In the middle of a 100+ day lockout, the NBA seems to be reinventing ways to become irrelevant. But, in the midst of this frustrating lockout, issues like ESPN ranking Kobe Bryant as the 7th best player in the league and Hall of Fame Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard Ervin “Magic” Johnson talking trash about two-time league MVP LeBron James have become magnified.
As has been reported at thehoopdoctors.com and everywhere else in the sports world, at an appearance at the University of Albany, Magic Johnson had this to say about LeBron:
“There’s going to always be great players in basketball. There’s going to always be guys who win championships in the NBA, except LeBron …”
It, also, reminds me of LeBron James’ own words, which, so far, he has eaten, even literally when he made fun of himself in a McDonald’s commercial this past summer.
So, LeBron predicted that the Miami Heat’s new core of All-Stars LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh could win about eight championships.
And, Johnson makes us seriously consider: how many championships will LeBron win with the Miami Heat?
James, Wade, and Bosh all signed six-year deals, so clearly James’ prediction depends on them all eventually signing extensions or new deals. And in regards to the lockout, LeBron’s prediction may also depend, to some degree, on whether there will be a hard salary cap and how much that cap will be.
Year one: NBA Finals. That’s a great start even though they lost 2-4 to the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks, who were led by their star Dirk Nowitzki.
Year two: NBA lockout.
So far, that makes two years with no rings for this Heat team.
LeBron’s potential has always seemed limitless. He’s a triple-double machine, and he’s literally taken over the league since his arrival, evidenced by him getting to the Finals twice, being named MVP twice, and All-Star Game MVP twice. But, in most sports, basketball in particular, players have a relatively small window in which to make their mark, something like from age 20 to 35, give or take. LeBron has eight seasons under his belt, but no rings. The man he’s often compared to—Hall of Fame point guard Oscar Robertson—did not win an NBA title until his eleventh season, but Robertson only won one. Not to mention, it also took another Hall of Fame player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as well as a really good roster that included All-Star Bob Dandridge, to win it all.
At 26, James’ window is open, but for how long? Up-and-coming teams like the New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Chicago Bulls are gearing up to be contenders as well. James also has to face the fading powerhouses of the Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and the San Antonio Spurs. Will the Lakers, Spurs, or Celtics challenge the Heat before time catches up with those veteran squads? Will the Heat be able to squeeze off a couple championship parades between the aging of those great teams and before the Bulls, Knicks, or another team ascends to prominence?
A lot of people have blamed the Heat’s failure, not on LeBron, but on Bosh’s Finals’ performance. Now, while there is some truth to that, twelve points in game two, 7.3 rebounds per game, and a shooting percentage of 41.3%, LeBron said this team would win multiple championships.
In these Finals, James only averaged 17.8 points per game, with a bewildering eight points in game four. That’s not going to get it done, either.
And, the real obstacle for the Heat to come through on James’ promise will be their aging Finals’ MVP (2004) Dwayne Wade. Even though it seems to me like Wade just came into the league, Wade is already 29 years old. In January, he’ll be 30. Early into next season, Wade will turn 31. A basketball player’s prime years start at different ages, but they all tend to end around the age of 33, some a little later (Michael Jordan), some a little earlier (Tracy McGrady). No matter how you slice it, Wade is getting long in the tooth in basketball years. And I love D-Wade; he’s brilliant, but he probably only has three more peak seasons. Optimistically, James and Bosh have five to six. So, it’s hard to see the Heat pulling off “not five, not six, not seven” titles.
I’ve said it before that three rings for the three kings has a nice ring to it, but will they have enough time to even win that many?
Rob S. De France is a College and University instructor of English Composition living in Los Angeles. He has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing. De France has played, coached, and officiated competitive high school basketball in California for many years. Recently, De France, his wife, and another colleague started an internationally read magazine at Shwibly.com.