LeBron James may be the greatest villain in the NBA since the Bad Boys era of the Detroit Pistons in the late 1980s. Yet, amongst all of the animosity towards James, he is still, arguably, the greatest athlete to play in the NBA
Without saying James is the greatest there is/was (that’s far from the truth). James took himself out of that conversation the moment he “took his talents to South Beach” to play with D-Wade and Chris Bosh. But to say LeBron is overrated, over paid, even a bad player is taking a dislike of a player to an extreme level that is unwarranted.
James may be a self-proclaimed “king” and treated as such throughout his NBA career. But his reign has turned from one of a benevolent king, to that of a tyrant.
His fan base diminished from nearly Jordan-esque ranks, down to endangered levels (outside of his new Miami fans). As much as James has tried to repair the damage, he can’t shake the image of “The Decision” from the fans minds.
James is in fine company as one of seven players to win, at least, three MVP awards. Even if he never wins a NBA Finals, James could still fall in with great players to never win the NBAs greatest achievement: Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, Elgin Baylor, etc.
A ring does not put LeBron into the discussion for the greatest NBA player ever. He removed himself from that conversation.
Can he win a ring and be in the conversation? Of course! But he can only be on the fringe of that conversation.
But if/when LeBron finally wins that ring with the Heat. That title will be tarnished with the tears of jilted Cleveland Cavaliers fans crying out “That was supposed to be our ring!”
Even if the Bosh/James/Wade connection accomplishes the mission statement of James at that ridiculous pep rally after James signed with Miami, James cannot be a part of the “Greatest Ever” conversation.
Not because he won’t have earned it. It will be because he doesn’t want to be in that conversation. For a guy that has one of the greatest skill sets to ever step onto an NBA court, James is wasting is God-given ability to dominate a League that is just gushing for him to take over.
A big reason why James ran off to South Beach was so he wouldn’t have to be THE Guy. LeBron even said after his “decision” that he wanted to go to the Heat so he wouldn’t have to be the guy to take the last shot every time. In Cleveland he had no choice but to be the guy and stumbled. He blamed his supporting cast and owner for the shortcomings of the Cavs. But the true blame has to fall on him. A truly great player makes his teammates better by adhering to their strengths and getting better at his weaknesses.
James has passed the ball off to Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh for the final shots. LeBron wants to be nowhere near the ball when the game is on the line. It almost seems as if he knows if he misses a game-winner, his legacy will continue to be weighed down by his critics shouting “he can’t close out games.”
Even as he has assumed a more leader-like role with the Heat, the way he took over in games six and seven of the Eastern Conference Finals rank as some of the best performances in NBA Playoff history, it still will not be enough to bring the “King” up on the list of greatest players of all-time.
The “Decision” is LeBron’s greatest deterrent to his place in NBA annals. As we grow older and history begins to fade, NBA historians will see the Miami Heat from 2010-2016 (assuming Bosh, Wade and James don’t opt out of their contracts) and say “They had a lineup that included three of the most dominating players of their generation”, but what will they have accomplished?
In five to ten years, when the LeBron James era has concluded, his legacy will be finally formed and the reign of “King James” will be over. The NBA will, likely, be in the midst of the Kevin Durant era and the discussion will move to KDs place in NBA history.