LeBron James' Legacy: 10 Things Heat Star Can Do To Be Just Like Michael Jordan
LeBron James broke into the league with more fan fare and high expectations than any other player before him, and it seemed like just a formality that the NBA’s first pick in the 2003 draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers would finish his career with a Jordanesque legacy.
The experts knew this kid would be something special while he was still in high school, and NBA scouts salivated at his high basketball IQ, Adonis physique and explosive power.
Not only was James supposed to be like Mike, but he had the potential to be better—or so they thought.
The King showed early dominance in the league, and his star power began to skyrocket. He took the Cavs on the road to respectability by guiding them to a couple of 60-plus win seasons, but alas, no championships.
And unlike Mike, James owns a couple of NBA playoff flameout performances, giving power to his critics' conclusion that he is incapable of winning the big one.
The playoff flameouts were completely unlike Mike. In fact, the King became more like Mike Tyson than Michael Jordan after he ripped the ear and heart out of an entire state.
After James’ infamous decision last summer to leave the team that drafted him, the King’s image took an unsuspecting nosedive as the former national hero became the wide world of sports’ villain extraordinaire.
And like Mike Tyson, King James did it while strolling around with a boxing-like entourage that’s synonymous with spoiled heavyweight fighters and not basketball players.
Several months after flying south to Miami, Cleveland remains a disaster zone with blood flowing from its gaping wounds like a crimson tide, but James, however, seems on course to win a couple of championships as a member of the Miami Thrice.
Currently, James and the Miami Heat are forging a bold path towards the playoffs, and for the first time this NBA season, the Heat-or-Three-Peat is in sync as both Miami and the L.A. Lakers are winning simultaneously, instead of taking turns mopping the floor.
But when it’s all said and done, will the King finish his career with a Jordanesque legacy that we all expected he would, but has since run of the rails?
The answer to that question lies not only in how many NBA championships James wins, but in his ability to follow these 10 key ingredients in a recipe that should ensure his success.
Talent Comes Easy
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Just like Mike, when God was giving out basketball talent, James was at the very front of the line.
Not only does this superstar (who is still only 25) have a high basketball IQ, but his explosive athletic ability is almost unmatched. Together, with his mesmerizing skills and running back physique on a giant’s 6’8” frame, James can be extremely lethal.
Despite sharing the key role on the Heat with Dwyane Wade, James is still second in league scoring and is fitting in nicely in Miami—so nicely in fact, that he is in the thick of the hunt for his third straight MVP award.
Does LeBron James have superior talent when compared to other current NBA superstars?
Yes—just like Mike. Check.
No Pain, No Gain
Chad Buchanan/Getty Images
Unlike Mike, James does not have that drive to improve his game and would rather be partying with his groupies than honing his raw, but incredible skills.
Last offseason, Dwight Howard worked on his game with Hakeem the Dream in order to get better, and the improvement has been obvious.
Last offseason, Derrick Rose worked on his game in order to get better, and just like Howard, the improvement has been obvious.
During every offseason and sometimes after games, Kobe Bryant works on his game to get better.
Michael Jordan’s work ethic was legendary. Whether he was running the bleachers, in the weight room or working on his shot, Jordan always and consistently put in the time.
As good as James is, he needs to follow MJ’s lead because his game is not perfect. For example, James could definitely work on his post game.
And you can’t be like Mike without a post game.
Dominate by Focusing Like Mike
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Michael Jordan is the G.O.A.T. He was quick, explosive, elusive and clutch. MJ’s game had very few microscopic holes and at only 6’6” tall, Jordan played like he was 10 feet tall, but with fluid motion.
LeBron James can do this to, but as he has shown, his dominance is relegated to the regular season. That’s because James’ penchant for choking in the playoffs has become one of his major criticisms.
If the Miami Heat win a playoff series on the back of Dwyane Wade, it will not bode well for James’ legacy.
James can become better by increasing his preparation, dedication and the trust his teammates have in him.
Just like Mike always showed up and dominated in almost every playoff situation, James must become the King of Clutch and follow suit during mega prime time.
James’ Team Must be Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Michael Jordan was Batman and his Robin was Scottie Pippen, and what an unbelievable Robin he was.
Pippen was so unbelievable at every aspect of the game, including defense and offense, that he should have been considered a Batman himself.
Without Pippen and an astounding bunch of role players that included Dennis Rodman, Jordan would not have won as many titles—because it takes a team to win a championship.
The Miami Heat have two cornerstones in place in both James and fellow Batman Dwyane Wade, but behind this respectable facade, the team is riddled with holes.
