NBA: The 3 Key Elements to Defining a Pro Sports Superstar

Joe Arrigo@@joearrigoCorrespondent IJune 14, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat and the Eastern Conference stands with Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Western Conference in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game at Staples Center on February 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

‎What makes a superstar in pro sports? Is it their overall game on the court? Is it their ability to dominate or take over a game with their God-given ability? Is it their will to win and refusal to lose? Is it the amount of titles they win in their career? Is it their "brand" and marketing ability? What is the true definition of a "superstar"?

It's all of the above and more if you ask me.

Let's take a look at the three types of superstars in pro sports. I will use the NBA and LeBron James as my examples for this article, since much has been made of James' play in the NBA Finals.

The three types of superstars in pro sports:

1. The media and fan-made superstar. This is the player that has been really good for a team and everyone loves so they get more love then their game dictates.

2. The great players that settle on being great & will rely on their talent to win games, but lack the killer instinct or that "it" factor. That makes them a "No. 2" on their respective teams or a "No. 1" by default. They have game, no doubt, but also have more hype as well. Scottie Pippen and Pau Gasol are two good examples here, as well as Amarè Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.

3. The TRUE superstar. Superstar players with a desire to be great. This player will step over anyone or kill for a win or for titles and want their legacy defined by what they did on the court and in the amount of titles they have won. Greatness drives them, as well as their refusal to lose, and they won't let anyone or anything stand in their way to accomplish their desired goal. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are the two best examples of this.

In the NBA Finals this past year, the Heat had one of each in Chris Bosh (see No. 1), James (see No. 2)  and Dwyane Wade (see No. 3). NO PLAYER is on Kobe's level when it comes to hunger for titles. That's "Jordanesqe". In fact, Kobe is the closest player to Jordan on the court and with his desire to win at all costs. (For the record, Dirk Nowitzki elevated from a No. 2 to No. 3 to me with his recent playoff performance).

For what ever reason LeBron is not mentally tough. He never has been and never will be. You either have it in you or you don't, and that will be his legacy forever, and he decided that this past off season. He knows that he is a "No. 2" superstar, and that's precisely why he "took his talents to South Beach" when he made his "DECISION" to leave Cleveland.

It seems that he doesn't work at his game as hard as others in the off season and relies on his God-given ability to get by. He lacks that killer instinct and doesn't come up big when it matters most. That is a fact no one can argue. There is nothing wrong with that, but accept it and move on.

No one thought that about Kobe, Jordan, Magic, Bird or Dr. J. Hell, they didn't have that same question with Shaq when he was in his prime (as far as desire to win and coming up big). Let's be very clear, James is the most talented player in the NBA, but if I were the GM of an expansion team and had to choose one player to build around long term, I would take Durrant and Rose over him because they have that desire to be defined by titles and that killer instinct.

(Note: the key word there is long term, because I would take Bryant over anyone if I had to draft a team to win now.)

LeBron has been compared to Kobe a lot in the past and present, but I don't get, and never got, why. Kobe is a different breed and player. He flew from Colorado, where he had a trial that afternoon, back to L.A. and dropped 40 on teams that same night (repeatedly). Bryant's work ethic and attitude have been well-documented (both good and bad, right and wrong), but no one has ever questioned his desire to win.

The same cannot be said for James. He (Kobe) is a superstar that has the desire to be great, no, the greatest, while James is just a superstar with great talents. A perfect example of that was this year's All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Kobe came out to win from the tip-off, while other players took it lightly, including James. Bryant at one point in the third quarter stole the ball from and dunked over James. Later, Bryant was seen jawing at James. NBA All-Star Games are supposed to be fun until the fourth quarter, but not to Bryant.  

Bottom line, LeBron, as great as his talents (in South Beach) may be, as rich and famous as he is he is NOT a lead dog on a team. I told my father-in-law that same statement when he signed with Miami and that it is Wade's team and James needs to accept the role a the No. 2 guy.

He disagreed saying they can all (including Bosh) share the the leadership role. I explained that won't work because Wade has been there and won a title before James decided to sign with them and (2) James hasn't came up big in big games.

We agreed to see what would happen during the season, and James played like, well, LeBron James in big games. James made that "DECISION" to be a No. 2 superstar when he signed with the Heat, but his mental make-up and game made that decision for him on the court a long time ago.

LeBron was right. Like other people I did wake up with the same problems I went to bed with, and deal with the same issues daily. But he also has to remember he has to go to bed and wake up knowing that he has let two different organizations down in the Finals, and will forever have the reputation of a player that hides and  tucks his tail in big games.

Look at the past, he did it in Cleveland and he did it in Miami in these Finals. Everybody has distractions (see Kobe in Colorado). If the rumors are true about Rashard Lewis sleeping with his fiance, I can understand being distracted, but in the same breath, the Heat and the Heat fans are paying him tons of money to win titles.

Hell, they had a ring ceremony before the season began and James proclaimed they would win as many as eight titles, and the Heat wonders why it became vilified? Instead of lashing out at people and reminding them that they don't make as much money as you or have a lesser lifestyle then you, look in the mirror, Mr. James.

Look at the "superstar" or "king" who has no rings. Barkley, Ewing and the Miami Dolphins' own Dan Marino never won rings, but their will to win was never never question.   

There are only a few true superstars in pro sports, Bryant, Derek Jeter, Tom Brady and Albert Pujols come to mind. So the next time we hear "he's a superstar" or "we'll see him in the (insert sports) Hall of Fame" really think about it and ask yourself, "is he a true superstar?"