Brad Kurtzberg (TheSTN) – LeBron Needs a Championship to be One of the All-Time Greats

It seems like a lot of people have been arguing about how good LeBron James truly is. Is he the best player in the NBA today? Where does he stand among the all-time greats in league history?

Love him or hate him (the way he handled his departure from Cleveland was anything but classy), the Heat star is clearly one of the top 2-3 players in the league right now but there is something keeping him from being one of the true all-time top 10 players in league history: he hasn’t won an NBA title.

While one star player cannot win an NBA title alone, one player can make a bigger difference in the NBA than in any other sport. Look, there are only 5 players on the court at one time and the best players are out there for 42-45 minutes of a 48 minute game.

When LeBron abandoned the Cavs and chose the Heat as his new destination, joining Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade in Miami, the entire move was orchestrated to give the league’s best player a chance to win his first championship. Last year, the title eluded James and the Heat and LeBron looked shaky in the final minute of several games in the final series. This year, the Heat look like the favorites to emerge from the Eastern Conference, but LeBron still seems to have problems playing well late in big games.

The standard of measuring great NBA players by titles won is nothing new. In the 60s, Wilt Chamberlain put up incredible individual statistics including averaging 50 points a game over a complete season and scoring 100 points in a game (a record that still stands). But “Wilt the Stilt” on just one NBA title (1972 with the Lakers) while his chief rival for supremacy, Bill Russell, won 11 titles with the Celtics
during his 13-year NBA career.

Julius Erving was hounded by critics who said his teams never won an NBA title until he finally led the 76ers to a league crown in 1983 after so many near misses. Erving won two titles for the New York Nets in the old ABA, but until he won an NBA crown, something was always “missing” from his resume.

Michael Jordan put up some great statistics over the course of his career and many highlight reel moments. But besides being a great showman on the court and pitchman off it, what made Jordan truly great was that he made the players around him better and he was an integral part of six NBA championship winners including an incredible “Three Peat” with the Chicago Bulls.

Compare Jordan to one of his contemporaries, Charles Barkley. While everyone says Barkley was a great player, his place among the NBA’s all-time best players is compromised because “Sir Charles” never won a
title.

While no star player can will a title alone, the truly great players in NBA history all have two things in common: they make the players around them better and they win at least one NBA title. Until LeBron James wins at least one championship, he will remain a second tier all-time great at best.

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