After joining the Miami Heat, LeBron James put himself in a championship or bust situation every single year. No player in the NBA had expectations even close to as high as James. Even though James fell short of the seven promised championships, four finals appearances and two championship seasons in four years made his time in Miami a success on almost every level.
Now that James has returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he will be under even more pressure to bring a championship home. After James broke the hearts of an entire city, it was hard to imagine a situation where he could be forgiven by a fanbase who had to deal with the worst winning percentage in the NBA since the King’s departure.
Even if Cavalier fans are celebrating the return of the King, the only way he can be truly forgiven is if he wins a championship. James went to Miami with expectations to win a lot of titles. Championship or bust is an expectation that will follow James around as long as he remains in his prime as the best basketball player in the world. The difference in Cleveland is that he now owes that city a championship.
James left Cleveland because he did not have enough help around him to win a championship. Now, he will potentially have three other first overall picks playing alongside him.
It may not be in Year 1 because of how young the Cavaliers’ core is, but if James is not able to get a championship for Cleveland in the near future, the fans and the media will turn on him harder than ever.
Even after winning in Miami, never winning a championship in Cleveland is something that will haunt what could be one of the greatest legacies in the history of basketball.
James needs a championship so that he can avoid the criticism for only being able to win on a team that acquired a collection of all stars from free agency. James needs a championship so that he can become a hero to the city of Cleveland, the city that he calls home.
A championship in Cleveland should mean more to James than anything he could have accomplished in Miami, and that additional emotional investment in the city he plays for is why the extra pressure to win a championship will not only come from fans and the media, but it will also come from James himself.