LeBron James has, after nine years in the NBA, won his first title.
He is already a three-time Most Valuable Player, an eight time All-Star, a six time All-NBA First Teamer as well as NBA rookie of the year. Those credentials alone should make James a first ballot hall of famer whenever he does decide to retire, but at age 27 he probably has close to 10 good years left.
Just one NBA championship is a monumental accomplishment, but to truly be considered one of the greatest of all time an NBA player needs multiple championships. So the path ahead for James is clear.
Suddenly his window to find his place among the all-time greats is open and for the first time James is finally begin to look the part of a man who could will his team to multiple championships. Even his teammates noticed.
He had a look about him in the playoffs, one that he didn't have during the regular season, Heat forward Shane Battier told the Scott Van Pelt show. It started in the Indiana game when we were down 2-1. He just said, 'we are not going to lose.' It was amazing, it was like he was a different person.
Prior to that game, on May 20, the Heat were 5-3 in the playoffs and James was averaging 27.6 points, 7.75 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. Starting with game four against the Pacers, the Heat rattled off an 11-4 record and James upped his production, going 31.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
But it wasn't just that he got better, he got better when it counted. Down 2-1 to the Pacers he went for 40 points, 18 rebounds, and 9 assists. Down 3-2 to Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals, James silenced the TD Garden with 45 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists and down 1-0 to Oklahoma City he led the Heat to victory with 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
That is what it takes to win multiple titles and that is James' stated goal.
The question is where will he end up? One of his contemporaries, and a player who seemed to master the art of winning titles at a much earlier age, Kobe Bryant may be a good goal for James.
Bryant has five titles spread over the first decade of the 2000s, a tall order for James who is sitting at just one, but something he has plenty of time left to do.
James will turn 28 part of the way through the 2013 NBA season, a time when many players are considered to be just hitting their primes. He probably has six to eight years of playing at the highest level left, and another two to four after that where he can still be a good NBA player.
That gives him plenty of time to run down Bryant's five. But James has other advantages as well. There is little competition left for the Heat in the Eastern Conference, especially next year.
The Chicago Bulls, the East's top team this year, will be without Derrick Rose to start the season and there is no telling how effective he will be when he does return. The Celtics are officially old, they looked tired and beaten down by game seven against the Heat, and there is much uncertainty in Boston about what that team will look like next year.
The New York Knicks are a good team on paper, but the results have been disastrous and they aren't threatening to put it together any time soon. Perhaps the only rising threat to the Heat in the East is the Indiana Pacers, and Miami dispatched them fairly easily in the second round.
Out West, Oklahoma City will undoubtedly continue to be a nuisance, as will the Lakers with Bryant and San Antonio as long as Tim Duncan continues to play. But right now James has the best team going.
Obviously there are a lot of what ifs. There is no telling what kind of brand new superstar is waiting to emerge from the draft, or from the legions of young players jockeying for playing time on NBA rosters.
There is no way of knowing if other groups of superstars may form their own super teams to try to take the Heat down. What we do know for now is this, James has his first title and he isn't likely to stop there.