Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New York, Lebron and Championships...

Over the last few seasons since Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh signed their 3 year opt-out contracts, professional sports has changed. You didn't notice? Well, its a fairly subtle change but one nonetheless. Superstars are now expected to win a championship or are forever cast in the Charles Barkley, Dan Marino, Cal Ripken mold of 'best to never win' a title. Sure that existed before to a certain degree, but the dynamic has changed with the advent of the new media. Is the old New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms better than Dan Marino because he was a big part of two titles? I can remember a time that Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were most definitely superstars in regards to talent, but only after winning a title in a Michael Jordan-less NBA did they become legendary. Dominique Wilkins was a superstar in every sense of the word, as was Charles Barkley. It was not held against them with the intensity that it is now until fairly recently. Lebron's failure has only exacerbated the situation. Shawn Kemp was one of the most popular players and along with Gary Payton formed one of the best teams in Seattle. Somehow though, nobody talks about them two players being of the best to never win a title.

Now however, after Dwayne Wade won his Shaq-assisted title in Miami in '05, there is absolutely no mercy. Championships are won by players intangible drive and instinct. Who would you rather have though, Lebron or Wade? Never mind that winning and losing has so much to do with teammates and coaching. It also has to do with the organization, and continuity (of course the Celtics championship makes them the exception). Lebron in many minds, has about 5 or 6 championships in him so when he wins his first (there it is again) he still will have a long way to go. There have even been articles written about him being perhaps the best ever based on his potential. Realistically, Lebron surely wont equal his (purported) potential and win the 5 or 6 Championships to equal Jordan. There are too many great players if you figure Carmelo, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Deron Williams, Dwight Howard and a few others are and will be in the mix. Dwayne Wade had better win at least two or three more to cement his status as a truly elite player, though without a doubt he is already one. Lebron and his heart has been questioned because he has not yet won as we all thought he would. He might just be better off starting a new legacy from scratch in New York. Never mind the fact that his team was out-coached, and his supporting cast consists of a shadow of Shaq, and a pseudo-All-Star in Mo Williams who would not start for any of the teams left in the playoffs.

I find it interesting that expectations heaped on the broad shoulders of NBA players now carry with them the expectations of a title. You cant say the same thing for baseball, as we all know that every year the big market teams will be in contention. In the NFL it seems to be a matter of quarterback play and coaching. However in the NBA, one player is expected to be able to dominate the entire league and win a title by force of will alone. Thank Jordan for that. Remember, once Shaq was traded from L.A., Kobe missed the playoffs. Once he was given a decent supporting cast he was able to get back to the Finals, and he was only finally able to win (post-Shaq that is) once Pau Gasol came aboard. Does Kobe really have that 'killer instinct' and the intangibles that Lebron doesn't have? Can Lebron change that in New York?

It seems Lebron would be very keen to understand the implications of his moving to New York. For if he does, he may win a title at the earliest in year three. After the Knicks find a suitable second fiddle to play next LBJ, the coaching is then the next step. The days of a star like Jordan dominating the game and the league are over, but when will the rest of the world get the memo?

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