Miami Heat

LeBron James: How Many Titles Does He Need To Be the Greatest of All Time?

Azariah GeboContributor IIMay 27, 2011

LeBron James: How Many Titles Does He Need To Be the Greatest of All Time?

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    The unexpected occurred last summer when three superstars in the form of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh took less money in order to be on the same team and thus win a championship (or championships).

    This, though, didn't bode well with most NBA fans so they began to berate them in every way possible. And the one who received the majority of the criticism was LeBron James. 

    So LeBron—who had been "The Chosen One," the one next in line to carry the torch from Kobe—suddenly became "The Chasing One." He suddenly drew comparisons to Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Shaquille O'Neal as a ring-chaser.

    And in some minds, especially ones in Cleveland, he was no longer able to achieve the goal of being the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T.).

    This view, though, has begun to change recently as the Miami Heat have had great success in the playoffs and the talks about the possibility of LeBron James becoming the G.O.A.T. have rekindled.

    Talks about LeBron as the G.O.A.T. are not possible unless he win championships. So this is meant to rank LeBron's standing with the greatest of all time each time he adds a championship to his list of accomplishments. 

If LeBron James Wins 0 Championships He Will Be 12th-Best All-Time

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    SAN ANTONIO - JUNE 23:  Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates with the Finals MVP Trophy and the Larry O'Brien Trophy after defeating the Detroit Pistons in Game seven of the 2005 NBA Finals at SBC Center on June 23, 2005 in San Antonio, Texa
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    1. Michael Jordan

    2. Magic Johnson

    3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    4. Wilt Chamberlain

    5. Bill Russell

    6. Larry Bird

    7. Kobe Bryant

    8. Shaquille O'Neal

    9. Jerry West

    10. Oscar Robertson

    11. Tim Duncan

    12. LeBron James

     

    Explanation

    LeBron will still be the 12th-best all-time even if he doesn't win a championship because there really isn't someone else that you can put before him.

    Moses Malone or Elgin Baylor are good candidates but they just can't compete with the stat line at the end of LeBron's career. There is also no possible way that LeBron can ever enter the conversation as the G.O.A.T. or even top 10 of all time if he doesn't win a championship.

    There are probably only two players, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, who are in the top 20 and don't have a championship.

If LeBron James Wins 1 Championship He Will Be 10th-Best All-Time

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  A statue is displayed outside Staples Center for former Los Angeles player and general manager Jerry West on February 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downlo
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    1. Michael Jordan

    2. Magic Johnson

    3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    4. Wilt Chamberlain

    5. Bill Russell

    6. Larry Bird

    7. Kobe Bryant

    8. Shaquille O'Neal

    9. Jerry West

    10. LeBron James


    Explanation

    The only reason LeBron was behind Duncan is because Duncan will have had four championships to LeBron's zero. LeBron will have been the better player but you just can't overlook the zero championships if he wins none.

    There really isn't an adequate reason as to why LeBron would jump over Oscar because there really isn't enough information about him. You can only probably find two clips of him on the court. But because so many of the elderly talk about Oscar as one of the best there was, I included him in the top 10.

    When LeBron James wins his first championship, it will be probably his greatest accomplishment. It will get the elephant out of the room and will begin a dynasty of multiple championships.

If LeBron James Wins 2 Championships He Will Be 9th-Best All-Time

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    DALLAS - JUNE 20:  Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Miami Heat holds the Larry O'Brien trophy after the Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks in game six of the 2006 NBA Finals on June 20, 2006 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  The Heat won 95-92 and
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    1. Michael Jordan

    2. Magic Johnson

    3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    4. Wilt Chamberlain

    5. Bill Russell

    6. Larry Bird

    7. Kobe Bryant

    8. Shaquille O'Neal

    9. LeBron James


    Explanation

    Jerry West is a great player, a top-10 player, but there is no way he can ward off LeBron if LeBron has two championships. LeBron's dominance would have been too great in comparison to West.

    LeBron can probably even be eighth-best all-time with two championships but the discrepancy of championships between Shaq and LeBron would just be too much. This leads to LeBron being ninth and Shaq eighth.

