LeBron James Will Win Another Title With Miami Heat, But Never Challenge Jordan
The MVP did his job when it mattered against a hobbled Chicago Bulls team. That's what he gets paid for. However, after looking at how his rival made things so difficult even at the end raised serious questions not about if he'll win the championship this year, but about if he has any hope of challenging Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant on the trophies list.
There are a number of factors already going against him. First and foremost, this Bulls team is in no danger of going away. They have a terrific coach in Tom Thibodeau, Derrick Rose returns next season as does the other players hobbled. Toss in some excellent prospects to improve in 2014 and they figure to challenge in the East for years. Yet the real sign that Chicago is a threat is the surprising rise of Jimmy Butler. Not only did he prove he can defend James as well as anybody in the league, the improvement in his offensive game caught a lot of people by surprise and figures to become an x-factor when Rose returns. If they choose to start drafting more offensive firepower coupled with that Thibodeau defense, the King will have a very hard time keeping his throne.
Another sign that the Heat aren't long for their reign is Dwyane Wade. Their longtime star has played a big role again in the 2013 playoff push but anyone with eyes can see the signs. Wade is the oldest member of the Big Three at age 31. That isn't "old man" in basketball terms but when coupled with a troublesome knee it raises questions about how much longer he can go. By comparison, Scottie Pippen was 27 (and healthy) when he and Jordan made their run at a second title back in 1992. Is it realistic to think Wade can hold up through at least four more deep postseason runs?
One must also take into account how easy James has had it during the last two postseasons. A year ago he nearly coughed up another series to the old and worn out Boston Celtics before rallying. During that time Rose tore his ACL, eliminating another threat, leaving them to deal with two solid but inferior teams in the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers. Either of those teams will face Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals against a Heat team that is arguably better than last year. Throw in the fact their potential opponents could be an equally old San Antonio Spurs team, highly inexperienced Golden State Warriors or defense-driven Memphis Grizzlies and it seems Miami continues a rare run of good fortune. These aren't Patrick Ewing Knicks or Reggie Miller Pacers they will face like Jordan did. Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City are out too. The simple fact is James hasn't really been tested by teams considered championship worthy yet still finds ways to look vulnerable.
LeBron should win the title this year. He has the best team, the healthiest team and the experience to know how. That doesn't mean people should pencil him in for the five or six rings Kobe and Michael collected just yet.