A King in Search of a Ring: How LeBron James May Have Saved His Legacy

Drew BonifantAnalyst IIJuly 14, 2010

MIAMI - JULY 09:  LeBron James #6, of the Miami Heat smiles during a press conference after a welcome party at American Airlines Arena on July 9, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

The club is an exclusive one.

Michael Jordan's a member. So is Larry Bird. As are Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bill Russell is the Chairman of the Board.

LeBron James has fallen short of acceptance. This is the Champions Club. No rings, no access. Sorry.

Last Thursday, LeBron made a decision that might get him into the exclusive club. He skipped town and home, joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, and formed a trio that could become a championship fixture for the next several years.

He was crucified for this move. An appalled population claimed he was taking the easy way out. He was done fighting for titles. He was diminishing his brand, his image, and his legacy.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

LeBron James is in a position where he has to win now. This free agency period represented the best chance he would ever get to put himself in a position where that could happen.

James decided to become a vital cog of a team that should win, over being the leader of a team that could, maybe, someday, possibly win.

If you think that's hurting a legacy, then you think the great champions of the past did it by themselves. You disregard that Jordan had a fellow "50 Greatest Players" member alongside him in Scottie Pippen. You slight Hall of Famer Joe Dumars and All-Star Bill Laimbeer's assistance to Thomas. The fact that Bird played with Hall of Famers in Robert Parish and Kevin McHale slips your mind.

The reason LeBron is criticized is because he's joining the support, rather than having the support come to him. But LeBron took a Cavaliers franchise that struggled repeatedly to surround him with talented players in their primes and advanced it once to the NBA Finals and another time to the Eastern Conference Finals.

It wasn't going to get better. Awaiting LeBron and his outrageous talent was NBA purgatory, home to ringless greats like Karl Malone and Charles Barkley.

So LeBron put himself in a position where he has to play well for his team to have a chance at a championship. Much has been said about the Heat's lack of depth. If LeBron plays at anything less than what one would expect from an acclaimed "King," this Big Three will fail.

The Lakers of the '80s had a similar core to what the Heat have now. No one denies Magic, Kareem, or James Worthy their places in history. The reason why is because, though the team was incredibly talented, each player had moments to prove his greatness.

For the Heat to win titles, LeBron will have to show his. He cannot sit back and let Bosh and Wade carry the team. The rest of the league is too good.

LeBron is signing on to become a focal point of potentially the NBA's next dynasty. If this works, it'll only be because he's played at a level people dreamed of when he was drafted first overall in 2003. If LeBron gets a ring, or two, or three, or six, it'll only be possible because he played at a level worthy of the Champions Club.

A failure in Miami would destroy his volatile legacy. Success would immortalize it.