Lessons for Dwight Howard

Howard could learn a lot by watching some of the challenges James has faced in Miami. Getty Images

A few months after the Big Three announced their unprecedented power move to the Miami Heat back in 2010, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told me the newly heralded player-as-GM model would not be as successful as the players think. So far, Cuban has been proven prophetic, as the superstars who recently left their original clubs for greener pastures have not only failed to win championships but even put their legacies in peril.

This is something for Dwight Howard to think about as he ponders whether to stay with the Orlando Magic beyond next season.

Let's start with LeBron James. Obviously, the Heat are a serious title contender and capable of not only winning this season's championship but also becoming a dynasty. Yet with four weeks left before the playoffs begin, Miami looks like anything but a world-beater. It looks like the third-best team in the NBA behind the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder, and third-best might as well be 29th-best for a team that is championship or bust.

If the Heat don't win the title this season, the damage to James' legacy will be nearly irreparable. Of course, he's a surefire Hall of Famer, title or not. And while at 27 he'd still have time to lead teams to several championships, the likelihood of that happening would seem to be small if he fails for a second straight season with fellow stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Failure this year could drop James into the Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson crowd. That's a great crowd, no doubt, but James was supposed to be in the Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant crowd. Anything less will be viewed as underachievement or, worse, failure.