What Kings Are Made Of
Throughout history, there have been many royal families and monarchies. In each of those cases, there is one man at the top that is referred to as the King. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “king” as “a male monarch of a major territorial unit; especially : one whose position is hereditary and who rules for life.” This term is really meant to be the honor of all honors. Yet, we throw it around in sports like anyone can be King. If you are the “King” of a sport that means that you are and will be the most dominant player ever. Is it alright to crown a King before he even wins his first championship?
For a while in the sports world, being a “King” was a curse. There are four athletes in professional sports with the nickname “King.” Only two of those athletes has won, his respective leagues championship and they are Richard Petty and LeBron James. Petty is widely regarded as one of the best Stock Car racers to ever wear a fire suit. His record of 7 Nascar Championship wins have not been beaten to this day. There are two other drivers that are tied with Petty, but it is still currently the record. Needless to say “The King” Richard Petty deserves to be called the King of Nascar. He may be the outlier in this whole debate.
The other athlete that won his leagues respective championship is LeBron James aka King James. LeBron was crowned before he ever had an NBA crown. He sat on a throne of hope that one day he would be the King the NBA was looking for. If you ask some people he already is. Maybe we are anointing Kings too early? LeBron James can easily be considered the best player in the NBA right now. The debate is whether or not he is the best player to ever play the game. In the case of Richard Petty, if you told a Nascar fan that Richard Petty is the best Nascar driver ever most fans would agree. The NBA is split though based on a generational divide. Most Millennials that may have never watched Michael Jordan or caught the end of his career think that LeBron James is the best player to ever play the Basketball. The older generation thinks it is no contest that Jordan is the best player ever. The even older generation will tell you its Bill Russell. When there is a 33% percent division how can LeBron James be the King? The other two kings in sports are King Henrik Lundqvist and King Felix Hernandez. Neither of those players have won a Stanley Cup or a World Series. What does it really take to be a King?
The proof is in the pudding. To be crowned King a single player must be absolutely dominant in their sport and that includes championships. Richard Petty is the King of Nascar because he holds the record for most Nascar Championships. The thing is most people use the nickname just because it is convenient. For instance, there was a King James in England, who is famously known for the King James Bible. King James VI was one of the memorable Kings of England with his sweeping reform of religion in the United Kingdom. Therefore, it was simple for people to start calling LeBron James “King James”. The other two early crowned Kings were a little different. There is no actual King Henrik or King Felix. Why are these players called King then?
All three Kings have one distant thing in common. They all had great success at a young age. LeBron James came into the league at the age of 19 and won the Rookie of the Year award. Felix Hernandez also was 19 when he made his debut in the Majors. Henrik Lundqvist was a little older when he came into the NHL, but was still only 23 years old when he made his debut. All of them found early success and were immediately called King. Sure these are fan and media made nicknames, but they should mean something. Each one of these men has received high honors in their sports and have won plenty of individual awards. There is no taking away from that. True Kings though will win every time their team is in a championship. In fact, Felix Hernandez has never even played a playoff games in Major League Baseball.
LeBron James will go down in NBA history as one of the top players to ever play the game. LeBron does not get the respect he deserves because we all look at him as a King. The same thing can be said to anyone with that nickname. It is tough to live up to a title when you are crowned too early. This is probably the reason why LeBron James has so many critics. When you are the best player in your sport and are called the King of that sport your expectations will be through the roof. LeBron is the King of the NBA and no matter how many championships he ends up with will go down as King. He just may have been crowned a little too early.