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Does a ring change the perception of LeBron James?

Jun 22, 2012, 5:14 PM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat - Game Five Getty Images

There is something different about LeBron James today — he is an NBA champion. He has a chip. Nobody can ever take that away from him.

But s that really going to change how people feel about him?

“In the information age, reputations are made and broken down more cheaply than they used to be,” the Heat’s Shane Battier said. “I don’t know (if the perception of him changes). I don’t know.”

People are going to think what they are going to think — as is their right. I’m not going to tell you how to feel about LeBron or anyone else. But I’ve grown weary of the back-and-forth, black-or-white with no middle ground about what he is and isn’t. You don’t have to be a LeBron lover or hater, you can be someone who sees him as a tremendous talent on an interesting path that has had ups and downs. But that nuance has been lost in the LeBron discussion the last two years.

For some — particularly people in Cleveland — this title changes nothing. Some of LeBron’s critics will never forgive him for what is seen as a selfish, poorly-handled betrayal of his hometown.

But on a national level, winning a ring will have some fans who didn’t like what happened with Cleveland willing to give him a second chance. His play this postseason blew up what had become tired and oversimplified stereotypes of him and his game — he was not selfish, he played big at the biggest times on the biggest of stages, he had a signature moment in Game 4 and a triple-double when it was a closeout game.

But simply winning instead of losing was not the biggest change for LeBron this playoffs.

He was different.

“The best thing that happened to me last year was us losing in the finals, you know, and me playing the way I played,” LeBron said. “It was the best thing to every happen to me in my career because basically I got back to the basics. It humbled me. I knew what it was going to have to take and I was going to have to change as a basketball player, and I was going to have to change as a person to get what I wanted.”

LeBron was more comfortable, more mature. If you change your perceptions of him, it should be because he changed not because of the ring — the title is simply a byproduct of the other changes he went through. To me a ring isn’t a perquisite of greatness — Karl Malone is one of the great power forwards ever to play the game, his legacy should not be tarnished because he was in the NBA when Jordan owned it. LeBron has grown and evolved as a player and that is what should be celebrated.

The best thing I read in the wake of the finals came from Kevin Arnovitz at ESPN, basically saying that now we can just talk about LeBron as a basketball player. He said what I said above far more eloquently. He sees LeBron a guy who has had failures on the court that he needed to go through to reach the mountaintop. Again, nuance. LeBron (and politics and everything else) doesn’t have to be love or hate, black or white. Everything doesn’t have to be extreme.

It’s okay to just appreciate him as a great basketball player. We shouldn’t have needed a ring to do that.

  1. stayhigh_247 - Jun 23, 2012 at 12:10 AM

    I dont think getting a ring changes his image as much as how he played in the last 7 games of the playoffs. He finally played like we have been expecting him to in crunch time. In order to silence the critics he will still have to earn a few more rings, and the way he looks right now that looks hella possible.

    • finalword33 - Jun 24, 2012 at 10:57 AM

      I think it’s clear that Cleveland DID NOT make him a better player. You don’t want to get stuck in that kind of situation, if you’re a student of the game. He HAD to get out of Cleveland to become the best player he can be.

  2. mrgoodbar216 - Jun 23, 2012 at 12:22 AM

    As a clevelander i was never a lebron fan or hater he was just a member of my cavaliers. I always said we would never win with the guy not because he wasnt good enough but because he wasnt mature enough. This year he seems to have changed everything, all i can say is the guy who won yesterday i wish we would have had that guy on our team. He played his ass off in these finals and he deservered to win. Im just glad its over with maybe now people here will shut up about it.

    • badintent - Jun 24, 2012 at 3:27 AM

      Dan Gilbert had a bunch of chumps playing with LBJ, it was 1 on 5 against Detroit in the East Final years ago. You can’t name me one quality offensive player except Mo Williams that played on his teams the last 5 years in Cleveland. Maturity had nothing to do with it. It was having talent with him on the same team. Just ask Kobe about losing in the first round to the Suns after Shaq split town. Ask Dewayne when Shaq was sent packing to Suns.Ask MJ how the Bulls starting winning when Pippen showed up. The only bigger idiot owner in the NBA is Dolan, I’m stuck with him.

