May 18, 2010
by guest blogger James Witham
Imagine walking into your favorite restaurant for quick bite with your buddies. You look over and you see Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone enjoying a steak dinner and talking about the good old days. Maybe you whip out your cell phone and take a picture. Maybe you just can’t help yourself, you just have to get an autograph. Yeah you might do that, but what if you were LeBron James? Coming off yet another loss and falling short of a championship once again, does LeBron pull up a chair?
When LeBron first entered the league, he was almost immediately dubbed “The King” by the fans and the media. Sure the hype was there, as were the physical tools and skills to be a great player at the next level. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that this kid was going to finally bring a ring to a city that has seen almost nothing but heartbreak in the world of sports. You look at the statistics over LeBron’s seven year career and they don’t lie. They are phenomenal and worthy of being mentioned with the best players in the league today. That’s great if you’re a stat freak, but does it make him “King”? Charles Barkley and Karl Malone could both chime in to say they’ve been the league’s MVP just like LeBron. Patrick Ewing could speak up and say he was Rookie of the Year, just like LeBron. All three men have scored near or above 25,000 points and grabbed well over 10,000 boards in their career. The only thing all four men have in common is…no ring.
Sure, LeBron is only 25 and his contract has expired. That means he has time right? I remember people feeling the same way about “Sir Charles” when he left Philly. Separate stints with the Suns and Rockets still resulted in no championships. Barkley was 29 when he left the 76ers. Karl Malone even tried to join the Lakers at the end of his career hoping Kobe Bryant could help him to a title. Thanks to the Detroit Pistons, that didn’t happen. Patrick Ewing can certain place some blame on Reggie Miller. Most of the woes of those three great players could be traced back to Michael Jordan. Surely, there is no shame in being beaten by arguably the greatest player to even slip on a pair of Nike’s. So what excuses does “King James” have?
In his only appearance in the NBA Finals, LeBron was swept by the San Antonio Spurs. That was 2007, being that he was only 22 and it was his first shot at a title, maybe you cut him a little slack. His supporting cast that year didn’t exactly read as a who’s who of the NBA either. So the Cavs overhaul the roster and make another run. The next year they are bounced in the second round of the playoffs. Maybe you could blame that one on injuries? Maybe a lack of chemistry with all the new faces? The following year yielded a franchise high 66 wins for Cleveland. LeBron wins his first MVP and Mike Brown is Coach of the Year. Things were looking great, until losing in six games to the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals.
That brings us to this year, and another overhaul. Time to bring in some championship experience; enter Shaquille O’Neal which should solve the Cavs’ problem at center. Add Antwan Jamison to go with Mo Williams who was added last year, fans in Cleveland think this is their year. Instead they leave feeling beaten and embarrassed by the Boston Celtics. The Celtics were seen as an aging team who could not handle a superstar like LeBron with all the weapons he now had in place. In the final two games of the series their “King” looked like a man who no longer wanted to serve his loyal subjects. A former Defensive Player of the Year, looking interested in doing anything but playing defense. A “King” who was supposed to be able to do it all only being able to manage 15 and 27 points respectively in the final two games of the series, when it mattered most. Michael Jordan was able to score 38 points in the 1997 NBA Finals with the stomach flu to win a crucial Game 5 against the Jazz. Just like the Cleveland-Boston series, the series was tied at 2 games apiece at the time. I doubt Jordan would have let an elbow injury stand in the way of winning another NBA Title.
Labels are fun, and a great way to market your superstar player or team. Maybe in time this will all be a distant memory for LeBron James, and he will sit on his throne to rule the NBA for years to come. Until that day, I say that LeBron should sit down with Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing to a feast that is fit for a “King”. A “King”, with no ring.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the writer, and not the opinions of Fathead, its ownership, or any of its employees.