Instead of finishing all of the back end work before I started posting, I thought I would get rolling on the blogging express. If you aren’t interested in basketball, I would just stop reading here, as that’s what I’m going to be talking about (if you are really captivated, then by all means keep reading).
This is the first year since 96 where I did not watch at least part of every game in the NBA finals. I was travelling recently (story for another post), so couldn’t see Dirk and the Mavs defeat the three-headed monster known as the Miami Heat. However, I did pay attention to the media’s reaction to the series. Over the past few years, I feel the media has become much more combative and controversial in their reporting and analysis, as Sportscenter and other sports media sources go from one controversy or drama to the next. Maybe it’s the era of instant gratification (thanks social media), but our society is interested only in the extreme highs and the devastating lows that fill up the sport highlight reels. From the latest game winning shot to the next example of a great player coming up short, we tend to only care about the next “Top Ten”, which is merely a glimpse of sports culture.
If you happened to turn on any media source over the past week, you probably heard the Michael Jordan – Lebron James debate. Before I even begin, I will put my bias out in the open. I am a Chicago Bulls fan born and bred, and I think Michael Jordan is the greatest overall player to ever grace a basketball court. However, I will try to be as objective as I can when I try to think about the two. Frankly, I think it is dumb for anyone to be compared to Michael Jordan unless they have multiple championship rings. While leading the league in scoring and being voted MVP is a great accomplishment on its own, the point of a basketball game is not to score as many points as you can. The point is to do whatever you can to help put your team in a better position to win the game. Simply put, MJ did that, and Lebron has not at this point in his career.
But is that the end of the debate? After all, Jordan had one of the best coaches of the modern era, as well as a complementing squad that worked together to achieve a magical run of 6 championships. Meanwhile, Lebron was the “franchise” in Cleveland, and ultimately left because he wanted to win multiple championships, in the mold of Jordan. This is important in my mind, because it shows that Lebron wants to build upon the legacy of Jordan, where Jordan, in the mind of the public, redefined what was possible with a basketball. This makes Lebron an imitator, although he is a great imitator who brings different elements to the game than Jordan did. However, Lebron is playing in a system inspired by Jordan (how popular are Air Jordans?) where Jordan created the system.
To re-emphasize what I’m trying (and hopefully succeeding) to get at, Lebron has to earn the right to be compared to His Airness. I’m not saying Lebron is a bad player: in fact, I think he is one of the top 5 players in the NBA, and has physical gifts that have never been seen in the NBA before. However, at this point in his career, he is merely a player (albeit great), where Michael Jordan was a winner and a champion. Until LBJ gets a ring (probably more than one, but let’s start small), the conversation is over.