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Pivot Points: NBA Titles Don't Define a Career, They Define a Legacy

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IFebruary 16, 2010

ATLANTA - FEBRUARY 9:  Michael Jordan (Washington Wizards) #23 of the Eastern Conference All-Stars talks with Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) #8 of the Western Conference All-Stars at the 2003 NBA All-Star Game on February 9, 2003 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  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 Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Although much has been made about attempts by Kobe Bryant to replicate the persona of NBA legend Michael Jordan, few have noticed efforts by LeBron James to do the same thing, just from a different perspective.

There can be no debating the similar qualities in the games of Jordan and Bryant. From the mannerisms to the rhythmic movements, it's evident that Bryant emulated certain aspects of Jordan's game for his own benefit.

Just as glaring have been James' efforts to brand himself in much the same way Jordan created his own brand, but LeBron has to realize in order for that to happen he may need to win a few rings along the way.

It's true that less emphasis is placed on winning rings in this society, which is so centered on instant gratification and SportsCenter highlights, but the acclaim associated with championships is seen as a legacy stamp for an already great career.

This is a very familiar debate, which has taken many twists and turns through the years. Just how much does a championship mean to a player who has by all means had a great NBA career?

Some offer the reasoning that a championship is more of a team effort and should reflect little on the individual career of a player, but that argument fails to hold weight when given a little perspective.

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Robert Horry was a decent journeyman NBA player who may have had the most luck-filled career of any recent player in NBA history as he parlayed his time in the league to an astounding seven championships.

His presence was crucial in some of those title runs (who could forget the shot against Sacramento when Horry was with the Lakers?) but ultimately it was other players who were more responsible for his teams' success.

The critical thing is that Horry, despite his seven rings, was never considered a great player by any measure, and most of his championships were more due to circumstance than his doing.

Players like Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and Hakeem Olajuwon were more instrumental in Horry's success than he was, plus all will go down as some of the best ever to play the game.

They would still be considered great players if they never tasted NBA glory, but the ability to win a championship inserted them into a rare position which is the object of envy for many great players who failed to do so.

It also provides a great differing point when comparing players who are by most means similar in accomplishments, but the championship provides a point of leverage.

For instance, there is an ongoing debate about who is the better power forward in NBA history, Tim Duncan or Karl Malone, but the argument has to shift to Duncan because of his ability to win four NBA championships.

That doesn't take away from the success of Malone, but it lends credibility to Duncan as the superior player due to his success at the pinnacle of the league whereas Malone failed.

The same can be said of numerous players such as Steve Nash, Charles Barkley, and currently James, all great players who failed to win a championship to stamp their legacy, even after accomplishing everything else.

There is plenty of time left for James to include his name among the truly legendary players who solidified their history with a championship, and once he does, his efforts to brand himself in Jordan's manner will be complete.

Both Bryant and James were students of Jordan's ability to captivate the masses with their skills and marketing acumen, it's just that they have used different approaches in their efforts to reach his status.

You have to admit Bryant is ahead in the category which matters most.  If James continues to fail in his bid to win a championship, he could be the latest great player who is minus a true legacy. 

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