etc.

To further prove my point, look at the many athletes that have won championships and left the team because another team offered them a more lucrative contract in free agency.  If they were really dedicated to winning championships as they stated, then why wouldn't they remain with the their current team that has the greatest chance of winning the next year?  For examples, see Trevor Ariza and James Posey.

Regardless of what Kobe Bryant states, most athletes are seeking the fame and fortune first.  Once that is achieved, then the dedication to the championship matters.


Reason No. 3Team Success does not correlate with Individual Legacy.

Much has been debated about the legacy of guys like Karl Malone, Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, Charles Barkley, etc.

Every conversation that includes these all-time greats are always ended with, "He never won a ring!"

This is one of the most ridiculous statements uttered whenever it pertains to athletes participating in team sports, because it has absolutely nothing to do with their individual prowess or legacy during their time in the sport.

If winning a championship within a team sport had any relevance to individual legacy, then we would be able to utter the following outrageous comments:

1. Robert Horry should be considered to have a much greater career than Charles Barkley or Karl Malone because he has six rings.  As a matter of fact, he should be considered one of the all-time greats.

2. Steve Kerr is greater than Oscar Robertson because he has more rings.

3. Trent Dilfer is greater than Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton, Dan Fouts and Warren Moon because he won a title with the Ravens.

Do you see how ridiculous those statements could be?

The reality is that winning championships within the confines of a team sport has very little to do with an athlete's individual legacy, instead, it has everything to do with the team's legacy.

Finally, athletes such as Kobe Bryant should stop pretending that the ring matters.  After all, it is at best the fourth goal on their hierarchical chart.