Julian Dorey, Senior Writer
For LeBron James, the time is now.
At age 29, firmly in the middle of his “other-worldy” prime and coming off a summer that saw him dramatically return to the team and city he left in the dark just four years ago, the clock for the king and his new Big Three (Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are the other two stars) starts now. Not next year. Now.
LeBron tugged the hearts of many this past July when he penned one of the most heart-felt open letters describing his reasoning behind returning to Cleveland after four wildly successful years in Miami that earned him his first two titles. He talked about his deep ties to the state of Ohio and its citizens who have, unfortunately, had a lot to cry about for the past few decades between their sports teams and their economy.
But he also preached “patience.” Contrary to his 2010 South Beach Love-fest when he famously proclaimed that the Heat would win “not one, not two, not three, not four … ” titles, James specifically said in the SI.com letter posting, “We’re not ready [to win a championship] right now. No way.”
That, of course, was before the Cavs completed their summer coup and traded for perennial All-Star Power Forward Love. With established all-stars in James, Love, and Irving on deck, and a supporting cast better than anything LeBron, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade had in Miami, the championship expectations must be amended. The Cavaliers must expect titles now.
Since the day David Stern announced that the Cavaliers had selected James with the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, the inevitable comparisons between the mega-hyped “King James” and the great Michael Jordan have persisted. Generally, the comparisons are a waste of time—and, oftentimes, they are simply unfair.
But the number six has been—and always will be—fair game. Six is the number of titles Jordan has to his name. Six is the gold standard in the modern day NBA. Six is the number James has had written on the imaginary chalk board hanging over his bed since he was 18 years old.
With two rings at age 29 (much like Jordan himself once had), the titles must come in bunches for James to match or surpass Jordan’s golden number. Jordan and the Bulls famously had two three-peats, and they may have won another title or two had “His Airness” not abruptly retired for two years in the mid-90s.
The talent across the NBA has increased steadily over the past 10 years. Power rosters have emerged in places like Oklahoma City and Houston, and stalwart markets like Chicago and Los Angeles have found a way to keep their skin in the game as well (Los Angeles, albeit, with their “poor man’s franchise,” the Clippers). With young roster architectures beginning to take place in Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Orlando, the road will only get harder as LeBron ages.
Irving is young and a little inconsistent, but his talent is off the charts. With LeBron’s presence and a winning culture, Irving easily has the talent to be one of the unquestioned top three point guards in the league. Love, at age 26, has already established himself as one of the two or three best power forwards in the game. His defense may be suspect, but we can probably attribute much of that to Minnesota’s over-reliance on his offensive skillset.
LeBron has two of the best tools he could possibly have around him. And cast members like Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and Anderson Varejao certainly aren’t scrubs.
The pieces are all together. You can’t argue it, I can’t argue it, and LeBron can’t argue it.
If the King believes seven titles is the only accomplishment that will earn him his sole place atop the NBA’s throne of greatness, title numero three better happen this year.