LeBron James has 82 reasons to play and the 1999 NBA lock-out season is one

The very moment that the  San Antonio Spurs won the 1999 NBA championship against the New York Knickerbockers, media-types everywhere took it with a grain of salt.

HoopsDoctor columnist Kevin Burke wrote in his article Did the 1999 Labor Shortened Season Really Count at the time:

"An NBA Championship is an NBA Championship no matter how you slice it. I’m sure “The Admiral” no doubt shows off his only ring to anyone who is willing to look at it and the Spurs have a banner in their gym proving that they were champions that year. But, because of the lockout, something feels off about that Finals win. I sometimes forget about it."

Sports prognosticators were all questioning the legitimacy of the championship because there were only 50 games played that year. In fact, I think that there is still a sort of begrudging acceptance of that championship year. The Spurs never beat their chest proclaiming outrage nor did their star players proclaim that they are now looking to be the best in the business. They have simply went on and let their on-court actions determine their legacies. The Spurs are now 4-time NBA Champions, making David Robinson and Tim Duncan both Hall-of-fame players with blue-ship credentials.

Fast-forward to the 2011-12 season and once again the NBA found itself embroiled in another labor dispute and once again the majority of the players showed up out of shape. Though none to the extent of the player formerly known as Shawn Kemp.

There were a total of 66 games played and a few brutal slates of back-to-back-to-back games that had older teams like the Celtics running on fumes. The Miami Heat won the 2012 championships against a wet-behind-the-ear team in the Oklahoma Thunder.

This time no one has dared utter the words that Mr. Burke has said in the last sentence of the quote above, that something simply feels off about the Finals. Is it because of the self-proclaimed 'King's' revenue churning acceptance or we simply say a champion is a champion.

The premier player in the NBA, LeBron James, won his first championship without going through a true gauntlet of an 82 game slate. If this had happened to Michael Jordan he would have wanted to prove that his first championship was legit by going out and showing it on the court.

Instead, James is on an all consuming quest for individual accolades, not even Kobe would be so narcissistic as to verbalize that. Because for him and all the other greats it wasn't about what they could do for themselves, but what they can do for the legacy of the franchises they represent.

The Miami Heat went to the NBA Finals two years in a row, one with a full 82 games the other with 66 games. The actual full-season they lost the championship to the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks.

There is no doubt that James is a very talented individual, but does he make players better? Mo Williams, Daniel 'Booby' Gibson, Anderson Varejao, where are they now? All of these players have fallen off the map since the King abdicated his throne in Cleveland.

He will always be in the MVP conversation because of his raw talent, which has yet to be unleashed on the NBA. But time is running out on this scenario. James has been in the league 10 years and we all know that Father time is undefeated in the history of mankind.

So the Miami Heat can enjoy raising the 2012 championship banner from their shortened season success. However, you just can't help but have a nagging suspicion that this background noise, no matter how low, is the real elephant in the room:

Can the Heat win out playing a full 82 games? The media seems to thinks so, if only because of the presence of LeBron and their 66 game championship run.

Let the games begin in this 82 game season or bust.

To paraphrase Doc Rivers "The Miami Heat do not have a monopoly on this years title."