What the Heat seriously lack is a dominant rebounder, a center that can dominate the post, a point guard of reasonable value and a bench of effective role players.
Also, Chris Bosh is a capable power forward, but will his salary commitments affect the Heat’s ability to upgrade for a bunch of serviceable role players during the offseason?
The team as a whole exhibits these giant fractures that if not corrected, will get in the way of Miami achieving absolute greatness.
It’s unlikely that the Heat can win a championship without filling in some of these gaping holes, and as good as the Heat are playing right now, that won’t happen this season.
Nike Hero Marketability
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
While still in Cleveland, James was the manifestation of Jordan.
The King had reached that lonely stratosphere on Mount Olympus as only MJ, Bo Jackson and Tiger Woods could. A peak both the King and Tiger have fallen from in disgrace. He had reached that plateau without a single championship to boot.
Will LeBron be able to make his way back up the mountain and join Nike’s supreme, cream of the crop athletes?
The James brand is still a hot seller, but its intense selling power as a huge national brand has taken a hit. It’s only still hot because Florida shops can’t keep his products from flying off the shelf.
But that is not like Mike who still enjoys the loyal support of fans from across the country, even in his retirement.
James must refrain from exhibiting his frequent disharmonious tendencies by employing a major PR initiative that will overhaul his image in an effort to help endear him back into the hearts of the national fanbase.
If James remains public enemy number one, James will never realize his Jordanesque legacy.
"With Great Powers Comes Great Responsibility," Uncle Ben
Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Uncle Ben instilled an intensive purpose in Peter Parker with the words, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
When Uncle Ben tried to speak these words to LeBron, the king was too busy partying to understand their significance, so Uncle Ben spoke them to Derrick Rose instead.
Unlike Mike, James has made a fool of himself by dragging himself and his teammates unnecessarily through the mud via TV, Twitter and magazine interviews.
It’s one thing to be a bad ass to your opponent and quite another to be one to the public.
James needs to mature and be responsible in the public light. He needs to understand that youth look up to him as a role model and it’s in his and their best interest that he emulates a positive one.
It’s OK to be a polarizing figure in sports, but not a negative one that’s a constant lightning rod of controversy.
Unfortunately and unlike Mike, James is still a kid with a lot of growing up to do, but he can start the maturation process by first apologizing to Cleveland.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Michael Jordan was relatively injury free throughout his career with the exception of a broken foot suffered early in his career.
There are many players whose legacies could have been so much more had they not suffered from serious, career-shortening injuries. They include Bernard King, Tracy McGrady and Brandon Roy.
Although this requirement to James' success requires a little luck as well as a commitment to strive to stay in shape, James’ Jordanesque legacy is directly dependent on his ability to stay healthy.
To help his cause of staying in the game, James can do the subtle things like ensuring that his training regimen keeps him healthy and productive for a long time.
Individual Stats Makes the King
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Just like Mike, James has amazing stats. He continues to produce in Miami, making the King a quantifiable stat machine.
Among qualified players, James is second in league scoring (26.5) while sharing that responsibility with Dwyane Wade, who is third in PPG (25.7); 13th in APG (6.8); 32nd in RPG (7.5); 24th in FG% (.505) and 16th in double-doubles (27).
What’s even more important, James is third in player efficiency (behind only Kevin Love and Dwight Howard).
These numbers would undoubtedly be higher if James was not sharing center stage with another superstar.
James may not be able to score like Mike, but he can rebound and dish out dimes at a better clip than the legend, and he must continue to do so throughout the rest of his career the way Mike did.
Get the First Championship Out of the Way—FIRST!
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Michael Jordan went out and won six championships, one championship at a time.
Jordan did not publicly proclaim that he would win multiple championships, but instead envisioned winning in his mind and dedicated his cause for this purpose before any titles came to fruition.
On the other hand, James’ prediction of multiple championships in Miami was irresponsible because it put the media blitz on Miami’s tail, and instead of the pressure being on the defending champion Lakers, it’s all on Miami.
As a result, James and the Heat need to get that first championship out of the way A.S.A.P.
Proliferate the First Title into Multiple Championships
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Winning is not important, but it is everything.
Kobe Bryant is on the verge of matching Jordan, championship for championship, with six titles. To date James has none.
James is still young and quite capable of winning multiple championships, but in order to do so, all the stars must align.
James must instill in himself a tenacious MJ-like work ethic, be dominant and clutch in big games, remain relatively injury-free over his career and surround himself with effective role players.
Only then will the multiple championships come.
Just like Mike.