Tainted Love

If LeBron James leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer the rest of his career will be tainted. It is a strong statement, but I truly believe if James leaves his home state, fans for the rest of his playing time will say he couldn't win it alone.

All of the stars go through their respective ups-and-downs. If James leaves it will be even more evident that he isn't as great a player as people originally thought. Let's take a look at his superstar predecessors.

First and foremost you go to the greatest player who ever stepped onto the court. MJ didn't win a championship his first year in the league. In fact, he had won four straight NBA scoring titles by the time the 1990-91 season had started. He had also been the NBA's Rookie of the Year in 1985, been named to the All-NBA First Team four straight years, and had even been recognized on the NBA All-Defensive First Team for three straight seasons. Oh and throw in a NBA MVP for the 1988 season. He was beginning to be plagued by the Wilt Chamberlain curse when he won his first championship in his seventh season. In his first finals appearance, he went off against Magic Johnson and the Lakers averaging 31.2 points, 11.4 assists and 6.6 rebounds in a 4-1 series victory.

Let's compare that to LeBron at this point in his career. In seven seasons, he was named the NBA rookie of the year, is a two-time MVP, NBA scoring champion, two-time selection to the First-Team All-NBA, and four time All Star. Eerily similar aside from the fact that he has led the Cavaliers to one NBA Finals appearance where he averaged 22 points, 7 rebounds and 6.8 assists. In that series though, the San Antonio Spurs swept the Cavs.

MJ is not the only superstar who stuck with one team despite ups and downs throughout his career. Ask Laker stars Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson. After winning the NBA Championship in his first season, Johnson went through a roller coaster ride of emotions squaring up against Larry Bird and the Celtics three times in the Finals in the 80's. Bryant couldn't escape the shadow of Shaquille O'Neal, constantly having to ask the question: can I win a championship without him? Kobe now has back-to-back rings without the Big Aristotle and has immersed himself into the discussion of who is the greatest Laker of all-time.

Rockets fans can recite the story of The Dream (I don't count his last season in Toronto) in their sleep. After an improbable run to the Finals in the 85-86 season, Hakeem and the Rockets lost a hard fought series to Larry Bird and the Celtics in six games. The Dream didn't give up, even though it took him eight seasons to get back to the Finals. In 94, he was the unanimous choice for Finals MVP after averaging 26.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game in the Rockets' 4-3 defeat of New York. He was the first center to win the award since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1985. He brought home back-to-back championships to the city of Houston, and in the 95 series, Hakeem averaged an astounding 32.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per game to lead the Rockets to a sweep of the Orlando Magic. He established three NBA Finals four-game series records including most points (131), most field goals made (56) and most field goals attempted (116). Remember, he did this going against a young Shaq.

Some other stars that stayed with the same team despite going through a lot of roadblocks before winning their first NBA championship include, Bird, David Robinson, and Isiah Thomas.

Even casual NBA fans know how cursed Cleveland is as a sports city. Their last championship came in 1964 when the Cleveland Browns beat the Baltimore Colts. The Indians threw away the 1997 World Series and the Cavs have had their fair share of heartbreaks. Starting with ‘The Shot' that put MJ on the map going all the way up to being swept by the Spurs in 06-07. Not to mention having the best record in the NBA the past two seasons, only to result in early playoff exits. You can check out another more in-depth article on the topic at Heart of a Champion. If the best player in the league leaves the Cavs without winning them a ring, it will put that much more hurt into a city that can't take much more heartbreak. The King has not earned his crown, and if he skips out on the Cavs it could forever hurt his brand he has built up so much. All I am ‘Witnessing' is a star admitting to the fact he can't win it on his own.

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