If LeBron James Wins 3 Championships He Will Be 8th-Best All-Time

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 21:  Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant hoists the championship trophy while riding in the victory parade for the the NBA basketball champion team on June 21, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers beat the Boston Celtics 87-
    David McNew/Getty Images

    1. Michael Jordan

    2. Magic Johnson

    3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    4. Wilt Chamberlain

    5. Bill Russell

    6. Larry Bird

    7. Kobe Bryant

    8. LeBron James


    Explanation

    LeBron can easily surpass Shaq if he wins three championships. Shaq's legacy will be defined by the need for Wade or Kobe in order for Shaq to win a championship. So after three championships LeBron can put Shaq behind him.

    LeBron cannot make any more moves because three championships is too little in comparison to Kobe or Russell.

If LeBron James Wins 4 Championships He Will Be 6th-Best All-Time

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    NEW ORLEANS - FEBRUARY 17:  Bill Russell attends the 57th NBA All-Star Game, part of 2008 NBA All-Star Weekend at the New Orleans Arena on February 17, 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by download
    Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

    1. Michael Jordan

    2. Magic Johnson

    3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    4. Wilt Chamberlain

    5. Bill Russell

    6. LeBron James


    Explanation

    The most difficult opposition LeBron faces in his path to greatness will be Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird. Kobe and LeBron would have both practically played in the same era which would lead to tighter comparisons. He can pass Kobe with four championships though. Kobe is not half the facilitator that LeBron is. So in the end, LeBron will pass Kobe if he wins four championships.

    LeBron will also have trouble passing Larry Bird. Bird was such a great shooter that critics will try to one-up LeBron with that. Even Bird can't hold off a LeBron with four championships. 

If LeBron James Wins 5 Championships He Will Be Tied for the 2nd-Best All-Time

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    26 Mar 1996:  Guard Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers works against the Orlando Magic during a game played at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida.  The Lakers won the game, 113-91. Mandatory Credit: ALLSPORT USA  /Allsport
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    1. Michael Jordan

    2. Magic Johnson

    2. LeBron James


    Explanation

    LeBron will make his greatest leap if he wins five championships. He will have to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell but it can be done.

    Memories of Wilt's 100-point performance and average of 50 PPG and 25 RPG in a single season will be too much of a distant memory.

    The same goes goes for Russell whose 11 championships came in an era where the competition was very weak for the Celtics.

    As for Kareem, LeBron can easily pass him. Kareem's career will always be defined by the need for Magic in order to win. So with five championships, LeBron can become the second-best of all time.

If LeBron James Wins 6 Championships He Will Be the 2nd-Best All-Time

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 06:  A statue of Los Angeles Lakers' legend Magic Johnson is shown outside of Staples Center before Game Two of the 2010 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers on June 6, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NO
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    1. Michael Jordan

    2. LeBron James

    3. Magic Johnson

     

    Explanation

    It will be difficult to rank a LeBron with six championships. He would have tied Jordan but probably cannot reach him. 

    LeBron will also be so close to Magic in championships that a true argument of LeBron as the G.O.A.T. cannot begin at six championships. Critics will also try to compare LeBron closer to Magic than Jordan through the style that LeBron plays. 

If LeBron James Wins 7 Championships He Will Be Tied for the G.O.A.T.

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    INGLEWOOD, CA - JUNE 12: Guard Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls sits nexts to his wife Juanita and his dad James while hugging the NBA Championship Trophy after the Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 after Game 5 of the NBA Finals on June 12
    Ken Levine/Getty Images

    1. LeBron James

    1. Michael Jordan

     

    Explanation

    There is a reason that LeBron promised more than seven championships when he and Chris Bosh joined Wade in Miami. He knows that he needs at least seven to get into the talks as the G.O.A.T. but he still probably needs more than seven.

    Seven championships will tie him with Jordan because critics will always say that Jordan would have had seven championships had he not taken a year off to play baseball.

If LeBron James Wins 8 Championships He Will Be the G.O.A.T.

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 24:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat against the Chicago Bulls in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 24, 2011 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowle
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    1. LeBron James


    Explanation

    LeBron enters a league of his own, above Jordan, if he gets the chance to win eight championships. He will have two-upped Jordan and dominated the NBA for about a decade. It will take each one of the eight championships though to truly distinguish himself as the best of the best.

    Six will be equal and seven will be to close to Jordan. He will only have about 11 to 12 years to win these eight championships but if he does, he most likely goes down as the greatest sports player of all time.

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