We know the story.
LeBron James left the Cavaliers where he was the undisputed leader and joined the Miami Heat, which James himself called Dwyane Wade’s team. Kobe Bryant never left the Lakers and he would have never willingly gone to a team that already had an alpha male.
But how quickly have we forgotten that Bryant won over half his titles on a team that already had one?
This is why the mainstream media can never be taken seriously. Two years ago, Kobe Bryant’s three championship rings may as well have come from the bottom of a Frosted Flakes box.
All of Bryant’s success was null and void because “he couldn’t do it without Shaq”.
Kobe wasn’t a real champion.
Now Bryant is on top of the world while James, the man who the media worshipped from high school all the way until the end of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, has been branded as a cowardly, traitorous sidekick.
Funny how quickly the media changes its tune, isn’t it?
Think what you will from James’ transformation from hero to pariah, but what Bryant proved in the last two years is that everyone forgives a winner. Love him or hate him, a champion is measured by his success, not by his off-the-court persona or past follies.
Think about it: when was the last time you heard someone bring up Bryant’s unfortunate incident in Colorado?
If James wants to restore his legacy in the eyes of the media he’ll have to win, but if James wants to be remembered as the greatest player of the post-Jordan era he’ll have to win more than Kobe. The question is can he do it?
The short answer is no.
Bryant already has 5 rings and heading into this season the Lakers have already been declared the favorites to capture the NBA title by almost every reputable analytical source in America.
If Bryant were to win a sixth NBA title, he’d be completely out of James’ reach. As young and talented as the Miami Heat’s roster is, they don’t have enough longevity to compete for 7 titles. Who does?
Even if Kobe fails to lead the Lakers to the 2011 NBA title, James would still need to lead the Heat to 6 titles in a league in which every team is gunning for them.
The Heat are going need lady luck in their back pocket to keeping away major injuries and at some point, they’ll probably need the Doctor Phil to manage the locker room – the kicker is we haven’t even talked about on-court chemistry yet.
Having said all that, barring these injuries or a 2004 Lakers-level implosion, the Heat are guaranteed to win at least one championship at some point.
Believe me, I know how sacrilegious that sounds. One of the biggest, most concrete rules in sports is that no team is “guaranteed” titles, but based on the Heat’s youth, their window of opportunity and their raw talent, the Heat may have already shattered that rule to pieces.
NBA purists will claim that no amount of titles can earn James a place amongst the league’s legends, but they’re wrong. If James’ switch to Miami proves to be a success then James might be remembered as a pioneer.
Jordan, Magic and Bird won all of their titles with the teams that drafted them and they all remained with their respective teams throughout their career (Jordan’s Wizards stint doesn’t count). Their loyalty helped cement their place as legends.
The difference with those guys and James is that they all had hall of fame talent around them. In this new era, perhaps James switch will usher in a new standard of legend: win immediately, even if it means switching area codes.
Jordan and Magic can disapprove of James’ decision all they want, but winning absolves everything and the Heat will win.
Just not enough for LeBron to surpass Kobe.