LeBron James: Wake Up Call for the Perennial Ring-Less Hardwood King

Joye PruittSenior Analyst IOctober 12, 2011

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 08:  LeBron James looks on during the South Florida All Star Classic at Florida International University on October 8, 2011 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

LeBron James has been the topic of NBA conversation no matter the subject. In the seasons before last season’s South Beach debacle, he was stationed in the NBA commons with the recently-made-relevant Cleveland Cavaliers. Undoubtedly one of the most tantalizing and love-to-hate celebrities in the league, it brings no unease to say that James is the most criticized player in the NBA.

His move to the Miami Heat and clearly leaving the Cavaliers to fend for themselves in the lions’ den without as much as a flare gun to scare away the hungry beasts has categorized him as the metaphorical monster, the literal coward and one of, if not the leading, most hated men in professional athletics.

Even Tiger Woods’ promiscuous lifestyle incorporated into one of the most mind-numbing sports in the nation could not elevate him over the likes of the “Akron Hammer.”

Pardon my reference to LeBron’s rarely-used nickname, but it is coupled with a boost in excellence, don’t you think?

James’ trails through the highest of highs and the mid-leveled woes have yet to give him the position that he truly deserves. He has been labeled the G.O.A.T. by a man who played alongside the incomparable Chicago Bulls’ Adonis, Michael Jordan, and all without a giggle or chuckle ensuing.

The other end of fandom, which primarily includes those who want to see LeBron burn as they torched his Cleveland jersey in effigy, sees James as an overpaid, highly-touted failure.

These people may not retain the most solid description of LeBron’s career, but there are bits and pieces of the arguments presented by his haters that should be evaluated before they are cast off as the feelings of people who reside in Los Angeles, James’ haters by the love of Kobe Bryant or internally bleeding Cleveland fans.

LeBron has accomplished a few personal feats. The clearly stated, before officially mentioned, Rookie of the Year for his 2003 rookie season, made an immediate impact and turnaround for the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise and the aura of the city they played for. Their 1993-2003 “decade of struggle” was infinitely crafted into a preemptive podium of emergence and redemption.

Coach Mike Fratello, the one you have probably never heard of because you did not pay a bit of attention to Cleveland’s basketball franchise until they drafted LeBron James, sculpted a great defensive team for the Cavaliers.

Yet, they were subconsciously unable to overthrow the hump of defeat that placed them in lottery position all the way up until they drafted their main man, their go-to guy, their soon-to-be scolded lovechild, LeBron James.

Those who are barely objective in the situation could say that Cleveland fans should be thankful for the time he gave them as if he was simply partaking in NBA-sponsored community service for the first seven years of his career. However, this would subject fans on the other side of the rope to an attitude similar to that of LeBron’s in his postgame conference after losing Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks.

No matter the event, the press question, the game, LeBron is always looked at as the spoiled first-born who naturally gets what he wants because he asks for it. This is part of what fuels each side of the argument for the can’t-win-a-Finals series star basketball player.

LeBron’s supporters defend the perennial hardwood performer because he is so criticized for reasons beyond his performance. Let him be who he is, they say. Stop allowing his personality to cloud your thoughts and ideas of who he is as a basketball player.

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat answers questions after the Heat were defeated 105-95 by the Dallas Mavericks in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expr
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

They bring into play the eternal argument that Michael Jordan was not the most mild-mannered, easy-to-love baller either. He made gestures, stuck his tongue out and straightforward taunted his opponents with how he scored and his reaction after doing so.

But, there is one enormous difference in the fans’ willingness to accept that type of behavior from the Chicago Bulls’ legend and not from someone like LeBron James.

Fans are made of up a few different genres of class. You have the working man and the wealthy and comfortably living. Seeing as how the number of working class households in the world outnumbers those who do not have to leave their home to make a dollar, you have to see how his supporters are outweighed by those who want to see him retire ring-less.

James has to work for the respect his gets. He has to earn his chips, and by the voice of the people, he has yet to do so. The question is, “Have his personal accolades made up for what he has not achieved with the teams that he has propelled to the most competitive fraction of the NBA playoffs?”

The answer? No.

Basketball is meant for those who cannot only perform on their own and put up the numbers to launch their franchise to the forefront, but also those who can contribute in any way possible to the team effort to succeed at the highest level.

The regular season MVP or the season’s highest PPG average means nothing at the end of one’s career if it is not accompanied by a ring that separates the entertaining from the elite or defines those that carry the genetic makeup of both.

LeBron is an entertainer. He dabbles in the company of the most revered entertainers and athletes in the entire country. But the company he keeps cannot shield him from the eerie fact that the kid has yet to do what many wished he would within at least seven years of his start.

Without at least one ring, none of it means much.

His achievements during his short stay in Miami will not equate to much of an argument when he is sitting in his multi-million dollar home reminiscing over those moments where he almost had it all.