The redemption of LeBron James

People hate LeBron James. I mean really hate LeBron James.

They hate the fact that he left Cleveland. They hate “The Decision.” They hate that he went to Miami and teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in order to win a title. And they sure are going to hate it when he wins his first championship.

He’s going to win a championship. The Miami Heat are one win away from winning the NBA Finals.

It’s going to happen.

But the people that hate him are in a shrinking group. Mostly located in Northeast Ohio. LeBron has won a lot of people over with his play this season. Myself included. I’m certainly not going to become one of the slobbering LeBron Apologists that can see no wrong in what he does, even when he does wrong. And I’m not a bandwagon fan who sees that he is about to win a championship and wants get a bit of his shine.

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How many rings will it take to save LeBron James’ legacy?

LeBon JamesBarring a major injury or a life ending cosmic collision, LeBron James and the Miami Heat will represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Final this season.  The Heat will likely face the Oklahoma City Thunder in what could be one of the best finals matchups NBA fans have been treated to in quite a while.  If LeBron and company can find away to get it done, his critics, who currently fault him for having none, will then emphasize the fact that he only has one.  That leads to all important question of how many rings will it take to save LeBron’s legacy?

In order to begin answering that question one must look at other NBA greats who have won titles.  We all know that Michael Jordan won six, Magic Johnson five, Kobe Bryant has five, Shaquille O’Neal four, and Larry Bird three.  Each of those players are considered NBA royalty and if LeBron James wants to join that illustrious fraternity, then he needs to at least bring in three…right?

Well maybe not so fast.  James is in his 9th NBA season and was deeply criticized for stacking the deck with the Miami Heat in hopes of bringing home multiple championships.  This is unfair criticism because all of the previously mentioned “NBA royalty” had stacked decks too.  Jordan had Pippen, and the right role players, Magic had Jabbar, Worthy and Scott.  Bird had McHale, Parrish, Johnson and Ainge, Kobe had Shaq, and Shaq had Kobe and Wade.  That was a tremendous amount of NBA talent concentrated on the aforementioned teams which allowed them to be so successful.  No one has ever done it alone yet LeBron has caught so much heat for not getting it done and changing teams so that he could.  Why?

Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley were NBA superstars of their era and both changed teams in hopes of winning a championship.  It worked for Clyde only because Jordan retired for two seasons before coming back and winning three more.  Patrick Ewing was an elite player on some solid New York Knicks teams and he never got a ring.  Hakeem Olajuwon won two, but again that was largely in part to Jordan’s brief retirement.  Even the legendary Jerry West, the NBA logo himself, only managed one championship.

Here’s the point.  In order to salvage his legacy LeBron James needs one ring… period.  It doesn’t matter what team he wins it on, or whether he dominates the series to get it done, his name just needs to be affiliated with a team that won an NBA title when his career comes to a close.  In sports, the disparity between those who have won championships and those who haven’t is so great because any one player can be good, but it takes a special team at the right moment in time to become elite.  Maybe this is the year that James and the Heat begin that run of three or four championships that they are capable of winning.  Only time tell.

Follow Aaron on Twitter @Da_Bear_Truth