LeBron James' Legacy Is Not Tarnished, but It Is Changing

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJuly 27, 2010

MIAMI - JULY 09:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat is introduced during a welcome party at American Airlines Arena on July 9, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

LeBron James has received constant criticism since he decided to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and most of the criticism centers around a legacy that James has yet to establish.

Some observers think James took the easy way out, but all he really did was insulate himself from criticism should the Miami Heat fail to win a championship over the next few seasons.

James' leadership abilities came under attack during his time in Cleveland, and even though he was able to lead the Cavaliers to the best regular season record in the NBA for two consecutive seasons, he could never succeed in the postseason.

The Miami Heat is Wade's team, and as the unquestioned leader of the franchise most of the credit will be shifted to him, whether the Heat should prosper or fail.

When Pat Riley was selling James on joining the Heat, he said LeBron was Magic, Wade would be Kobe, and Bosh would be Garnett, but besides physical skills, James has very little in common with Magic.

No one ever questioned the leadership abilities of Magic Johnson, and even though he played on a team that included several legendary players, he was ordained the leader of the team from the moment he donned the purple and gold.

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This was something Magic embraced, and even though he suffered losses in the postseason and was questioned about his leadership abilities in much the same manner as James, he still persevered.

Maybe James wasn't built to absorb the amount of criticism he endured after Cleveland lost to Boston in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and maybe he never viewed himself as much of a leader anyway.

James' sideline antics and pregame dancing rituals suggested he would much rather be one of the guys even though his immense talent separated him from the ordinary in the NBA.

Most of James' defenders have said there is no way to ascertain his motives for joining Miami, and this may be true because he certainly doesn't seem to concerned with being the top player in the NBA.

James once said he would never chase NBA championships, and despite foolish predictions of a 75-win season, there is no guarantee Miami will win a title next season.

But James' decision proves he had grown tired of shouldering the responsibility alone, and the opportunity to join two other superstar players was too much of a temptation to pass up.

What fans of James must understand is even though there is nothing wrong with him making a decision based on his own interests, he must now accept the consequences of that choice.

James had as much to do with pushing his own brand and image as ESPN, and he never did much to downplay the label of "king," even though he never did much to deserve it.

The backlash comes because the image that James reflected to the general public was not how James even views himself, and the path to his legacy will be very different than once imagined.

Most people assumed James was the natural heir to a throne now held by Kobe Bryant, but as far as championships go, he will never be able to escape the shadow of Wade.

Even if the Heat win the seven or eight titles James predicted, Wade will always have one more.

James will always be seen as the player who couldn't lead his team to a championship.

It's hard to say James' legacy was damaged by his move because he doesn't even have a legacy to tarnish; from this point on, whatever he does will never be singular.

James' legacy will forever be intertwined with Wade's, and although there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this, it's not what was expected from a player some consider as the NBA's top talent.