Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 6/19/12
MIAMI -- When LeBron James arrived in Miami before last season, Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo had a presentation of show and tell. McAdoo is one of the few guys on the planet who at least has somewhat walked in similar shoes as James. Likes James, he has won an NBA MVP and a scoring title (actually, three). Like James, he had toiled for many years without winning a title. And, like James, he joined forces with superstars on another team in pursuit of that ring. "When he first got here, I kind of showed him our Lakers pictures and I said, 'I understand what you did,'" McAdoo, who joined the Lakers in 1981-82 and won a championship that season as well as one in 1984-85, said in an interview Monday with FOX Sports Florida. "I had to get with a team of other stars and people didn't make a big deal out of it." Yes, there are differences. While James was 25 and the top player in the game when he bolted from Cleveland to the Heat as a free agent, McAdoo was 30 and on the decline when he became a free agent and ended up being traded from New Jersey to the Lakers due to compensation rules that were in place at the time. But the thinking of the two was similar. James, trying to win his first title on a Miami team that leads Oklahoma City 2-1 in the NBA Finals, wasn't able to win a ring in his seven seasons with weak Cavaliers supporting casts. McAdoo couldn't get one in nine seasons on also-ran teams, most notably Buffalo and New York. "I said (to James that) those (top) teams of the '80s had a lot of stars on the team," McAdoo, a Hall of Fame forward-center, said of his 2010 talk with James. "The 76ers had Moses (Malone), Julius (Erving), Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones. The Celtics had (Larry) Bird, (Kevin) McHale, (Robert) Parish. You needed those type of players to win. "You weren't going to be a lone wolf out there like LeBron kind of was in Cleveland to win a championship. He was kind of stuck out there like I was in Buffalo or New York, and we just didn't have enough talent. I showed (James) and I told him, 'You got to be teamed with other stars to even have a chance (at a title) because the teams that are winning are the teams that got all the talent."' James got ample criticism for abandoning his home-state Cavaliers to join fellow stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Plenty of it had to do with the way he handled it, announcing his plans on the ill-fated "The Decision" show. Nevertheless, James hardly is the first established star to bolt a team in search of a better place to win a championship. Wilt Chamberlain forced trades twice in the 1960s, and won titles with star-laden teams Philadelphia in 1967 and the Lakers in 1972. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar requested a trade from Milwaukee to the Lakers in 1975, although it would five years before Magic Johnson showed up and there was a star pairing that led to a title. After the 1981-82 season, Malone, who had led an undermanned Houston team to the Finals the previous season, became a free agent and a trade was worked out with Philadelphia. It immediately resulted in a championship. When it became apparent he wasn't going to win a title in Portland, Clyde Drexler forced a trade in February 1995 to Houston. Four months later, he paired with Hakeem Olajuwon to win a crown. Orlando center Shaquille O'Neal left Orlando as a free agent in the summer of 1996 to join a Lakers team that didn't then have any other stars but had a history of excellence and an intriguing rookie in Kobe Bryant. Eventually, the pair won the first three championships of the last decade. In the summer of 2008, Kevin Garnett maneuvered his way in a trade from Minnesota to Boston to join forces with fellow stars Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. That instantly produced a title. "I think it was a great move," Drexler said in an interview with FOX Sports Florida about James' decision to go to the Heat. "Because, if you look at the team he left, would you want to stay with that team? If you keep playing 48 minutes and scoring 40 points, it's going to take years off your career, and you still may not win. But if he's going to go play with some other (top) players, one, he's got some help, which means a lot. Two, he's got a better chance to win. And living in Miami is not really a bad place. It's a no-brainer (James going to Miami). "If I had not gone to Houston, I would not have a ring You need multiple stars (to win a championship). You always have When I was in Portland, we had players good enough to get to the Finals but the super teams are going to get us." Drexler's Trail Blazers lost in the Finals to Detroit in 1990 and Chicago in 1992. When the team went into a rebuilding mode, Drexler wanted out and a trade was put together for him to go to the Rockets. At 32, Drexler was seven years older than when James joined his new team. But the guard still averaged 21.4 points in 35 1994-95 regular-season games for the Rockets and 20.5 during their playoff title run. He then averaged more than 18 points in each of his final three Houston seasons before ending his Hall of Fame career. Malone leaving Houston as a free agent after an MVP season to join star-laden Philadelphia is perhaps the situation in NBA history most similar to James bolting the Cavaliers after winning two straight MVPs. Some of the other big names were traded rather than having become free agents, some were at least slightly past their prime and Abdul-Jabbar and O'Neal didn't immediately join other stars with their new teams. But however and whenever it happens, history shows multiple stars are need to win championships. And it was apparent James, who technically left the Cavaliers in a sign-and-trade, didn't feel confident about a big-time player ever joining him in Cleveland. "I know the history of the game," said James, who this season won his third MVP and was the scoring champion with the Cavaliers in 2007-08. "You've got to have superstars and stars to win a championship. You've got to have a great coaching staff and a great organization. But as many as (Michael) Jordan won (six), he had a great supporting cast around him. As many as Bird won (three), he had a supporting cast. As many as Magic won (five), he had a supporting cast, same with (Tim) Duncan (a San Antonio big man with four titles). I understand that you can't do it by yourself." McAdoo figured that out early in his career with Buffalo. He won the scoring title in his second season of 1973-74, and then won it again the next two years. He won his MVP in 1974-75, when he averaged 34.5 points and 14.1 rebounds. But the Braves never could advance farther than the Eastern Conference semifinals. When McAdoo had a chance to join Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar with the Lakers, he jumped at even if it meant a reduced role. McAdoo agreed to come of the bench, and he still averaged as many as 15.0 points in 1982-83. He played in the Finals during each of his four Lakers seasons. "The biggest thing is he made a sacrifice to join that team," James said. "You look at Doo's resume before he joined the Lakers He could score with the best of them. But I think he knew that if he was going to be joining the Lakers, he wasn't going to be that same player. So he had to make sacrifices. "Now, I'm not saying that's me because I still have to play at a high level and Doo came off the bench for that Laker team, but I think sacrifice is the word I'm trying to say. He had to make a sacrifice for the better of the team to win a championship." If James in the next week finally wins his first championship, there's going to be talk by some it is cheapened because he had to leave Cleveland for Miami to get it done. But none of that talk will come from Drexler. He even had no problem with the ESPN-aired "The Decision." "I think it's crazy as great as he is," Drexler said when asked if he believes James still gets undue criticism for having gone from the Cavaliers to the Heat. "The guy is phenomenal. He's underrated. As good as he is, he's still underrated. "How many players got traded and found out about it on the radio on the way home? How many times did that happen? A million. He at least had ("The Decision") to let (the Cavaliers) know, 'I enjoyed it, but I'm going to take my talents to South Florida because I think I have a better chance (to win a championship).'" That chance soon might become reality. If it does, James hardly would be the first star who needed to team up with other stars to win a title. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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