|LeBron James now has an NBA Championship, but he still has more pressure on him than any other player. (totalprosports.com)|
LeBron James has his ring.
To some, watching LeBron win a title was worse than if someone had hit them with their car. To others, the best player in the game finally got the ultimate success he deserved. Either way, the biggest question in the NBA got its answer in June.
The talk during the off season and coming into the opener was that the pressure was off LeBron. His teammate Dwyane Wade even said so. LeBron proved he could win a ring, and now he can calmly win more.
The sentiment is nice, but also ignorant.
LeBron is the most polarizing player in the game (thank you Dwight Howard for closing the gap for second place and giving LeBron some company) and will be criticized for everything he does. "What? LeBron had red meat as his pre-game meal? This is why everyone hates him." LeBron could score 50 points in a game, but if he passes on or missed a late shot, then he chokes and it's another excuse to hate him.
Because of this - as well as the constant comparisons to MJ, and LeBron's now infamous introductory prediction at Miami - LeBron will always have pressure on him.
If the Heat don't repeat, then last year was a fluke, or LeBron is slipping. Maybe they do win again, but LeBron struggles. Then Wade or Chris Bosh carried him and he didn't earn it. Michael Jordan has six rings, and until James reaches that point, the voice of the critics will be loud. He was dubbed a superstar before stepping on an NBA court. Is there not pressure there?
LeBron has to be perfect to silence the critics, and even then it's not enough. Sure, the first title is the most difficult to get, so LeBron has passed the toughest hurdle. But what, now that he has one, fans and analysts will be indifferent to what James and the Heat do this year or how well he plays?
Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony have never won a championship, but they still don't have as much pressure on them as LeBron. People will be more surprised if James doesn't win a second ring than if any of those (excluding maybe Durant due to his talent and age) win one at all.
James has begun silencing his critics, with a second ring being the next step, but he won't be able to play without pressure any time soon.
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