Blog Entry

LeBron James, Miami Heat need full NBA season

Posted on: October 3, 2011 6:40 pm
Edited on: October 3, 2011 6:44 pm
 
Posted by Ben Golliver

lebron-james

The first title has to be clean.

When you’re playing with an eye towards history and your expressed purpose is to serve as the NBA’s next great dynasty, the first championship won’t be compared to just any old title. 

No, it will be judged against the first titles won by previous legends and it will have to stack up on some key criteria. The title must come against top competition. The title must be secured with the franchise player leaving his stamp on the key moments. And, most importantly, there can’t be any loopholes or asterisks. If prospective basketball Kings eye immortality, those criteria are nonnegotiable.

The greatest to ever do it, Michael Jordan, won MVP all six times he went to the NBA Finals. Along the way, he knocked off an entire generation of stars: Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, and the list goes on. In securing his first title, Jordan knocked off the defending champion Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals and sent home arguably the greatest player of the 1980s, Magic Johnson, in the Finals. Jordan averaged an astonishing 31.2 points, 11.4 assists, 6.6 rebounds, 2.8 steals, 1.4 blocks and shot 55.8 percent from the field in the five-game romp over the Lakers.

That’s clean. Just try to pick nits over that. The fact that the Pistons stomped off the court in defeat and Johnson graciously passed the torch only adds to the legend. That's clean.

Johnson’s own story is nearly as strong. As a rookie, he won Finals MVP for leading the Lakers past a loaded Philadelphia 76ers team with center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sidelined with an ankle injury. Just 20-years-old, he famously played all five positions in the deciding game, putting up 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, and secured the title on the road, sending Hall of Famer Julius Erving and company home empty-handed. Pretty damn clean.

Rookie Bill Russell grabbing 32 rebounds in Game 7 of the 1957 Finals for the Boston Celtics to defeat the St. Louis Hawks, led by Hall of Famer Bob Pettit. Clean. In 1981, Larry Bird nearly averaged a triple-double -- 15.3 points, 15.3 rebounds and seven assists per game -- and memorably rebounded and reloaded his own miss in mid-air for one of basketball’s greatest highlights in defeating the Houston Rockets, led by Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. Clean.

For immortality, that’s the standard. Sure, it’s nearly impossible to match, but if we’re talking about “not one, not two, not three, not four” levels of greatness, that’s what you’re up against. The performance must be unimpeachable.

With the notable exceptions of guard Dwyane Wade, forward Udonis Haslem and president Pat Riley, 2011-2012 is shaping up to be the first title for all the key members of the Miami Heat. LeBron James. Chris Bosh. Head coach Erik Spoelstra. Whichever cadaver is brought in to play center. And, really, if we wind up talking about a Heat dynasty 20 years from now, 2006 won’t be mentioned, except with regard to Wade. All that will truly matter is how many rings get stacked up over the next 6-to-8 years.

That’s especially true for James, who has the best shot at joining basketball's all-timers. The last thing that James needs at this juncture, then, is an asterisk. And a shortened season is about as big as asterisks come.

Nothing says impeachable quite like winning a title in one of only two seasons in the past forty that were played with less than 82 games. Nothing says loophole like jogging through a 50-game spread against opponents in varying degrees of condition and then suiting up for a playoffs that very well could include a bunch of teams that shouldn't be there. All six of Jordan’s titles came in 82-game seasons; all five of Johnson’s titles came in 82-game seasons; all three of Bird’s titles came in 82-game seasons. If James wants to climb that mountain, and he should, he's being handed a tough trail.

James, already with more detractors than he can handle, will be damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t if a single NBA game is canceled, as is expected to be announced later this week. James was already held to a higher standard than your typical NBA superstar, but, title-less at age 26 and coming off of back-to-back summers in which he alienated vast swaths of basketball fans with the “Decision” and then dramatically collapsed in the 2011 NBA Finals, pressure and expectations have only mounted. To win a title in any way except in pristine conditions and through overwhelming statistical production will not suffice. “Yeah, he won, but it was a lockout,” critics will say. “MJ never needed a short season to win a championship.”

The expectations James feels are mirrored by those facing his organization. After the preseason parade, the “teaming up,” the “taking their talents to South Beach,” and the instant success reflected by a Finals run in their first year together, Miami badly needs revenge and redemption. But neither revenge nor redemption will taste sweet if everyone is harping that it “doesn’t count” because of the work stoppage.

If James and the Heat do take home their first title in June, it won’t be enough. Their only hope is to keep winning, a lot, stacking up enough jewelry so that the "lockout title" is no longer worth mentioning. Until that happens, “sure, he won three (or four, or five) titles, but…” will follow them like a pox.  Because the doubts don’t stop at multiple rings. Just ask Olajuwon, who won two in the 1990s. “But Jordan was playing baseball.” The doubts don’t even stop at five. Just ask guard Kobe Bryant. “But it was Shaquille O’Neal’s team for the first three.” Paradoxically, then, winning this season could serve to increase expectations for the Heat rather than satiate them. Winning to prove that winning wasn't a fluke is a vicious cycle.

The Heat and their fans will likely respond to this line of argumentation by saying that they don’t care about what outsiders think. That history can only be written one season at a time and that it would be better to win a title and get the monkey off the bag. That’s the right approach. But, deep down, they want their first title of the modern era to be indisputable more than anyone else. They've been through the fire, they've suffered through the media circus, they've absorbed all the criticism. James surely wants to bathe in champagne like a care-free child knowing that he put decades of doubt to bed once and for all.

