LeBron will never be Jordan

by Andrew Kennedy

Michael Jordan finally spoke up about LeBron James so now it’s time for me to as well.

I took my time thinking about what to write about LeBron because something of this magnitude needed to sink in and I didn’t want to let my emotions immediately following “The Decision” factor in too much.

LeBron made a huge mistake calling the one-hour special. This is no secret. It was ridiculous and proved how little guidance he has had over the years. He hurt Cleveland like no other person has ever hurt a city before and while I don’t particularly care about that, it still wasn’t right.

Jordan faxed the Bulls a sheet of paper simply saying “I’m back” in 1995 when he returned. LeBron did the opposite. He called attention to himself over the sport and embarrassed all professional sports and ESPN in the process.

That being said, I’m ecstatic that he picked to play in Miami. Only because something like this has never been done before and now we will see something for the first time: three bonafide NBA stars playing on the same team while all in their primes with no supporting cast. West-Wilt-Baylor is the closest thing to this but they were all past their primes at the time.

This is a good thing for the NBA. The league is most popular when the bulk of its stars are on a handful of teams. We don’t really care how they get there either, otherwise people would still be complaining about how the Lakers landed Pau Gasol for nothing and have since been to three-straight NBA Finals and won the last two. The LeBron-Bosh-Wade trio will spark a crazy-high interest in the league and any fan can’t complain with that. It will also create a team that is extremely easy to root against and hate all across the country and any true sports fan knows that the more you can hate in sports, the more of a fan you are (or something).

While the “taking my talents to South Beach” for LeBron was a good thing for the league, for LeBron’s legacy and image, not so much. He basically stated that he no longer would like to be in the conversation with Jordan or Kobe Bryant. This is upsetting for any unbiased fan who is only out there watching sports to see greatness (kind of like me). With LeBron, we have the most physically gifted athlete in probably the history of the world deciding to accept failure and defeat in Cleveland and join what should be his greatest rivals in a league to take a backseat and coast to some titles (which aren’t guaranteed yet) and party in South Beach searching for strippers and cocaine.

Jordan would not have done that. He thought to be the best you had to beat the best. And he did that and became the best. He had help and was probably part of the only trio that is better than LeBron-Bosh-Wade with Pippen and Rodman but it was still always his team without question.

So while it’s disappointing to have LeBron concede defeat on this level and not strive to be the greatest player ever anymore, we have to consider a few things.

Jordan changed sports and superstars and winning with the way he was. He sacrificed everything for the greater good (like Dumbledore) which was winning to him and his legacy as the best ever at winning. He didn’t make friends, took contested fadeaways while double-teamed with open shooters in the corner, got into fights with teammates and scored 45 points on 35 shots with only one assist in Game 6 of the 1998 Finals to make sure that he went out on top. He dominated and ruined the careers of countless superstars from his generation and that is what also made him the best. Before he won his first title, he had to overcome Bird, Isiah and then Magic. Who else can say that? Not LeBron. Jordan brought this to sports and changed it, painting the picture for what it takes to be the greatest.

Then came Kobe. While Kobe has had his ups and downs as well, the best part about Kobe is that he saw Jordan, recognized what greatness truly was and tried to emulate it as best as possible. Jordan will most likely always be viewed as better than Kobe but Kobe deserves plenty of credit as well just for accepting the task of trying to match Jordan.

In the history of the NBA there was no one like Jordan at all. He comes in and almost transcends the sport while representing the perfection of all that came before. He is the most competitive person we have ever seen and the most obsessed with winning at all costs.

Then, just 12 years later, we get another just like that but not quite as talented in Kobe. That’s crazy. We weren’t supposed to see another player like that for another 25 years or so. And that brings me back to LeBron. Kobe acting so much like Jordan makes us think that LeBron has to be wired the same way when he isn’t. He doesn’t want to be like that. It’s rare to get athletes like that. He’d rather be around friends and try and be a part of a great team instead of the man.

But LeBron can still be great in his own way.

LeBron might be putting winning above everything else and I guess we have to respect that at least. It could be as simple as joining two friends and partying like crazy in South Beach or it could be wanting to win more than anything else, even more than cementing a legacy of his own.

LeBron is representing the transition in sports. The best players are friends now. They don’t hate each other as much. You get suspended for clothes-lines and throwing punches today while it was common place in the 80’s and 90’s. These 25-year old kids (because LeBron is a kid, not a man) grow up playing together on the AAU circuit and making friends on 18-year old dream teams. Whether this is good or not or more entertaining or not, we don’t know yet.

So LeBron isn’t horrible for joining Wade in Miami. He just can’t be the greatest anymore. One day, people may remember the 2013 Miami Heat as one of the greatest teams ever, maybe even better than the ‘96 Bulls or ‘86 Celtics but they won’t be saying LeBron is better than Jordan.