The Ring-Giver: LeBron James Earns New Nickname Following 4th NBA Title

Omar Guerrero
13 Min Read

Moments before the final buzzer sounded in Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals on Sunday, a giddy LeBron James could be seen laughing as he hugged fellow superstar Anthony Davis.

Though the conversation was inaudible to those of us watching on television, the message that James sent to Davis with that bear hug was undeniably clear:

“You’re welcome.”

For the nth time in his career, James gifted a teammate his first NBA championship after the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat 106-93, prompting the need to give the 17-year veteran a new nickname.

From that moment forward, James should be called the Ring-Giver.

Defining A Ring-Giver

LeBron James Cavs

James has been called several names over the course of his career. The most popular ones are King James, LBJ, the Akron Hammer, L-Train and Chosen One. Each of these monikers has a story of its own as to how it became attached to him.

The Ring-Giver fits James uniquely as it befits his habit of “handing out” championship rings to players who have never won a title before. From his time with the Miami Heat to his subsequent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and now as a member of Laker Nation, James has been a ring-giver wherever he has gone.

The term ring-giver is not a made-up word. It exists in Anglo-Saxon culture involving a generous and noble king or lord. When his thanes (warriors) return to him after coming back from battle in service to him and their people, he rewards them for their bravery and strength with valuables, often in the form of gold rings such as arm rings or neck rings.

The king is a “ring-giver” because he distributes the spoils of war to his thanes rather than keep them for himself.

Whether by design or by default, James has become a ring-giver himself. His trek from one NBA city to another has given a number of players the coveted jewelry that they have longed for since the beginning of their professional careers.

The King’s Thanes

LeBron James Miami Heat rings

As a certain Reddit user has discovered, more than 40 players have earned rings just because they played alongside the 16-time All-Star during his run to four titles over the past decade.

In Miami, Chris Bosh, Juwan Howard, Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers are but a few of the players who gained rings because of James’ presence in the lineup.

Bosh and Howard were All-Star forwards before joining the Miami Heat, but had never won a ring with their previous franchises. Bosh had to play differently to fit into James’ style of play while Howard spent his last two years in the league as a seldom-used big man.

Both have a title under their belts because of James.

Before becoming teammates with James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love had never sniffed the playoffs in their young careers despite their individual talents. Along with those two, Richard Jefferson, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson and a host of other Cleveland Cavaliers players became champions within two years of James’ return to Ohio.

Unlike most of his teammates, Jefferson had been to the Finals twice before (with the New Jersey Nets) but never won a title.

Each of these players currently owns a championship ring only because they played on a team with James.

As for the newly crowned champion Lakers, other players who won their first title by sharing the court with James are Avery Bradley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris, Jared Dudley, Dwight Howard, Talen Horton-Tucker, Dion Waiters, Kostas Antetokounmpo and Devontae Cacok. DeMarcus Cousins is also eligible to get a ring despite being waived in February.

Prior to his partnership with the 2020 Finals MVP, Davis had never made it past the second round of the playoffs since he entered the league in 2012. He had only won a total of five playoff games in seven years with the New Orleans Pelicans.

On the other hand, James won seven games in his first year in the playoffs, and he has been to the postseason on 13 other occasions.

After only one season of playing with James, Davis has 16 more playoff wins together with a championship on his resume.

Howard went to the Finals with the Orlando Magic in 2009 where he eventually lost to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Despite joining forces with Bryant a few years later, Howard failed to carry L.A. to the Promised Land.

Though he had won Defensive Player of the Year a few times, was an eight-time All-Star, and owned a couple of rebounding and blocks titles, Howard was not a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame in the eyes of some basketball pundits.

After claiming his first and only championship so far, Howard has a legitimate shot at basketball immortality when he retires thanks to his otherworldly teammate.

Coaches Erik Spoelstra, Tyronn Lue and Frank Vogel have also joined the ranks of champs with James orchestrating their plays.

Moreover, the franchises James played for benefitted greatly from the titles he helped them capture. The Cavaliers claimed their first and only title in 2016, the Heat have three titles instead of one, and the Lakers tied the Celtics for most championships by a franchise with 17.

King James has certainly shared the wealth in more ways than one.