    • finalword33 - Jun 24, 2012 at 11:05 AM

      It’s too bad the Cleveland organization didn’t know how to make a man of him. You bring a kid out of high school who’s been given the moniker of “Chosen One” and “King James”, and you have to be able to mature him. He had to get out of Cleveland. Hell, if getting out of Cleveland matures people, Dan Gilbert should get out of there too.

      “Just a member of [your] Cavaliers.” Seriously? Well, at least you’re a fan of what he’s doing now.

  3. diablito0402 - Jun 23, 2012 at 1:02 AM

    Not really, he was ring hunting, just like superstars do at the end of their careers. Lbj left his home town team to join someone elses team.. Example steve nash is going ring hunting next season, watch.. Anyways congrats lbj, mission accomplished, ring obtained.

    • finalword33 - Jun 24, 2012 at 11:07 AM

      He didn’t owe Cleveland anything after 7 years. Cleveland owed him everything. He earned the right to do whatever he wanted. Maybe you’re a Cleveland fan, but not really a fan of basketball. Fan of basketball don’t care where Lebron plays. They just want to watch him dominate.

  4. asublimeday - Jun 23, 2012 at 1:58 AM

    Everyone who still uses the out-dated, over-used, trend-of-the-year term “haters”, please do the world a favor by following these steps:

    1. Go to your garage
    2. Make sure all the doors are closed
    3. Start your car, wait about 20 mins
    4. Rational, articulate people everywhere celebrate

    • borderline1988 - Jun 23, 2012 at 11:18 PM

      you must have some serious issues bro.

  5. lucky5934 - Jun 23, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    So Lebron finally won a ring. One less reason to give him a hard time. Fortunately, he has offered us many more reasons to despise the douche bag.

  6. ironmike778 - Jun 23, 2012 at 6:18 AM

    Had he stayed in Cleveland and gotten to the top I’d give the guy his due. But I can’t give him any credit for getting it the way he did. Weak.

    • mrsdestinydevine - Jun 25, 2012 at 9:59 AM

      Lebron did what he had to, to get what he wanted. Kevin Garnett, started with the Timberwolves for 12 seasons before moving to the Celtics where he got his first ring. Shaq didn’t get his first ring until he left Orlando to go to the Lakers. Why is it that other great players can do this, but Lebron is “weak” for obtaining his the same way? Seems to me like the person who is weak is you sir.

    • ear123 - Jun 27, 2012 at 4:32 PM

      “True” BB Fans know that, when you’re a free agent you’re entitled to go where ever the hell you want. Beside MJ , L.Bird, Magic, etc, they didn’t win the titles “themselves”, excellent players as much talent as LBJ had to be put around them.

      Same with LeBron He had to “position” himself with other great talent players. The fact that MJ , L.Bird, Magic claim that they would have not moved to other teams to win a ring is simply stupid ! Maybe they said it because the where already surrounded by great players and wanted to compete agains the best, however, ther is absolutely nothing wrong withi joining another team that has awesome talent.

      People are just missing the whole point. Championship is about “team effort” , not about 1 single superstar.

  7. canehouse - Jun 23, 2012 at 8:14 AM

    Miami Heat…. 2012 NBA CHAMPION!!!! LET’S GO HEAT!!!! Great season… even better Playoffs and Finals!

    Haters keep on hating! We aren’t going anywhere… and it’s fun to watch you get so mad!!!!

  8. jimmymarlinsfan - Jun 23, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    Fine I won’t call the haters; haters anymore

    Does irrational morons work for anyone else?

  9. 700levelvet - Jun 23, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    At the final buzzer……..Robert Horry Jr……opened up his safe, was blinded by all the glitter……and just laughed…….

  10. Great Caesar's Ghost - Jun 23, 2012 at 9:48 AM

    You mean the perception that he needed to play on an All-Star team to win a title? Nah.