And, surely, as a student of the game, he knows that’s impossible in a shortened season. If one game is lost, it might as well be all 82 for Miami. Labor negotiations are a dirty game, and a corrupted 2012 NBA title could never be clean.
Comments

Since: Jan 13, 2008
Posted on: October 5, 2011 12:38 pm
 

LeBron James, Miami Heat need full NBA season

This article is retarded and most of you idiots on here are haters doesnt matter if there are 82 games or 42 same shit.



Since: Apr 22, 2009
Posted on: October 5, 2011 10:49 am
 

LeBron James, Miami Heat need full NBA season

Does not matter how the long the season is because there is ALWAYS going to be a 4th quarter, only ONE basketball, and open seats.  Heat WILL NEVER win title as long as LEBUM is there. The Bum chokes at any big shot (except one) and now is just another good player.



Since: Nov 5, 2007
Posted on: October 5, 2011 8:26 am
 

LeBron James, Miami Heat need full NBA season

Yes, Hakeem was not in the league in 81. But Moses Malone, one of the best centers to play the game and arguably the best player at that time, was. He carried that team through Magic's Lakers and then through Gervin's Spurs. They were no joke of a team, even at 40-42. Just because Bird did not beat Hakeem's Rockets, which he did a few years later, does not mean this championship needs an asterisk. It was a simple mistake from a sports writer.
All of Bird's, Magic's, Jordan's and Russell's Championships were clean.



Since: Dec 23, 2007
Posted on: October 5, 2011 5:17 am
 

LeBron James, Miami Heat need full NBA season

clean titles... a team wins a team wins ... the playoffs are well the playoffs.. the players hate the regular season and take games off.... now we can cut the league to 16 teams and just have playoffs... then wade  can get his 50 million he wants... 



Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: October 5, 2011 2:29 am
 

LeBron James, Miami Heat need full NBA season

As others have pointed out, Hakeem Olajuwon was not yet in the NBA in 1981, and the Rockets had a losing record in the regular season that year at 40-42. I loathe the Heat and would love to see them lose, but if they win and you're going to attach an asterisk to a title because they didn't play 82 games, Bird's title has to be given a huge asterisk as well. That title isn't clean, and that destroys your entire argument.



Since: Aug 7, 2008
Posted on: October 5, 2011 2:17 am
 

LeBron James, Miami Heat need full NBA season

Why does cbssports consider the Sacramento Kings one of the Kings of the NBA? Is this a joke, an error or someone not knowing how to write the search algorithm for the site. Get a grip! You guys are cbs...you guys have billions upon billions of dollars. We expect you to be able to write a program that can differentiate the difference between the name of a basektball team and what they call people who are leaders in their respective fields.  



Since: Feb 15, 2008
Posted on: October 5, 2011 1:28 am
 

LeBron James, Miami Heat need full NBA season

If James and the Heat do take home their first title in June, it won’t be enough.
The Heat and their fans will likely respond to this line of argumentation by saying that they don’t care about what outsiders think. That history can only be written one season at a time and that it would be better to win a title and get the monkey off the bag. That’s the right approach. But, deep down, they want their first title of the modern era to be indisputable more than anyone else
Last time I checked, the Miami Heat have already won their first title( 05-06).....further proof that the writer of this article has no idea what he's talking about and that it was written more out of a hatred for James than an act of responsible journalism.



Since: Sep 26, 2011
Posted on: October 5, 2011 1:14 am
 

LeBron James, Miami Heat need full NBA season

Looking at many comments after many NBA related articles over the past few days seems to me that 9 out of 10 people really can care less if they play or not.  I have to agree w/ them. Bring on Sullinger and the Buckeyes and let NBA guys hang out in the hood for the year. Society will be safer and especially the white woman.




Since: Feb 15, 2008
Posted on: October 5, 2011 1:13 am
 

LeBron James, Miami Heat need full NBA season

I see where this is heading. This is just an article aimed at the haters to buy them another year of having a win/win situation. If the Heat fail to win an NBA title.....win. If they do win a title we'll all band together to try and discredit it to remove satisfaction from the Heat and their fans about winning a title....win. Well the Heat would be competing by the same set as rules as the rest of the NBA teams during a shortened season, so a title would count just the same. Jordan , Magic, and Bird were never put in the position to win a title in a shortened season. It's almost as if this article implies that winning titles during full 82 game seasons was within the realm of their control and that they would've somehow nobly fallen on their sword before competing for a title during a shortened season.
  This article contradicts itself by saying that the detractors will say "yeah but" for James and the Heat should they win title, but within the same article doesn't even make mention of a "yeah but" for David Robinson, Tim Duncan and the Spurs for the 98-99 season which is proof that no one will say "yeah but" at the end of the day (unless it's the Miami Heat winning) and that this article is written out of fear of Miami winning a title, and to give Heat haters a silverlining should their worst fears be realized.



Since: Jan 11, 2008
Posted on: October 5, 2011 12:50 am
 

LeBron James, Miami Heat need full NBA season

The playoffs wouldn't be shortened, and they would be playing the top teams from the season, so it would make no difference to me whether they played a full regular season or not.


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