NBA Playoffs: LeBron James Destined to Be the Greatest Player Without a Title?

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 15:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts against the Chicago Bulls in the first half of Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2011 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. 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 Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

LeBron James is an incredible player—no doubt about it.  

Through eight years in the NBA, he's averaged 27.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and seven assists a game.

His career Player Efficiency Rating is second all-time behind the incomparable Michael Jordan. He's played in seven All-Star games, been named to seven All-NBA teams and three All-Defense teams.

He's been gifted with perhaps a better set of physical tools than any other player we've ever seen. He's 6'8", 250 lbs and moves in a way that should make point guards jealous.

But even with all that LeBron has going for him, many pay less attention to what's on his basketball resume than what's not on it.

The once king of Cleveland never won an NBA title with the Cavaliers, and may not win one with the Heat either.

Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and John Stockton are in the NBA Hall of Fame, but they'll never be able to shake the nagging little blip in their legacy—"never won a championship."

This past summer, LeBron decided to "take his talents to South Beach" in an effort to avoid being in the same class as those all-time greats.

He wants to be on the other side of the line with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and his own teammate Dwyane Wade.

If he doesn't cross over this year, it may never happen.

First, consider the rising teams in the league. At their cores, the Thunder and Bulls are both much younger than the Heat and they're built from more team-oriented blueprints.

There are also veteran teams that have the necessary pieces in place to make things difficult for the Heat for at least another year or two.

On top of the teams in their way, the new CBA could seriously cripple Miami's chances of building a good team around the "Big Three."

The league's latest offer included a $45 million hard cap. This year, the contracts of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh add up to $43.2 million. 

And that number is going to jump over the proposed hard cap next year. How exactly Miami will build a team under those circumstances is a huge mystery.

They'll have to figure out some way to move at least one of their hefty contracts if they ever want to have more than three good players.

Another thing working against LeBron is his own age. Yes, he's only 26 years old right now, but those prep-to-pro legs will almost certainly begin to deteriorate before he turns 30.

With all those factors in place, you have to wonder if 2011 is LeBron's best shot at a title. With each passing year, the young talented teams get better while the Heat grow older.

Many, including LeBron himself, thought this Miami triumvirate could win as many as seven or eight NBA championships.

If they don't come up with any, LeBron James will not only join the likes of Barkley, Malone and Stockton—he'll leap to the head of that class.


Updates, News, Notes and Opinions

Go Here for Complete Coverage of the Draft

Go Here for Complete Coverage of Offseason Rumors

You can follow Andy Bailey on Twitter   @_Andy_Bailey