Jun 21, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James celebrates with the MVP trophy after winning the 2012 NBA championship at the American Airlines Arena. Miami won 121-106. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

What LeBron James winning his first championship means for his legacy

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

So LeBron James has now won a championship. Now what?

It feels like for the past five years or so, so much of the energy we put into watching the NBA was all whether or not LeBron was going to win a title.

LeBron received more heat for not winning until this season than he probably deserved. He was criticized for The Decision and then mocked at after choking in the 2011 NBA Finals.

The haters are supposed to go away now that he has won. The stupid LeBron criticism is over. Now it’s time to take a step back and look at what this really means for his legacy.

Well, it doesn’t mean anything yet. Winning one title was never LeBron’s destiny. He doesn’t now deserve a crown. This was simply inevitable and it happened right around the time it should have, maybe a year too late.

He played his ninth season this year and is 27 years old. Michael Jordan got his first ring in his seventh season and was 28 years old. So it’s not like he took that long to win a title.

When he came to Miami to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, it was to start a dynasty. They talked about it in their introduction party. They don’t want to win just one.

Two years in, they’ve been to two NBA Finals already. The fact that they have accomplished that so soon isn’t a surprise though or a testament to how great they are.

They should have done what they have so far. The balance of star power in the NBA right now is perfect for LeBron to start winning titles.

Who is his greatest competition? It’s 23-year old Kevin Durant and despite the Thunder already making it to the Finals, no one really expects them to start winning titles just yet.

Other than Durant, Kobe is on the way out, Dwight Howard is a mess and Derrick Rose is in the same boat as Durant.

This is how the NBA works. For the most part, you have to wait until it’s your time. So rarely does a team as young as the Thunder win a title when someone like LeBron is in the league, in his prime.

If the Heat just win this one title, in a lockout season, in a season where Derrick Rose tore his ACL, they and LeBron would be considered a failure and rightfully so.

How much do they need to win to not be considered a failure? Two might be enough, three probably should and four would truly silence any possible critics. Four out of seven seems about right.

The window is smaller than people may think for the Heat to become a dynasty. If anything, after watching their first two seasons and the way the team has looked, it doesn’t feel like they will be a dynasty capable of winning four titles.

Rose and the Bulls are right on their heels in the East, although it remains to be seen if they could beat the Heat in a series. Durant and the Thunder have frightening amounts or potential.

LeBron may only be 27 now but Wade is already 30 and considering the way he plays and how injury prone he looks, the window for him playing at this level isn’t much longer.

The Heat have some time though to figure some things out. They will need to improve next year to potentially repeat and protect their title. No one repeats without getting better. The second straight title is always the toughest.

Improving means getting some better pieces to surround LeBron. It worked well this year considering the matchups Miami had but this core is far from complete. They know it though and if they are fortunate (and every champion is) they will find the pieces.

So for now, LeBron’s legacy is closest to Moses Malone, a top 15 player ever most likely. If he gets only one more, he’ll be compared to Wilt. A third and he will be right next to Kobe and Duncan.

If LeBron gets four, he will approach Magic and Bird. And he’s not touching Kareem, Russell, MJ.

Remember, Magic and Bird needed each other to reach their greatness. If we’re lucky, the same will be said one day about LeBron and Durant.

Tags: Dwyane Wade Kevin Durant Larry Bird LeBron James LeBron James First Championship LeBron James Legacy Magic Johnson Miami Heat Michael Jordan NBA Finals NBA Playoffs Oklahoma City Thunder Wilt Chamberlain

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