This endless NBA Lockout has forced me to get my basketball fix elsewhere. I have been watching absurd amounts of NBA Classics to feed my addiction. Last week, the 1998 NBA Finals between Jordan’s Bulls and Utah’s dynamic duo of Stockton and Malone was played out game by game. The combination of watching these games and my own boredom has left me time to make some conclusions.
Michael Jordan is the uncontested greatest basketball player to ever play the game, and the man billed to be his successor, LeBron Raymonde James, will never have this honor.
If a statue of LeBron James were to be placed in Cleveland, Ohio, 20 years from now, one thing is certain. That statue would come down faster than a monument for Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. The question I ask is this: when LeBron James plays his final game, will the crowd even cheer for him?
What makes a player the greatest? Everything. He has to do everything. Score, pass, defend, rebound, handle to the ball, make his teammates better, have a killer instinct, make shots when they count (known to most basketball fans as “clutch”), bring the fans to their feet, and be a hero for people everywhere. There have been a shit ton of players who have had most of these qualities, but only a few have had them all. This is where the "What If" Club comes into play.
The exclusive “What If” Club is loaded with these characteristics of greatness, but there are missing aspects. Magic Johnson revolutionized the point guard position. Larry Bird won six championships. However, Larry and Magic were forced into limited roles in the prime of their careers due to injury and HIV, respectively. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the all time leading scorer in NBA history, but he is labelled as a one sided, low-post player. Greats such as Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain either fall under the low-post label, or are discredited because they are pre-modern era.
So in the question of who is the greatest, who is there? In my opinion, there are three people who do/did these things. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James.
Bryant can never be considered better than Jordan for a very simple reason. Bryant’s playing style is almost identical to Jordan’s. They both played for Phil Jackson, at the same position, in the same Triangle offense. Jordan won more championships, had more MVP awards, had a better shooting percentage, and a better point per game average. For me, this takes Kobe completely out of the equation. Not to mention Phil Jackson readily admits that Jordan was better. The only category that Kobe has a discernible lead in is sexual assaults. You would think after getting it in the right basketball hoop this whole time he would....Ah fuck it, I'm not going there.
That leaves us with LeBron James.
LeBron James is one of the most interesting athletes to ever play professionally. James’ transformation from a hometown, baby-kissing superhero, into a treasonous, baby-stealing monster, could have been taken directly from professional wrestling.
THIS WEEKEND AT SUMMER SLAM, I WILL FUCK YOU IN THE FACE, CLEVELAND. BAHAHAHA! ME, D-WADE, THE BOSHTRICH*, KURT ANGLE AND SABLE WILL RULE THE ROYAL RUMBLE! BAHAHAHAHAHA!
(while the camera pans to a fan crying in the stands shouting "WHY! WHY!")
I consider myself extremely lucky that I was a Razor Ramon fan growing up. He was such a douche bag right from the get-go, he threw tooth picks in kids fucking faces, can't get much worse. Worst case scenario he turns good and then my favorite wrestler is another good guy, win-win situation for me. Thankfully he remained an asshole for years and I never felt bad for throwing tooth picks in kids eyes at recess.
|Ah my fucking eye!|
LeBron James’ time in Cleveland should be in parenting books as an example of what happens when you spoil a child. Essentially given the keys to the city at 18 years old, James had Cleveland in his hands. Although, 20 years earlier in Chicago, a 21 year old Michael Jordan found himself in a similar situation.
It can be said that ever since James’ emergence on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline “The Chosen One,” we have all served as enablers and are partially guilty for this baby-snatching douche.
What kind of a douche bag are we dealing with? The type that comes into the league wearing number 23 when it is the only number that every player agrees should be retired league-wide. He then states that number 23 should be retired, and continues to wear it. He then leaves for Miami, and changes his number to 6, because he wants to have his own number that only he is known by...Both Julius Erving and Bill Russell wore number 6...
|Yeah, he was a total nobody.|
When MJ lost several years in a row to the Detriot Pistons during the playoffs in the late 80s, he stayed put. Young players like Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant grew into the Jordan offense and became the team unit that won six championships together. Jordan made dazzling last-second shots, brought fans to their feet and inspired millions. He appeared to thrive on pressure and showed unheard of determination.
LeBron James walked out of a similar situation in Cleveland. Young players such as Brandon Gibson and Dominic Hickson were developing into pieces to help James reach a championship. James time after time failed to perform in elimination games. Instead, as we all know, he left to team up with an established superstar in Dwyane Wade, and the third murderer of all Canadian children’s dreams: Chris Bosh (The other two dream-murderers being Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter, truly outstanding company, Chris).
In important games, James fails to perform. Instead of thriving, he shrinks, becoming a non-factor on the floor. This is a cardinal sins when speaking about greatness.
Not only that but, James has seemingly made no efforts to improve as a player. After eight full seasons, his lack of a post-game, a crooked jump shot, his apathetic persona, and a complete disregard for his public image has created an almost unbreakable glass ceiling for James. In eight short years, James has almost entirely tarnished his legacy.
|Umm, who the fuck is that? Why would he stand down there like that? He should totally just dribble the ball out and shoot an off-balanced three...|
LeBron James could win numerous championships in Miami, but when fans and experts look at it, they will see a trio of talented superstars, bailing one another out. The Heat are individuals who bought a team because it was easier to win that way. If LeBron had a true desire to be the greatest, he would play to win no matter where he was or who was around him. He should have found a way to win in Cleveland, instead he left a villain and a con who is trying to take a short-cut to a championship. And any championship bought with the tears of your fans should be marked with a giant asterisk in the record books.
When we look at Jordan’s titles, we see Michael Jordan making his teammates better with unquestionable skill and desire to win. The Bulls from 1991-1998 were a complete team led by the greatest basketball player of all time. Michael Jordan found a way to win and he carried his team the way all great players do.
When I look for a “what if” in Jordan’s career the only thing I can find is, “What if he didn’t leave for a year to play professional baseball?” The answer, you will find is this: Jordan would have eight championships instead of six, he would be the all time leader in points scored, and it would be illegal to question his greatness under penalty of death (probably).
In 2003, When Michael Jordan played his final game for Washington, in Philadelphia, he received a three minute long standing ovation. I challenge LeBron James to find any city outside of Miami that will cheer for him today.
The statue of Michael Jordan outside of the United Center in Chicago stands 12 feet taller than anything that will ever be built for LeBron James.
P.S. Chris Bosh drinks his own pee.