This summer’s free agency sweepstake has undoubtedly reshaped the landscape of the NBA, instantly making both Miami and Chicago championship contenders. Furthermore, it has reshaped the legacy of the face of the NBA. Though I was disappointed with Lebron’s decision, it is possible that he believes that winning championships with a dominant all-star cast will strengthen his legacy.
I think it is fair to take “The Crowned Prince” (how’s that for a new twist on his nickname since he’s clearly the Robin to D. Wade’s Batman in Miami) out of the conversation as the potential heir to Michael Jordan. Perhaps his number change was a premonition of this, but Lebron has demonstrated that he does not have the same fierce competitive and individualistic fire that propelled Jordan to six championships. Sure, Lebron will be less bitter than Jordan when he accepts his admission into the Hall of Fame, but he will never be the G.O.A.T. after going to Miami.
So he will never be Jordan, and probably won’t be Kobe- but I think it’s time we take a look at how his legacy can unfold. I believe there are three likely scenarios: he will be a sidekick on a championship team, the alpha dog on a loaded championship team, or a man who traded away all the goodwill he’d built in Cleveland and across the league only to continually come up short (watching fail number three would be painful, painful like watching your boy (I like to think of Lebron as my boy) continually strike out with his personal Wendy Peffercorn (Sandlot: watch it). “The Decision” would be forever vilified by fans).
Let me outline the implications of each scenario (in installments):
I think in all likelihood Lebron will win a championship, but as a sidekick to Dwayne Wade, albeit the greatest sidekick in history. A Morgan Freeman in “Robin Hood” kind of sidekick, who beats ass for Robin Hood despite the fact that Robin was a crusader (rivals turned friends). If he shelves his ego (and it looks like he clearly has by going there), Lebron could theoretically average gaudy triple double numbers. He could hypothetically go for 20-10-10 if he’s passing to Wade and Bosh. He won’t have to develop the consistent and deadly mid range jumper or post game that Kobe has. I don’t mean to knock Lebron’s offensive game, he has certainly polished his game and has the luxury of relying on his incredible athleticism for the time being, but I think this move will stunt his offensive growth. He can afford to lack creativity because opponents will be unable to tailor their defensive schemes to stop him like they did in Cleveland.
If he allows Wade to remain as Miami’s primary scorer, Lebron can devote himself to rebounding and passing rather than scoring. He will be the most complete player in the league, but the average fan’s perception of him will suffer, as it already has. He will no longer win MVP’s (nor will Wade) because he will be viewed as a complimentary player and he will likely be eclipsed in conversation by rising stars like Kevin Durant.
I think this “Magic Mode” (averaging ridiculous assist and rebound numbers in addition to scoring numbers) will be fun to watch, but he will end up squarely behind guys like Bird, Isiah, Jordan, Magic, Kobe, and maybe even Shaq and Duncan. He will be a second tier superstar and will never land squarely in the Pantheon of basketball gods.