From the moment LeBron James entered the NBA, he’s been out on a mission, set out to accomplish it by himself or by those viewing from the outside, judging and surveying every move. Even after winning championships, MVPs and anything else the NBA has to offer, the challenges remain the same. It’s only the measuring stick to judge him by that’s been altered.
Because at one point or the other, James was bound to become the best player in the league. Some talents are too good to miss, and it took James about four years to be better than anyone else. He was probably already that good during the 2006-2007 season, having his “moment” when he took the Cavs to the NBA finals in 2007. He scored 48 points in game 5 of the conference finals against the Pistons, including 29 of the last 30 points for the Cavs as they bounced the strongest team in the East.
Maybe the first challenge was making it into the playoffs. James did make the worst team in the league into a competitive one, but he missed out on the postseason during the first two years. When Carmelo Anthony retires without rings, he’ll at least be able to say he has more playoff performances than LeBron James. The problem that in his 10 postseason appearances, only one of them actually went as far as the conference finals. But that’s another matter.
So, to summarize: Dominating, playoffs, and becoming someone in contention of the title. The last one is tricky, because as good as James turned out to be, which right now would put him among the 10 greatest NBA players in history, getting over the fourth part of the equation to greatness, winning NBA titles, he couldn’t do it without the right kind of support. However, as great as Michael Jordan is made out to be, he had Scottie Pippen as his sidekick, and that’s before we mention Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, Toni Kukoc and others who helped him obtain those six rings.
James made a move that won him many haters, and actually villanized him. He made a public spectacle of his decision to play for the Miami Heat, joining NBA All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the chase for the ring. In hindsight, the only thing he should have changed was the style. Other than that, he didn’t do anything wrong. Three NBA finals in three seasons, capped off by two NBA titles and making it to four regular season MVPs and two in the finals. It’s hard to ask for anything more.
But James is no longer measured by his ability to win that one ring. Greater things lay ahead. Like it or not, greatness is often measured by the numbers of titles in a team game. Sounds absurd? That’s the way it is, so even if James remains at the level he’s playing right now for a few more seasons, no one can guarantee that his teammates will keep up at the same pace. And the number of championships he ends up with, not just his MVPs (and he has four by now) will probably determine the perception of his influence and standing among the all-time greats through the mass media ranks.
James might end up with more MVP awards than Kareem, but MVP aren’t enough. Two championships, to be considered the best player of all times, isn’t enough for most. When you have three, the minimum for most to call a team a dynsaty, than it becomes a lot harder arguing about your rightful place in history. Putting himself as high as possible in those rankings seems to be James’ current goal and ambition (maybe the final one), and he’ll only achieve that by leading a team to a third ring in the very near future.