LeBron James' Faustian Bargain: Guranteed Championships or Legendary Legacy?

Nate SmithCorrespondent IJune 3, 2011

Lebron and the Superfriends
Lebron and the SuperfriendsRonald Martinez/Getty Images

So the Super Friends of Miami have teamed up and in the playoffs, they have looked downright dominant. Last night they lost only their first home game in the playoffs and that's after being up 13 late in the fourth quarter. Perhaps Miami celebrated a little too early and got complacent, but make no mistake about it: They are the better team in the NBA Finals.

As Miami's inevitable cruise toward the Larry O'Brien Trophy continues, a friend asked whether or not LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade engineering the roster somehow cheapens a championship.

No. It does not cheapen the championship. Overwhelming talent wins championship in this league. It has always been the case. So if Miami wins, they'll put a banner up and they will have deserved the championship.

LeBron's legacy, however, will be badly damaged in relation to where he would have been had he led Cleveland to a championship. While everyone oohhs and awws at the awesome physical specimen that is LeBron James, his rapid departure underscores the fact that he cannot lead a team by himself.

Had LeBron led the city of Cleveland to just one championship, it would have been enough to put him in the top 10 players of all time given his MVPs and statistical dominance. But his teaming up with Wade (the third-best player in the league) and Bosh (top-15 player) was an admission by James that he just couldn't get the job done.

You might well argue that nobody could have led that Cleveland team to the championship. Perhaps. But if he couldn't do it, then I fail to see what separates him from all-time greats like Jordan, Kobe, Olajuwon and Duncan who took far less talented teams than Miami to win multiple championships.

LeBron's statistical dominance is amazing. His efficiency as measured by PER, win-shares and points per shot tops the league. Still, he has not done anything meaningful in this league that hasn't been done better by (statistically) less-dominant players.

So LeBron essentially traded his place in history by joining Miami. He will never be better than those players who won more with less. He will, however, never end his career as a disappointment like Charles Barkley or Patrick Ewing with a donut in the championship criteria. Maybe that trade-off is worth it for LeBron.

But had he won multiple chips in Cleveland, which was not out of the question, he would have had a shot to pass Kobe as the greatest of this era and perhaps even Jordan as the greatest of all time. Those opportunities evaporated the minute LeBron made his "decision," regardless of how many championships Miami wins.