King abdicates throne as Air apparent

In the here and now, LeBron James probably did the best thing for himself.

By joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami to form an NBA superpower squad, James, who announced Thursday night that he was bolting Cleveland via free agency, will more than likely win a championship -- or two or three -- sooner rather than later.

And ultimately, that's what James so desperately wants after seven "failed" seasons with the Cavaliers.

But in the long run, James has clearly damaged his name -- his brand, if you will -- by joining forces with other star players at the height of his NBA career.

James, 25, can't ever truly be considered the greatest player, on par with Michael Jordan.

That has been the comparison for James from Day 1 in the NBA after coming directly from high school.

But it will be hard for many to not think that James simply took the easy way out. Instead of fighting and working to build his own legacy and win by leading the way, James took the path of least resistance.

He jumped on Wade's back, with a boost up from Bosh, in order to win.

It's a move an aging, ring-less veteran might take. But not a man dubbed "King James" and "The Chosen One."

That's the reason James didn't sign with the Knicks. Or even the Nets, who have a wonderful move to Brooklyn in the future.

Those gigs would have been too hard. Sadly, James wasn't willing to put up the risk for the reward at the end.

James had a great opportunity to go to the Knicks and win, put NYC on the NBA map once again. All the resources were in place. The stage was set. All it was going to take were a few more players and a little time.

The Knicks haven't won a championship since 1973 and have basically been irrelevant for more than a decade.

Had James been able to win, he would have been in a place where only legends exist. Add a second and third championship and James would have had a statue on 7th Avenue in front of the World's Most Famous Arena. Jordan, of course, has a statue in front of the United Center.

There are no other players frozen in history with Jordan. That won't be the case if these three win the way many NBA experts expect.

Somebody better order more bronze.

Sure, James can enjoy South Beach and win there. People will still be excited and buy his sneakers.

But deep down, many will know James decided to put the onus on others and not take on the lead role in a movie everyone thought he was going to star in.

It should come as no surprise that owners, coaches and players around the league were shocked with his decision to join Wade's team. After all, Wade has already won a championship. LeBron went down there to join in on the winning he couldn't accomplish in Ohio.

Many thought James was looking for his Robin to win. Finally, he revealed to everyone that he's Robin and needed a Batman.

James has done nothing wrong. He was a free agent and had a right to go wherever he wanted, including Miami.

Still, it just doesn't feel right.

James not only cheated the fans, but himself.

What made Jordan great wasn't just winning six championships in six tries. Or the six NBA Finals MVPs he won.

The journey and the struggle were just as impressive. Early on, many said he was a great scorer, but wouldn't win anything. Jordan didn't win a championship until his seventh season. Before that, he couldn't get past the Pistons, losing three years in a row before finally breaking through.

It was monumental when he finally got there. People marveled at his perseverance, his determination.

Jordan would have never asked to be traded to the Pistons or Celtics in an attempt to win faster and easier. Or even become a free agent to escape the burden of trying to win his own title.

In 2006, James told ESPN The Magazine, "I don't want to go ring hunting. I want to stay in Cleveland and build a championship."

James not only changed his mind, but, apparently, no longer wants a shot at being the greatest, either.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.

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