LeBron James didn’t win a championship until his ninth season.
Michael Jordan, as many people like to point out, won one in his seventh.
It was a long road for LeBron, who lost twice in the Finals before claiming his first title. Early in his career, LeBron needed to develop as a player, especially defensively. Then, he had to establish a will to raise his game in the biggest moments, learn to accept that a semi-contested shot by him often trumped an open shot by a teammate.
But finally, LeBron proved himself worthy of an NBA championship – twice over, even.
And to him, it’s tough.
LeBron James said leading this Cleveland Cavaliers team, teaching it how to win on a championship level, is the biggest challenge of his 12-year career.
“This is more challenging than me trying to win my first championship,” James told ESPN.com on Wednesday, hours before his Cavaliers hosted the San Antonio Spurs. “Because that was a personal goal of mine. Doing this was never a goal until I decided to come back to Cleveland.”
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I don’t know which task LeBron truly finds more difficult, but I believe this is the one he must convince himself is harder.
LeBron has already won a championship. He knows he can accomplish that. And if teaching the Cavs is easier than something he knows he can do, that just opens the door for him to rest on his laurels, which he wants to avoid.
Plus, if he can raise the bar on how difficult his challenge in Cleveland is viewed, that only helps absolve him if he fails and makes him look better if he succeeds.