lebron james*There’s a good chance that LeBron’s mansion somewhere in Miami Beach has a pretty large mantle, given that he’s made around $120 million in his career. That will buy a mantle the size of an aircraft carrier, or the world’s nicest trophy case, or any other exquisite surface or structure that could be used as a showpiece for a piece of glittery hardware.

He’s going to need all of that trophy space, James was be named the NBA’s MVP this weekend – picking up the hardware from David Stern before the Heat’s second-round game against the Pacers. The trophy sure won’t be lonely – it’s going to join two other MVP honors, a Rookie of the Year Award, and Olympic Bronze and Gold medals. That sure blows away your average American’s blowing trophy and “Employee of the Month” plaque.

Of course, the one thing LeBron is missing from that case is a NBA Championship trophy (we’ll just assume that he’d have a replica made). It was sadly indicative of LeBron’s career that days after he picked up his third MVP – the ultimate in basketball’s individual honors – he couldn’t drag his Heat to second-game victory against the plucky Pacers, clanging two late free throws. The loss left the series tied at one game apiece.

You have to wonder about LeBron’s legacy if he fails to bring the Heat to a championship this year, in a playoff that’s seen the Heat’s greatest rival (the Bulls) succumb to injuries and the rest of the conference deemed too young (Indiana), too old (Boston) or too dysfunctional (Orlando) to really be considered contenders. He’s supposedly got a clear path to the finals to face whatever powerhouse comes out of the West, and yet his stacked Heat team is plagued by the same old questions and disappointments they’ve faced for two years now, with the hottest rancor directed squarely at number 23.

It’s time for LeBron to step up and put the Heat on his broad shoulders. He needs to go off like he did in 2007, in that remarkable Game 5 win against Detroit. He’s the greatest basketball player in the world, maybe the most talented player of all time. Now’s the time to take charge of his legacy, lest he be remembered alongside Dan Marino, Charles Barkley or Greg Norman – truly great players who will be more defined by their inability to win championships. That’s not something you want to put on a mantle.