We get it. Lebron James’ hairline is receding, he barely makes game winning shots, and he made a spectacle out of his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Oh, and he has no ring.
When James announced that he would be taking his talents to South Beach, he expressed with certainty that he was going to Miami to win a championship ring.
News outlets ran wild. Ohioans were incensed. Dan Gilbert, the Cleveland Cavalier’s general manager, wrote an angry letter vilifying James. Michael Jordan, arguably the best NBA player of all time, even criticized James for his decision. For a while, he became the most hated player in the NBA.
Years later, the antagonism has not subsided. “The Decision” happened, what seems like, eons ago. James has joined the Miami Heat and proven that he is still the great player that he was in Cleveland. And like in Cleveland, he still does not have the ring that he promised himself, the general public, and the media.
Consequently, James, more than anyone in the league, has to prove himself.
But what would a ring prove?
He has consistently proven that he is a spectacular player. According to the official NBA website, he has averaged 27.7 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, and 6.9 assists per game throughout his entire career. If that’s not enough, he just secured his third Most Valuable Player award for the 2011-2012 season.
Plainly, a ring would not prove that he is a great player because his stats and accolades already corroborate this. Furthermore, James does not need a ring to be considered an NBA icon. 2008 NBA Finals MVP Paul Pierce has a championship ring but he is hardly considered an NBA great. The same can be said for 2011 NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki. If a championship ring cannot turn ordinary players into greats, then what can it do for an, arguably, already great James? Reaffirm his greatness?
The answer is nothing.
Critics harp on the fact that James has no ring because there is nothing else they can criticize. Some players need a ring to speak for their talent, but James’ talent speaks for itself. James is an exciting and extraordinary player who will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time. When you have the talent that James has, you don’t need a ring. In addition, James has all the perquisites that come with winning a championship. Endorsement deals? He has those. MVP Awards? He has those too. All-Star recognition? Check. Worldwide notoriety? Check that too. A championship ring would be an accessory for James, not a necessity.
However, basketball conformists believe that a great has to win a ring. It is time that we realize that there is no formula for determining greats. Unarguably, Michael Jordan is the emblem of a basketball great. To an extent, James is the antithesis of Jordan. James didn’t stick with his original team, but he has managed to excel and maintain a favorable legacy. Although he is constantly criticized by the media, he still delivers on the court. Although he has no championship ring (yet), he is still touted as, arguably, the best player in the league right now. It enrages people to see someone who has not followed this obscure “How to be an NBA Great” guidebook still be regarded as a great. The fact that he has not conformed to this mold bespeaks of the magnitude of his talent.
James is one of the best in the league and the only thing a championship ring would do is shut his critics up.
Maybe I should rethink my stance.