The Legend Of LeBron James Is a True American Success Story

The Sports CriticContributor IApril 24, 2009

CLEVELAND - APRIL 21:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers brings the ball up the floor while playing the Detroit Pistons in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on April 21, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio.  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 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Like everyone else, I have a soft spot for the great stories of triumph that many of our American sports heroes have had to overcome.

Lance Armstrong battle cancer and emerged as the greatest cyclist of our generation. Wilma Rudolph overcame polio as a child on her way to becoming a gold medal-winning Olympian.

But as much as I enjoy those stories, I am even more impressed with what I call the "next big thing in sports" stories. LeBron James fits nicely into this category and his is a story of triumph, not over physical or economic barriers but rather over a mountain of expectations.

The "next big thing" story goes something like this: A youngster is discovered at an early age to be a potentially great athlete in a particular sport. This praise and adulation follows the young athlete to high school, and with each stellar performance, state title, and All-America team, the chorus and the bandwagon grows bigger.

This expectation of greatness crests when the athlete completes the high school years and begins his college career.

In James's, case there was no college. He made the leap directly to the NBA, entering the 2003 draft as the most celebrated and hyped rookie in league history.

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By any measurement, James has exceeded expectations. Not only has he dramatically improved the fortunes of the Cavaliers—both on the court and in the front office—he is amassing a stat line that rivals some of the greatest players in the history of the game.

Earlier this year, he joined the great Oscar Robertson as the only players in league history to have four or more seasons of 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 500 assists.

James is also only the third player in history to average 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists in his rookie season. The other two are Robertson and Michael Jordan

He also joins Robertson, Jordan, Larry Bird, and John Havlicek as the only players in league history to average more than 25 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists for an entire season.

James's nickname is "The King" and in his case, heavy is the head that wears the crown.

The pressure to be the best will follow James throughout his career. When his team wins, he will get all of the praise. When they lose, he gets all of the blame.

Both his teammates and his opponents are free from pressure and scrutiny.

James has critics who pick apart certain aspects of his game. The most popular dig is that he has yet to win an NBA title or the league's MVP award. I expect him to solve the MVP piece of that equation within the next few weeks.

However, I think it's unfair for critics to point out that James has yet to win a title after only his fifth season.

If the Cavs win this year, James will have done so without a legitimate superstar (no offense to Mo Williams) to partner with, a luxury every other champion has had since the 1980 Los Angeles Lakers.