The Heat open up their series against the Dallas Mavericks at home, and they’re in a place many doubters did not expect them to be: the NBA Finals. People prayed, dreamed, wished, and hoped that the Heat would fail this season, and they took pride in ridiculing them at every downturn. But now Miami has reached the Finals and they are four victories away from proving their critics to be absolute fools. The unjustified and hypocritical hatred spewed to them by media professionals gets us to the point where most media members do not deserve to congratulate the Heat, and specifically LeBron, if they win the title. And it’s all because a silly notion regarding a few ounces of molded metal.
In our sports society, we judge athletes based on one thing: rings. We don’t measure NBA players based on point totals, All-Star seasons, or even MVP awards. Nope, the media has trained us to believe that NBA players are only worth their weight in 20 karat gold rings.
It doesn’t matter that Darko Milicic has a ring and that LeBron James does not. It doesn’t matter that Robert Horry has seven championships while Michael Jordan has six. Nope, nope, nope. All that matters is our star players must have rings in order to validate their careers. I’ve said for a long time that’s garbage, but I’ve been mostly alone in my beliefs.
Here’s why the “rings to validate a career” is pure idiocy.
Most NBA observers can agree that Hakeem Olajuwon is one of the greatest players of all time. Anyone watching basketball from his college days to 1993 could have told you that The Dream was supremely talented and one of the best players in the game. But consider this for a moment: Had Michael Jordan not walked away from the game for two years, Olajuwon’s Rockets may never have won a title. If Hakeem had never won a title, would he be considered as great as he is now? Definitely not. But was Hakeem’s game, talent, and skill any different from 1993-1995, or did Jordan’s absence allow Olajuwon a chance to win the (gasp!) elusive championship ring?
My point is that winning championships is based on several factors, many of which are circumstantial. How good are your teammates? How good (or stacked) are your opponents? These factors should be taken into account when we measure the greatness of a player. Rings shouldn’t be the end all discussion.
And that leads me to the predicament of LeBron James.