Tarnished Crown: Will the 2014 NBA Finals Outcome Alter Lebron James Legacy

Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports

Steve Mitchell – USA Today Sports

Some have them, some don’t… championships that is. In professional sports the ultimate goal is to win the championship and for many of the greats: Bills Russell, Brett Farve and Mariano Rivera, the story written about their careers seem to be a lot more interesting because their team was recognized as being the best at the end of the season. Conversely there are equally talented players who constantly are omitted from “all-time great” lists because they never won a ring. Stories about Charles Barkley, Dan Marino and Frank Thomas are often told with an emptiness because it did not contain a description of euphoria from witnessing a ticker-tape parade or the honor in presenting the President of the United States with a team jersey. But should a professional athlete have his career second-guessed for not getting a ring… no. Winning a championship in team sports is one of the hardest accomplishments and for those who have achieved that goal there is a permanent stamp of approval to their careers, that’s unless you are LeBron James and wear the heavy crown of being considered the best player in the NBA.

Despite having already won two straight NBA Championships with the Miami Heat, there are some who feel that unless he wins another in 2014, that the story about his career will have unfulfilled pages. Many point back to when James departed Cleveland for Miami as the growth point of this massive weight of expectations for the talented forward. Contrary to what many assume it did not develop during the announcement of his free agency plans aka “The (bad) Decision” but it was in Miami during the introduction where James himself predicted that “not one, not two, not three…” but multiple championships upwards of seven would be brought to the sunshine state because of the “Big Three.” By putting those great expectations into the atmosphere James unlatched Pandora’s Box and despite fulfilling part of that prophecy with two, the box that is full of criticism, hate and ill-will from media and fans is on the verge of bursting open if LeBron isn’t able to win in 2014. Is this fair, no, but that is life in the world of sports — to whom much is given much is expected. With the adoration comes the hate, with the fan pages come the mockery memes but this is what happens when you are “The Chosen One.”

This is the by-product of a social media driven society that has allowed everyone with a pulse to blindly second-guess the long term impact of a player that is still in the prime of his career. In the five years and 105 games that James has led a team to the NBA Finals he is averaging 26.4 ppg 8.28 rpg while shooting 49% from the field. Those numbers alone should place him in the conversation of being one of the greats, but his championship series record is only 2-2 and he is currently trailing in this years NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs 2-1 and because of that his detractors are questioning his ability to get the job done. The bandwagon of doubters gained more members when James was forced to sit out the final minutes of Game 1 after suffering leg cramps due to hydration and heat issues. And rather than recognize that each athlete responds to injuries differently, social media went into attack mode:

lebron-cramps-greatest-quitter

And if that wasn’t bad enough they made fun of him using the two players he is compared to the most: Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.

lebron-kobe  jordan mem1

Not only is this unfair due to the severity of the injury but its speaks to how these comments may be more about diminishing one player in order to protect the honor of two other great basketball players; LeBron haters fear that he will end his career with more championships than those two and there will be nothing to deny him from being regarded as the greatest NBA player of all time. But as long as LeBron sits in third place in the championship race, the Kobe and MJ “stans” will always see James as the red headed stepchild who needed to play with other star players to finally win a title — even though Kobe played with a top 5 all-time center in Shaquille O’Neal and Jordan had a sidekicks that were very good in Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman.

There are rumors now surfacing that the Heat are interested in pursuing Carmelo Anthony and bringing him in to join the “Big Three” to make a “Fantastic Four.” If this is true, the pressure for LeBron to win in 2014, for the sake of his own personal storyline, may have just increased ten-fold. If he doesn’t beat the Spurs that would give him a losing record in the finals and the acquisition of Anthony would be looked at more as Melo salvaging the Big Three’s quest for multiple championships rather than him being added as a complimentary piece in LeBron’s quest for seven rings.

 

Will you look at LeBron’s career differently if he doesn’t win a title in 2014?

Will the Heat hurt LeBron’s legacy if they add Carmelo Anthony?

Will his championship total determine where LeBron ends up on your NBA all-time greats list?

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One thought on “Tarnished Crown: Will the 2014 NBA Finals Outcome Alter Lebron James Legacy

  1. Well written. I believe LeBron said it best when talking about his legacy. He said “It’s stupid. He plays for his family, fans, friends, the city of Miami. His legacy is not just defined by basketball. To quote him: “And for me a legacy isn’t just basketball. I think people get caught up in what you do on the floor, what you do on the gridiron, what you do on the diamond and so on and so on, and just try to define your legacy just by how you play the sport. I think my calling is much bigger than just basketball, to say what my legacy is on the floor and to say that’s all it is stupid”
    I agree. The problem is as you pointed out, social media. Athletes are more accessible than ever before. I actually have a problem with those who question his mental stability. In this day and age, you have to be mentally tough to not only deal with the critics in your circle but those outside of it including the main stream and social media out there. Would Jordan have been able to handle the pressure in this time? With his gambling issues and fights with teammates being publicized everywhere? We’ll never know. The one thing I am certain of is that great talent – those that we call Superstars- don’t come around every year. We are “witnessing” one of the greats in this era. We should enjoy it while it is here. Whether Lebron wins 2 rings or if he goes on to add six more to his collection – he’s still one of the top ten to play the game. Never have I seen a tremendous talent be so unselfish. He has nothing negative against him outside of “The Decision” that people deem to be so damning to his career. Even then, the production raised upwards of 3 million dollars that went to charities that he is actively apart of. He is not Kobe Bryant. He is not Michael Jordan. He is Lebron James. Get over it.

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