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NBA Free Agency: LeBron James' Legacy Depends on Cleveland's Unfinished Business

CLEVELAND - MAY 11:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers untucks his jersey after being defeated 120-88 by the Boston Celtics in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 11, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Brad GoldbachCorrespondent IJuly 8, 2010

When LeBron James decides where he will play basketball for the next several seasons, he will be making a decision that has implications on the rest of his career and legacy.

LeBron's Options

On the one hand, he can join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami to form a royal triumvirate the NBA has never seen before. He may win titles, but he could never say he was the main reason those teams won championships. It would be seen as taking the easy way out.

He could go to Chicago, but he would never live up to Michael Jordan’s legacy. That is an almost impossible feat to accomplish. Just ask Kobe. He's still fighting that battle after all he has accomplished.

If he went to New York, people would say it was for the money and the fame.

The Implications

All of those choices would come at the risk of abandoning his hometown. That in itself is a crime that most NBA fans would refuse to forgive him for.

Most importantly, it would be seen as LeBron giving up on Cleveland before finishing the job.

Michael Jordan fought through Magic and the Bad Boys and stuck with Chicago to bring home six championships.

Kobe complained about the lack of talent around him after Shaq left town, but he still stuck around to bring the Lakers back to glory.

These are the two contemporary players LeBron is competing against. Their legacy is intact for many reasons, but mostly because they fought through the lean years and finished the job where they started.

I don’t know LeBron’s main motivation. Is it riches? Fame? Or is it his basketball legacy?

It should be the latter, and he will forever throw that legacy away if he leaves Cleveland. A true champion does not give up until he completes the task at hand.

This fact is amplified because it involves his hometown. Cleveland is a place that has so desperately craved a championship.

Didn't You Say LeBron Was the NBA's Best?

Many people claim that LeBron is already the best player in the league. Until he wins a ring, it is hard to argue that point, but he certainly has the talent to do so.

If he is really that good, shouldn’t he be able to build a champion no matter where he plays?

If LeBron stays in Cleveland, there is the possibility that he does not bring his hometown glory. He wouldn’t go down as the greatest player to play the game and it would be a disappointment. At least we could say that he never gave up on that goal.

It would certainly be much easier to swallow than him taking the easy way out and winning a championship somewhere else.

The Bottom Line

It is obvious that LeBron likes attention because of all the fanfare he has brought around his free agency decision.

Now, it is time for LeBron to set aside all of this foolishness and do what is best for himself, his sport and his fans. You have had your fun, LeBron. Now it’s time to get to work.

Stay in Cleveland, LeBron. You still have unfinished business. Accept the challenge and stay true to your roots.

If not, the perception of you will never be the same.

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