Can LeBron James Become the Greatest of All-Time Without a Championship Ring?

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIMay 11, 2012

MIAMI, FL - MAY 09:  Forward LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat is introduced against the New York Knicks in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs  on May 9, 2012 at the American Airines Arena in Miami, Florida. 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 Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, LeBron James will be named the NBA MVP for the third time in four years. The question remains, however, will James miss out on an NBA Championship for the ninth time in nine years?

Upon receiving this award, LeBron James will join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Moses Malone and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to tally three regular season MVP awards. The difference between James and the other names on this list, however, is a big, old zero.

Or: the number of times LeBron James has won an NBA Championship.

While the Miami Heat are heavily favored to emerge victorious from the injury-depleted Eastern Conference, making it past round one is hardly a guarantee of an eventual title win. Nor is it much to put on LeBron James' resume as he makes his case for being the greatest of all-time, which Scottie Pippen believes he could potentially become.

The question is: how much value do these regular season awards truly possess? Are we to believe that James' regular season awards outweighs his lack of postseason success? It wouldn't be the first time we've argued that for positional greatness (See: Stockton, John), but it would certainly be the first time we've placed a player amongst the best of the best without a ring.

All of this could change, of course, if LeBron James and the widely-despised Miami Heat could take home the gold in 2012. The possibility of James' failure to win this year, or any year following, however, cannot be counted out.

Many believed John Stockton and Karl Malone, who finished ahead of Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list, would win a title by the end of their careers in Utah. Strangely, they were never able to reach that level of glory and Malone's individual glory became null-and-void in debates of who the greatest to ever play truly was.

So what happens if LeBron James goes home empty-handed? Or if he wins one title, as Moses Malone accomplished? Does that make him the greatest?

Considering Malone is often left out of the conversation of "greatest of all-time," I don't believe it does.

If competition for this label is to be held on a level playing field, we must look at the careers of Russell, Jordan and Chamberlain.

Jordan retired with five MVP awards, but also tallied six NBA-championships. Chamberlain, meanwhile, tallied four MVP's and two titles. Abdul-Jabbar distanced himself from all in the regular season, winning six Most Valuable Player awards, all the while owning six NBA championships and the top spot on the all-time scoring leader-board.

And then there's Bill Russell, whose five MVP awards were bested by his 11 NBA championship rings.

What on LeBron James' resume will separate him from those names? Heck, what separates him from Tim Duncan's two MVP awards and four NBA titles? Or Shaq's one MVP award and four championship rings?

Or, most importantly, Kobe Bryant's one regular season MVP award, two Finals MVP awards and five NBA titles?

At this point in time, the avid LeBron James supporter have quite the uphill battle as they make their case for why King James is the greatest. LeBron James on his own, however, has one goal and one goal only...

Pull a Steve Young and get the monkey off of his back. Win a title or go down as just another great player in an era of legends.


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