LeBron James' Greatness Won't Be Validated Through Scoring Titles Alone

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistDecember 24, 2012

LeBron James will go down as one of the greatest NBA players of all-time, and hardly any that will have to do with the fact that he led the league in scoring during the 2007-08 campaign. Just like it won't matter that he isn't currently leading the Association in scoring now.

Because scoring won't define James. Winning and being one of the most dominant all-around athletes the game has ever seen will.

A lot is made of scoring in the NBA, and rightfully so. Without points, the scoreboard would be but a blank canvas. 

But scoring isn't everything. That alone won't win basketball games.

That alone doesn't ensure that you'll go down as one of the greatest athletes to grace the hardwood.

And LeBron, per Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com, knows this:

If James could shoot the ball that much, the scoring title would be his, James believes.

"If I wanted to, I could lead the league in scoring, but that's not my job here," James said.

"My job is to do a lot of everything -- rebounding, passing and defending so that takes away from my scoring. I've done (the scoring title) before. I'm capable of doing it, but my game sometimes doesn't allow me to have those big nights."

Let's not pretend for a second that James isn't irrefutably correct here. Not only has he dropped at least 20 points in every one of the Miami Heat's games this season, but he's done so while attempting the fewest amount of shots (18.3) per game of his career. He's also shooting a career-best 54.2 percent from the floor and 44.2 percent from beyond the arc as well.

So yes, if he wanted to, he could lead the league in scoring. We've seen him do it before, and he could easily do it again.

Right now, however, he's not. Because he can't. More importantly, though—he doesn't need to. 

James is one of the best facilitators in the game and easily the only pure one that the Heat currently have. Thus, aside from scoring himself, he must also ensure that the others score; he must ensure Miami's offense is functioning properly. He can't just ignore the needs of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, after all.

And that's a blessing in disguise. Scoring titles alone would never solidify his legacy. Not in the way James himself wants it to be ironed out.

Long after LeBron's playing days are over, when we're tasked with defining him as a player and as an all-time great, will we be looking at his point totals?

Of course.

But we'll also be looking at the rest of his per game averages and what those numbers translated into.

How many titles did he win? How complete of a player was he? Was he willing to do whatever it took for his team to win?

Those are also the types of questions we will be asking. And those are also the types of questions James needs to answer.

The degree to which any player scores, LeBron included, means little if it doesn't yield results.

Would Kobe Bryant be perceived as fondly if he hadn't won any of his five titles? Better yet, are we captivated by his scoring alone?

Absolutely not. Kobe's primarily a scorer, but he's often tasked with handling the Los Angeles Lakers playmaking responsibilities as well. And he's also considered a top-tier defender. Realities such as those, coupled with his scoring and hardware, have helped to define him.

And the same will hold true for James.

One-dimensional players don't build illustrious legacies. Not ones as powerful as the universally gifted do, anyway. Just ask Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant, who have amped up their production in every other facet of the game in the name of winning.

LeBron, though? He's been a well-rounded athlete his entire career.

Sure, his three-point prowess is at an all-time high, but in addition to never scoring less than 20 points per game, he's never dished out less 5.9 dimes, grabbed less than 5.5 rebounds or 1.3 steals. He's also won three league MVPs, one NBA title and never been anything less than a cure-all for every one of his teams.

And yeah, he's been crowned the scoring champion once, too. But that's just one brush stroke of a much bigger—a much greater—picture.

A picture that, upon completion, will depict James as one of the greatest players to ever play in this league.

Not just because he scored and not just in spite of the fact that he could have scored more, but because he did more with the basketball in his hands than most ever will.


*All stats in this article are accurate as of December 23, 2012.


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