LeBron James. Never before has a name evoked so much intrigue, suspense, and drama. In some respects, every parent hopes when they choose a name for their child that some day they'll garner the notoriety and merchandising power of King James.
James, a two-time NBA MVP with one trip to the Finals—a 4-0 dismantling at the hands of a decent Spurs squad in '07—and nary a trip back since, garners all the hype of a champion, but has yet to win or even seriously compete for a championship.
And that's where the intrigue and hype take a weird turn. If you consider that James is entering his 8th NBA season with possibly an entire new cast of characters, it's quite possible he'll never win a championship.
The NBA is bereft of talented squads with hyped superstars never winning it all.
The Portland Trailblazers of the 80's featuring Clyde "The Glide" Drexler and a cast of All-Star caliber players knocked on the Finals door for a few years before being bounced by Isaiah Thomas' Pistons and Michael Jordan's Bulls in consecutive years.
The Trailblazers of 1999-2001 (Scottie Pippen), Sacramento Kings of 1999-2002 (Chris Webber), Atlanta Hawks circa mid 80's (Dominique "Human Highlight Film" Wilkins), PHX Suns 1992-1994 (Charles Barkley) all came close, but never won a championship. With the exception of Pippen who won six rings with the Bulls and Drexler who rented a ring with Houston, the other stars have been derided for their lack of winning it all.
Arguably James is not even the most recognizable player in his sport. A closer look reveals LA Laker Kobe Bryant leads him in all merchandising brass from individual jersey sales, to team sales, to overwhelming popularity in China's bursting basketball scene.
Ever more daunting, Bryant leads the "greatness" category by a landslide. Five rings to zero. In every important way Bryant has out performed James on and off the court. So what makes Lebron James so special? One word. Potential.
In today's world potential is in many cases treated as success. When it comes to basketball, being 6'8 and 250 lbs with the force of nature and the swiftness of a gazelle, Lebron qualifies as great potential.
However, by all accounts he's no different than Barkley, Wilkins, Webber, Malone, Stockton, or even Steve Nash. A supremely talented superstar recognized by either first or last name with zero championships.
Fair or not, unless Lebron wins multiple championships of the back to back/three-peat variety, his career will be considered in some aspects a disappointment.
To be sure, MVP's and scoring titles are nothing to scoff at. However, as the years roll by it's becoming evident that his path might resemble that of Patrick Ewing - a star many felt destined for hardwood greatness who never met expectations—than say a Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant who have achieved greatness multiple times.
With July 1st mere hours away, James, the King without a kingdom, will soon have to make a perfect decision as to where he'll establish his throne for the foreseeable future.
The combination of championship caliber teammates, floor chemistry, great coaching and good fortune are not guaranteed just because you have nifty nicknames like "The Chosen One" or the aforementioned "King."
So sit back and enjoy the circus for the next coming week. The intrigue, suspense and drama will no doubt boil to heights unimaginable.
And when the dust cloud from the resin dissipate, fans of the team King James chooses can only hope they witness a basketball kingdom with a lasting rulership.