  11. sparty0n - Jun 23, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    I dont understand the question. He won a ring in Miami with his aqusi-all star team. So what? The guy is still a dirtbag with no loyalty. So what’s changed?

    • blueintown - Jun 23, 2012 at 3:20 PM

      Cram loyalty up your giggy and go back to high school. Loyalty does not exist in professional markets where employees are compensated with paychecks. Grow up.

    • badintent - Jun 24, 2012 at 3:34 AM

      He spent 7 years in the Mistake by the Lake. That’s enough, he got out of town, so should you. You think Dave Stern wants superstars playing in the same city for 12 years or more ?? no way !!.That’s why the free agents contracts are what they are.He helped write them for the owners that understand a healthy league needs to rotate talent. You want to be loyal, enlist in the military. If not, go do some crack with Dan Gilbert and his Rip off the poor people with super high interest rate Quicken loans scam.

    • 1historian - Jun 24, 2012 at 11:14 PM

      Put yourself in James’ shoes – if you had the chance to do what he did wouldn’t you do it?
      If you didn’t you would be a fool.

  12. taurlee - Jun 23, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    So, lets get this straight.

    1. He left is “hometown” team? – He’s from Akron, not Cleveland. Ironically many people in Akron hate people from Cleveland. I live in Ohio.

    2. “Loyalty”- People love to throw in this card when it comes to a Superstar player leaving, but when Danny Green leaves i didn’t hear anyone crying. Shannon Brown played for the Cavs. Anyone scream “loyalty” then?

    3. His legacy is “tainted” because he left Cleveland and went to Miami?- Wouldn’t you leave also? The second best player he had throughout his Cavs tenure was Mo Williams, who he made an all-star. Other than that he had an out of his prime (if you want to call it that) Big Z, Larry Hughes and “boobie” Gibson. Oh, and lets not forget JJ Hickson. You know, the same player that Cavs management were so eager to hold on too that they gave up on a trade for Amare’!!

    Everyone wants a player to do it a certain way, LeBron took his lumps and did something different. It’s still HIS team. He’s the best player in the world. Just appreciate his All-Time great talents. There will never be another Jordan, Magic, Bird, Oscar, Kareem, Kobe, etc so let Lebron be Lebron and lets appreciate the takeover that’s about to happen (salary cap barring).

  13. broncosnative - Jun 24, 2012 at 7:13 AM

    Reality is, Lebron would have never gotten a ring with the cavs, he would have retired being one of the best with no championship because cleveland have a cheap owner. For seven years who have he put around james to succeed, nobody. Just look at them without james, back to square one. James is not bound to cleveland just because he grew up there, everybody move to another state in the course of their life, don’t blame the guy for going to another team that wasn’t afraid to spend money to surround him with other talent.

  14. rueg10 - Jun 24, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    james ruined it for himself when he had that charade of a “coming out” party on tv… “the decision”, or whatever it was called, was a joke… cocky bastard who never won a championship puts together a show about the end of his free agency, and an even bigger joke for espn to air it. they should have laughed at him. one of the most stupid things i’ve ever seen is bosh, james and wade standing on that giant stage in miami with their arms crossed cocky as hell… wtf was that?!? “here we are” standing up there like three morons… really pathetic. it a different time and place in the nba, but the real greats would never have done something like that. ring or not, james set himself up for more criticism every step of the way.

  15. The Prophet - Jun 26, 2012 at 11:18 PM

    It is 100% up to the media. And if they are consistent then yes the perception of him will change since winning a ring. Peyton Manning was seen as the guy who couldn’t win the big one, and even though he played like crap and his RB’s, defense, and the Bears got him his SB ring, there was never any talk of that afterwards and he was only talked of as a greatest of all time. Jordan was just a scorer who couldn’t get past Detroit and Boston, but after the first ring he became the “greatest of all time”. John Elway was a choker who was 0-3 in Super Bowls and after he won one, he was the most envied athlete in all of sports and people completely forgot about his previous three lemons. As long as the media goes with it, the perception of LeBron James changes COMPLETELY.

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