In the world of sports, history has its say only years after a player or team have completed their days of competition. Along the way, players gather individual accolades (MVP awards, scoring titles, etc.) to further advance their legacy in their respective sport; teams do the same with championships.
In the case of professional basketball and LeBron James, his legacy is being written as this article is being written and will continue to be written through the rest of his playing career. The best part is that, like all greats of any sport, the fans get to watch it all unfold.
However, fans do seem to get a bit radical with their beliefs on who is the best to ever play in any sport. Bring up any sport and a spirited debate will begin amongst fans of that sport as to who the best player to ever play it was. With pro basketball, it’s about James and Michael Jordan. And with any Jordan comparison comes the titles comparison.
Currently, James has two NBA titles to his credit with Jordan having won six in his professional career. James just won his second title with the Miami Heat‘s seven game finals triumph over the San Antonio Spurs.
And this was a championship that James definitely needed for the sake of his legacy.
This championship will end up being very important when people look back at James’ playing career because of who James and the Heat beat in this year’s finals as well as (in a historical sense) when they beat them.
Quick note: this doesn’t diminish the importance of the Heat’s title with James last season as you have to win a first title to win a second and the first title is generally looked at as the big win that sets off the true winning potential of a star player. Not in this case.
When the Heat played the Oklahoma City Thunder in last year’s NBA Finals, there was a “future is now” feel to the proceedings. The overall perception was that this was the first installment of several between these teams in the finals. However, despite it being the Heat and James’ third NBA Finals appearance, it was only the Thunder’s first.
On the other hand, the Spurs were making their first finals appearance in six years when they met the Heat this season. It was also the fourth finals appearance for the Spurs with their big three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker, they were 3-0 in finals with this big three and Duncan also has a fourth ring from 1999.
In other words, the Thunder were newcomers to the championship round while the Spurs were an established dynasty with a reputation for consistency that is still unrivaled in pro basketball.
This is the key difference in examining which finals win was more important to LeBron: this year he was a winner who won against a team that was used to winning while last year both he and Kevin Durant were guys looking for the first taste of something the Spurs’ big three had first tasted around ten years before.
The way this series was perceived by both the league and its fans also will prove to be a big positive for James’ legacy too. The “champion versus champion” hyping of the series was not only good for the present with the ratings numbers showing people did want to see this series, but it is also good historically because it will show that the NBA had the right idea about how to promote this year’s finals.
This is something of a miracle when it comes to the Spurs in the finals.
The Spurs have been viewed for years now as the benchmark in pro basketball, even if they are belittled and overlooked at the same time. People, writers, fans, even NBA commissioner David Stern all love to rain hatred down on the Spurs when it suits them, but they also are very quick to point out that this is a team that wins all the time, even if they are “boring” as they do it.
The Spurs will get more love years from now when their achievements are viewed with the proper perspective, but this year seemed to be when the Spurs finally got their due respect while the key players of their title years were still active.
Just about everyone believes that James will end up as the best player in NBA history or he will at least challenge for that distinction. For James to reach such heights with his career, the remainder of his career has to be about winning. James already has all the individual accolades he’ll need when it comes to league MVP’s, scoring, shooting, etc.
However, there is still work to be done in the winning department with men like Jordan and Bill Russell still far ahead of James in titles won.