Let’s not crown the King just yet. Yes, LeBron James is easily the best basketball player on the planet right now and yes, he is also one of the most physically gifted athletes in the history of mankind, but legacies are built over a period of more than two years, and often need decades to truly be appreciated. The fact is that LeBron now has two championships, and success in professional sports is ultimately measured in rings.
That’s two rings to Magic Johnson‘s five, Bill Russell‘s 11, Larry Bird‘s three, Kobe Bryant‘s five, and Michael Jordan‘s six. LeBron’s career is far from over, but if he retired tomorrow, he would decidedly not go down as the greatest NBA player of all time. Of course, there’s no way he actually retires tomorrow, but that simple fact needs to be kept in mind as people discuss his legacy. Tim McGarry of USA Today Sports recently pointed out that LeBron’s current achievements actually surpass Michael Jordan’s at age 28. This is certainly interesting, but ultimately useless information when comparing the two players’ legacies simply because LeBron’s legacy is not yet fully written.
The Miami Heat‘s Big 3 could very possibly go on to fulfill the promise they famously made upon their arrival in South Beach (not five, not six, not seven…), or any one of them could get injured and the team could stall before ever winning a third championship. LeBron is clearly on an upward trajectory, but the NBA is far from predictable and any one of a thousand variables could send that trajectory into a nosedive.
It may not seem possible after witnessing LeBron’s dominance in the finals, but these things tend to happen when you least expect them, and it makes no sense to try and write history as it’s happening. Only time will tell where LeBron James will rank among the all-time greats, even if it currently seems inevitable that he will eventually surpass his Airness. The point is, you never know what will happen next, and who knows? Maybe LeBron will decide that the NBA is no longer for him, and decide to go out for baseball.