A Tale of Two Kings

LeBron James and Michael Jordan

James has been closely associated with Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan almost as soon as he set foot on a basketball court. From the number emblazoned on his jersey to the dominance on the court, the Lakers forward has been compared favorably to Jordan his entire career.

The four-time Finals MVP embraced the comparison after he publicly declared after his third championship that he was chasing “the ghost of Chicago,” a lofty goal considering Jordan’s numerous accomplishments.

It’s not as impossible as it may seem since James’ own career achievements mirror Jordan’s and sometimes surpass them.

But if there is one hurdle that continues to haunt James it’s Jordan’s unblemished Finals record of 6-0. Though a 4-6 record in the championship round is nothing to scoff at, there are those who look at it with disdain as if it is something that James should be ashamed of.

Rather than focus on the failures, we have to look at the fact that James has won four championships while playing for the Heat, Cavs and Lakers. John Salley, Robert Horry and Danny Green are the only other players to have won titles with three different teams, but James is the first superstar to do it.

In contrast, Jordan won all six of his championships in Chicago, which is why James should be defined by how different his career has been from Jordan’s.

The University of North Carolina alum is well-known for keeping some of the league’s luminaries from winning rings during his reign as a ringmaster of the Bulls’ dynasty. Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Reggie Miller, and Shawn Kemp are some of the stars who were denied basketball royalty mostly because of Jordan’s stranglehold on the league in the ’90s.

James, however, has seen many of his contemporaries get their piece of the pie during his watch. But if you ask his teammates, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Without James, All-Stars such as Bosh, Irving, Love and Davis could have racked up all the accolades they wanted but not be called champions.

“Jordan will forever be associated with the players who don’t have rings because of him, but James should be forever associated with those that do,” wrote Sam Quinn of CBS Sports.

Every great player leaves a legacy whether he wants to or not. Part of Jordan’s legacy was his assassin’s mindset that killed his opponents’ chances and dashed their hopes of earning a ring. That’s just the way Jordan liked it.

As James’ career winds down, we are seeing a different legacy unfold for him like a clay pot that’s slowly taking shape. We wanted him to be “like Mike” but instead he became something else.

James is not an assassin. He’s a commanding officer who leads his troops to victory and rewards them for winning battles with him.

When Davis arrived in Los Angeles a year ago, James saw someone who was extremely talented but needed his guidance in order to win a title. His speech at the championship podium on Sunday is proof positive that he is a ring-giver and not a “ring-taker.”

“So to be able to get [Davis], and we push him and let him know how great he is by just making him see better basketball and be a part of something that’s special. That’s what it’s all about,” James said. “So to be able to put him where he is today, that means so much to me and the fact that he trusts me means even more.”

Perhaps we were wrong to see James as someone chasing Jordan’s shadow (or ghost) even though the former saw himself doing just that. Instead, we need to see both of them now as equals, standing tall side by side.

The difference between Jordan’s and James’ legacies is night and day, but neither should be considered inferior to the other.

In a Class of His Own

LeBron James Lakers

James is not and will never be like Jordan. He’s not like Magic Johnson either. No, he’s a Frankenstein monster that combines Jordan’s scoring and Johnson’s passing.

Time and time again, James will pass up opportunities to score to get his teammates involved because he knows he can score when his team needs him to. He doesn’t win games by pounding his opponents into submission with his scoring, although he can do that occasionally.

More often than not, James will involve his teammates so they can win ball games together.

After winning his fourth title, he has proven that he can win several championships by playing a different game from his childhood idol. He has shown us that there’s more than one way to win in this league that doesn’t involve merely staying in one city or playing with the same set of teammates or coaches.

James has demonstrated that it’s good to share the wealth with as many players in the league as possible.

These players will retire (some have retired already) with at least one ring, and they will forever be called champions because of him.

James is the NBA’s Ring-Giver, and he rightfully deserves to have that title all to himself.

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Omar is a former writer for King James Gospel. The very first team he rooted for was the Showtime Lakers and his favorite player back then was James Worthy. Seeing the Purple and Gold win back-to-back championships in the '80s made him a basketball junkie for life. He has witnessed and celebrated every Lakers championship since then and is now looking forward to a new era of basketball in Tinseltown led by LeBron James.