In the most optimistic scenario, James’ career would look something like this after this season: 10 years, two titles (back-to-back), four Finals appearances, two Finals MVP awards, four regular-season MVP awards and two Olympic gold medals.
And at nine seasons,he would be roughly at the halfway point.
He would be solidly in that all-time great conversation. His future would have unlimited potential, and we would allow our imaginations to run away with thoughts of “What if …”
At that point it would be conceivable the Heat could win three consecutive titles.
And it would be conceivable LeBron could win three consecutive MVPs.
He would have an entire summer to rest.
LeBron’s two titles would still be less than half of Kobe’s five. But somehow LeBron, if this optimistic scenario plays out, would likely be viewed as Kobe’s equal, or maybe slightly ahead of him.
That’s because LeBron is hot right now.
He’s got a title. He’s coming through in the clutch. He’s doing things we’ve never seen before, such as six consecutive games with 30-plus points while shooting 60-plus percent.
His legend could soar above the clouds.
But this all depends on LeBron winning a title and doing it in superstar fashion. This year.
I don’t consider LeBron above Kobe in the all-time best conversation. To me, another title still doesn’t put LeBron above Kobe.
As for the all-time top 10 lists, I’d assume most of our lists include six staples. There’s the three centers – Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell – and the three perimeter players – Jordan, Magic and Bird.
From there you could pick your final four among a number of guys such as Kobe, Shaquille O’Neal, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Isiah Thomas, Julius Erving, Moses Malone and a few others. You know the list.
One title probably doesn’t put LeBron in that class. Yet. I’m not sure.
Two titles, however, and he’s in.
Three titles or more and, well, LeBron is not only on everybody’s all-time top 10 list, he’s in everybody’s conversation for Best Ever.
The fast track to all-time greatness is right there for LeBron. It’s within his grasp. You can see it coming in the next two years.
But for that timeframe to be reached LeBron, has to win a title and have a good Finals performance. This year.
Chris Perkins is a veteran Miami-based sports journalist who covers the Heat for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.