Skip to content

LeBron says rings alone don’t define a player’s career

Feb 16, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT

Miami Heat's James listens to a question during media availability for the NBA All-Star basketball game in Houston Reuters

HOUSTON — The argument has been the fallback of Kobe Bryant defenders (he needs defenders?) for years. That it’s about the rings, that’s what makes him better than his peers.

Michael Jordan himself even went there in picking Kobe over LeBron James in a recent interview, saying the five-to-one title disparity decided it.

LeBron was asked about that Friday in Houston for the All-Star Game and gave a smart but kind of long answer. That answer has been reduced by many to a simple sound bite of “rings don’t define me” and people have run with that. Welcome to the modern media (and we have certainly played that game before here).

But LeBron’s full quote makes more valid points — it’s more than just rings.

“That’s his own opinion,” James said of Jordan’s comments. “At the end of the day, rings don’t always define someone’s career. If that was the case, then I would sit up here and say I would take (Celtics legend Bill) Russell over Jordan. I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t take Russell over Jordan. Russell has 11 rings, Jordan has six. Take, I don’t know, Robert Horry over Kobe. I wouldn’t do that. It’s your own personal opinion. Rings do not define a person’s career….

“You look at a guy (Jordan era Bulls backup) Jud Buechler, he has multiple rings, Charles Barkley does not have one ring. He’s not better than Charles Barkley. Patrick Ewing is one of the greatest of all time, Reggie Miller is one of the greatest of all time. Sometimes it’s about the situation you’re in, the team you’re in and it’s about timing as well.”

He’s not wrong. But the truth as always lies somewhere in the middle — Barkley and Ewing will forever in part be defined as great players who could not get over the hump. That doesn’t mean they were not legends and do not belong in the Hall of Fame, they unquestionably do.

But rings are still part of the equation. If LeBron’s career ends with just one ring, will we not look back at that as wasted potential and opportunity lost? Of course. But right now we don’t know how many rings LeBron will end his career with.

The problem with comparing Kobe and LeBron is part situation (Kobe landed on a team close to winning titles, LeBron) and part how they adapted and dealt with that. And those are not questions we can fully answer for either of them yet, both are still elite franchise players in the game. Both have a shot at more rings in the coming few years. We can’t fully judge Kobe and LeBron for at least another decade.

Or, we could just sit back, enjoy the moment and say that we are blessed to get to see two of the all-time NBA greats playing at their peak and not try to rank them. We could just savor the moment. That may be the best option of all.

Latest Posts
  1. Clippers sign Australian forward Joe Ingles

    Sep 16, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    BASKET-EURL-BARCELONA-PANATHINAIKOS BASKET-EURL-BARCELONA-PANATHINAIKOS

    Ingles excelled in World Cup, completes dominoes set in motion by Jared Dudley trade

  2. Serbia holds impassioned celebration for World Cup silver medal

    Sep 16, 2014, 12:30 AM EDT

    2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup - Day Fourteen Getty Images

    You won’t see this for the Americans’ gold medal

  3. Report: Greg Oden’s drinking an issue during season, alleged domestic assault

    Sep 15, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT

    New details about incident in which he allegedly punched ex-girlfriend in the face

  4. Cavaliers work out Lou Amundson

    Sep 15, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v New Orleans Hornets Cleveland Cavaliers v New Orleans Hornets

    Amundson’s best days are behind him, but maybe he can find a niche in Cleveland

  5. Report: Wizards close to signing Damion James

    Sep 15, 2014, 7:55 PM EDT

    New Jersey Nets v Washington Wizards New Jersey Nets v Washington Wizards

    Washington building up competition for open 15th spot

  6. Wizards sign shooting guard Xavier Silas

    Sep 15, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    Xavier Silas Xavier Silas

    Silas appears to have real chance of making the team

  7. PBT Extra: What players looked good at World Cup?

    Sep 15, 2014, 4:26 PM EDT

    Derrick Rose stayed healthy but never shook the rust fully off his shot.

  8. Time for FIBA/NBA to adopt soccer model: Only one major tournament every four years

    Sep 15, 2014, 3:35 PM EDT

    James Harden James Harden

    Soccer already has the right model, it’s just going to be hard to get FIBA on board.

  9. Tobias Harris, eligible for contract extension, wants to stay with Magic

    Sep 15, 2014, 2:04 PM EDT

    David Lee, Tobias Harris David Lee, Tobias Harris

    Harris unsure whether Orlando will let him hit restricted free agency

  10. Blake Griffin doing slam poetry about tearaway pants? We got that. (VIDEO)

    Sep 15, 2014, 1:25 PM EDT

    Take Flight Media Event 2013 Getty Images

    Blake Griffin has done some brilliant marketing campaigns.

  11. Mavericks sign Dominican guard Victor Liz

    Sep 15, 2014, 12:48 PM EDT

    Victor Liz Victor Liz

    Liz shot 49 percent on 3-points in World Cup

  12. Knicks owner James Dolan insists he’s done meddling

    Sep 15, 2014, 12:08 PM EDT

    Phil Jackson, James Dolan Phil Jackson, James Dolan

    Dolan said he’s let Phil Jackson run the team, and Jackson affirms Dolan has so far

  13. Does anyone win from Team USA more than Mike Krzyzewski?

    Sep 15, 2014, 11:24 AM EDT

    Duke coach benefits big time in recruiting from World Cup, Olympic coaching

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (3126)
  2. D. Ferry (2732)
  3. L. James (2529)
  4. J. Valanciunas (2341)
  5. K. Irving (2210)
  1. K. Bryant (2141)
  2. P. George (1999)
  3. G. Monroe (1696)
  4. C. Anthony (1674)
  5. C. Billups (1620)