LeBron James will always be held to a higher standard. Fair or not, that is what happens when you are on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16. It is what happens when you carry the moniker "King James" before you have graduated from high school.
It is what happens when you win back-to-back MVP awards, and what happens when you throw a parade for yourself before you win a championship. With that in mind, it is not enough for LeBron James to win a championship to cement the legacy he so desperately craves.
He needs an iconic moment or a monster game. And judging by his propensity to throw up fadeaway 28-foot "LeBricks" at the end of games (I still don't understand why he doesn't just drive the ball to the basket at these moments) it is more likely for him to have a monster game. I'm talking the kind of a games we used to see for him with Cleveland.
Remember the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals against Orlando? Dude averaged 38.5 points, eight assists and eight rebounds. It is not fair to hold any player to that standard. Plus he has much, much better teammates to share the load than in Cleveland.
Still, one night of a 35/8/8 should not be too much to ask, even if Dwyane Wade does take over in the last two minutes (again). If you want to be the best, you have to play like the best, on the biggest stage.
Think of all the other all-time greats, which, since high school is what we've been told he will be. Shaquille O'Neal's 38 and 17 average against the Pacers in 2000. Magic Johnson's Game 6 42/17/7 filling in for an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center as a rookie in 1980. Larry Bird's average of a triple-double (24/10/10) in the '86 finals. Michael Jordan moment after Jordan game after Jordan moment.
Will LeBron James ever be a top five player all-time?
Through three games in these finals, LeBron has averaged 20/6/6.5 on 51 percent shooting. Great numbers for 99 percent of the league. Not for the supposed best player in the league, and far below is career averages. Not for the man trying to be the Greatest of All-Time.
How can you be the best active player if your own teammate is outplaying you in the NBA Finals? D-Wade's finals averages: 29/9/5 on 56 percent shooting. Wade already has a legendary series of his own, may I remind you, averaging 37/8/4 against the Mavs in '06.
Yes, it is should be all about winning. Yes, it should not be about the statistics. But LeBron James has put himself above that. It has always been about him being the best player in basketball, and right now, it sounds like if anyone is Robin to someone's Batman, it's LeBron to D-Wade, at least in the most important games.
There is an almost unfair amount of pressure put on LeBron James. Heck, the guy is nicknamed after the King James Bible, making him the Basketball Messiah. He's the real life version of Ray Allen's Jesus Shuttlesworth in He Got Game.
At the same time, he hasn't denied these standards, he has embellished them with the ESPN special, with the "Witness" marketing campaign, with the "I'm not going to fail my team" statements.
I once stated that if LeBron James doesn't win an NBA championship, he would be the biggest bust of all-time. As ridiculous as that sounds, it is valid because he is the also the most hyped player of all-time. If you want to be an all-time great, you have to have an iconic, all-time great performance on the biggest stage.
Not to say he won't be back with this Heat team to try again, but if you are that great, what are you waiting for? The moment is now, LeBron. Seize it.