LeBron is a king beyond any ring
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org June 20, 2013 11:02PM
LeBron James of the Miami Heat looks on during the third quarter of Game 7 of the NBA Finals agaist the San Antonio Heat at the American Airlines Arena June 20, 2013 in Miami, Florida. The Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, who are tied in the NBA Finals series, are competing to win game 7 to determine the series champion. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKIBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Updated: June 20, 2013 11:03PM
MIAMI — The book on LeBron James is still being written, but another chapter closed Thursday night in Miami.
‘‘I want to go down as one of the greatest,’’ the four-time NBA MVP said heading into Game 7 of the NBA Finals. “I want our team to go down as one of the greatest teams.’’
Three straight Finals appearances for James and the Miami Heat are impressive but not enough to earn the ‘‘dynasty’’ title on their own. It’s about the rings.
However, every so often a team or an individual comes along and becomes bigger than the trophy — bigger than the game. Charles Barkley, Michigan’s ‘‘Fab Five,’’ Barry Bonds. They weren’t just players or teams — they were movements. Title or no title, they made you watch. Rings helped, put them on a bigger stage, but the ring wasn’t a requirement.
Since James left the Cleveland Cavaliers three years ago, the Heat — love it, hate it or both — has achieved that status, lifting the NBA to a higher level. Television ratings and attendance figures as arenas don’t lie.
James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are rock stars, and exactly what the NBA needed at just the right time.
‘‘My only goal is to win championships,’’ James said.
James, though, has also said on several occasions that he wants to be a global brand.
‘‘[Championships are] what I came here for,’’ he said. ‘‘This is what I wanted to be a part of this team for. As far as validation of me being here, that side doesn’t really matter to me about what validates us coming together. The camaraderie and the friendship and the teammates and what we’ve done over the three years can never be replaced.’’
The NBA wouldn’t want it to be replaced. Think of the rivalries that have grown since James, Wade and Bosh came together. Boston, Chicago and Indiana all hate anything Heat. And Cleveland hates James — forever. It’s story-line gold.
In the bigger picture, by coming together the way they did, the ‘‘Big Three’’ have affected how players now do business. Owners’ and general managers’ power is at an all-time low when players are recruiting each other and trying to build superteams behind closed doors.
Bulls guard Derrick Rose said last year that he would never get involved in recruiting another player and that Chicago sells itself. Rose had better adapt or be left behind because All-Star Games and Olympic teams are becoming big secret meetings of players plotting their next moves.
Wade argued there’s still more to it.
‘‘People don’t get to see the hard part of this,’’ Wade said. ‘‘Everyone sees the names and say, ‘Oh, they should be [in the Finals], but it’s a lot harder than that. So to be here three years in a row is a great achievement.’’