LeBron James' legacy cramps up

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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LeBron James' legacy is on the line.

The stakes were only heightened when James had to ask out of Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.

The air conditioner broke down at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. Temps reached 90 degrees inside.

James, who has a history of cramps, got them once again and had to sit in the final seven minutes. Every other player played on. The Spurs won Game 1, 110-95.

As expected, the debate has begun that James isn't tough enough, that great players would have played through it in such a big spot.

Fans in Detroit, of course, will have no sympathy. Isiah Thomas, a Bad Boy, scored 25 points in the third quarter on a sprained ankle against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals.

James, no doubt, will be bashed by many for being soft until Game 2 on Sunday.

Still, James can sigh in relief. He has two coveted titles in his back pocket. His worst nightmare, that he would have this suitable-for-framing career and be ring-less, is history.

Plus, James didn't just get lucky and win one championship. He won two - two in a row - removing the notion that it was just a fluke.

Still, James isn't out of the woods. He has to get this third title in a row to cement his legacy as a winner, as a player who honestly did something special in the Association.

Yes sir.

This isn't about hate or putting unfair pressure or expectations on James. This is the result of the bed James made when he put together this dream team.

Yes, James was the one at the press conference in Miami four years ago announcing the Heat's Big 3 that would forever change the league and free agency.

With Dwyane Wade re-signing with the Heat and James and Chris Bosh signing down in South Beach as free agents, Miami was supposed to be Titletown. No team was supposed to be able to beat those three in a seven-game series.

James even proclaimed that the idea was to win multiple championships like six or even seven.

The star-studded team lost in the Finals in its first year, losing to the Dallas Mavericks. But the last two years produced titles in June.

Still, the third in a row would seal the deal for James. It would be impossible not to think that he's one of the all-time greats having won three titles in a row. Not many great players have accomplished that feat.

Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player ever, did it twice. In fact, MJ was 6-0 in NBA Finals and won all six MVPs in those championship series.

James lost his first two trips to the Finals and now has won his last two.

But if James loses this time around, it leaves the door open for people to look at this dream team with disappointment.

Yes, they would have gone to the Finals all four years, but they would be just 2-2. With James, Wade and Bosh, they should be at least 3-1, if not 4-0 in the Finals.

If James is the best player of all-time, as some say, how could he have not won more with these two great pieces on the court with him?

That's the standard James set for himself. The reason he left Cleveland, according to James, was because he couldn't win alone. He said he needed help, other great players.

Teaming with Wade and Bosh eliminated the excuse that it's not his fault. James, with one other great player, should have been enough to win. But James with two other great players should be a layup during championship time.

Plus, if James and the Heat lose this time around to the Spurs, people will look back at last year and say they shouldn't have won that title, either.

This year, the Spurs have the home court. The Heat will have to play their best to get this done this time around.

And no matter how this turns out, it will be about James.

It's kind of like Peyton Manning. He needed that other Super Bowl victory to cement his legacy as one of the greatest. It didn't happen. Hence, his legacy is still debatable.

James can only end the debate with a third straight title.

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