A picture tells a thousand words.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
Watching ESPN’s “The Decision” the other night, I realized how much impact one person could have on an entire sport.
And that one person was Michael Jordan.
Sure, it was LeBron James’ decision. He’s arguably the best player in the game and his free agency should be cause for some hoopla. But watching a three and a half hour (the actual hour long episode plus two and a half hours of blasé commentary analyzing it) segment about LeBron’s choice to join Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat this fall, I couldn’t help but notice how the ghost of “the greatest ever” loomed over the whole scene.
“Like I said before, it’s gonna give me the best opportunity to win and to win for multiple years,” LeBron told Jim Gray last night after he announced his decision.
Really LeBron? I don’t believe you.
See, if you really wanted to win, you would have gone to Chicago. There, you have a complementary supporting cast of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and the newly signed Carlos Boozer who could actually accommodate your insane athletic ability.
Or get this, if you were insistent on winning with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, Chicago still would have been the best situation for you guys because they had the salary cap space to welcome you as well as the other puzzle pieces to surround you.
So then, if it was about winning all along, why don’t you have on a windy city jersey on right now? Answer: because it was never about winning. It was about being better than Michael Jordan.
Much like ghost of Banquo scared the shit out of Macbeth, the ghost of Michael Jordan in a Chicago Bulls uniform scares the shit out of LeBron.
See Michael Jordan was a freak of nature: he was an overly-competitive superstar who also had the skill set that helped him prevail over and over again. A bubble of invincibility surrounded him. 6 time NBA Champion. 14 time All Star. 6 time Final MVP.
It’s so extreme now that anybody who is anybody in basketball is almost automatically compared to him. Scratch that, anybody who is anybody in basketball is considered a piece of dung if they don’t live up to Jordan’s impossible legacy.
So somewhere along the line, whether it was we collectively as a society or just through tacit agreement, we came up with the Jordan formula. It goes something like this:
PREMISE: There can be another basketball player to supplant Michael Jordan as the greatest player ever, but in order for someone to reach that plateau, they have to do the following:
1. Stay with the franchise and lead them to their first championship.
2. Overcome a conference rival like let’s say the ’89 & ’90 Detroit Pistons.
3. Never lose in the finals
4. Play with a star sidekick, but one who is so much of a star that he takes the spotlight.
5. Win Finals MVP every time your team wins a championship.
6. Never lose in the finals.
7. Win more than six championships.
The problem is that when Jordan was inadvertently creating this formula, the process was organic. Nowadays, the process is contrived. For instance, Kobe Bryant demanded a Shaq trade because he felt threatened by rule #4. By trying so desperately to adhere to the formula, he ended up trying too hard and breaking rule #3 in 2008 against the Celtics. LeBron is in the same boat with this formula. Going to Chicago violates rule #1. Staying in Cleveland complies with rule #1 except there’s one problem: there’s no championship season coming to Cleveland anytime soon. Why? Because LeBron is not Michael Jordan and he knows it.
When you’re not Michael Jordan, a cold-blooded roundball killer who would cut a pound of his own flesh to win, you know it early. You can only hide it to the rest of the world. I think even Kobe, a valiant contender for Jordan status, knows he’s not Jordan. That’s why he often hides behind a stacked team of Artest, Odom, Gasol, Bynum, a team that Jordan would have never lost with. And it’s definitely why LeBron decided to join his rivals instead of beat them. Think about it, if Jordan had the opportunity to play Shaq, he wouldn’t force a trade (he maybe would have forced Shaq into a secondary role, but not force him off the team altogether). If Jordan was a free agent with the Cavs and wanted to win so badly, he would have gone to Chicago.
For LeBron, going to Chicago would only show the world what the LeBron himself already knew: he’s not Michael Jordan. It’s like in The Wire when fourteen year-old Namond breaks down crying and admits that he can’t be like Weebay, his major drug-dealing father. Everybody wants him to be the man, even his mother, but he doesn’t have the heart. In Chicago, LeBron would have been under immense pressure to win six titles while not having the competitive spirit to obtain that goal.
What we have here now is an hour long special where the biggest sports star on the planet exposes his even bigger insecurity to the world. Only he disguises it as a thirst for winning. What we saw yesterday was not competitive spirit. We saw a star who indirectly admitted that he couldn’t be the best player of all time. That he needs a tremendous amount of help and is willing to be second fiddle just to obtain a semblance of Michael Jordan’s success.
So what we got was an awkward hour long special filled with time-stalling Jim Gray questions and an awkward announcement like this:
“This fall, I’m gonna be taking my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”
Does that sound like something “the greatest player ever” would say? Granted, there’s no other Michael Jordan in basketball, but there are Michael Jordans in other professions like education, medicine, etc. Would the top dog in any of other those professions say something like that. Picture it:
“This fall, I’m gonna be taking my talents to the Boogie Down and teach at PS 51 in the Bronx.”
“This fall, I’m gonna be taking my talents to the H-town and see patients at Hermann Hospital in Houston.”
Doesn’t make sense. What we are seeing is the product of an instant-gratification generation where young people feel like they can flip a switch and the championships come pouring down. All I will say is have fun, LeBron. I hope you guys can figure out who gets the ball and when. If you do and you win a couple of championships, I hope none of you starts getting greedy and wanting more limelight. I’ll be rooting for you to go all the way (what can I say, I’m 27. I’m part of the instant gratification generation, too) and I hope you will be remembered as a winner.
But I think we share something in common. We’re both okay we with the fact that you will never be the greatest ever.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I pretty much agree with Sporting News on this. Lists like these are always great conversation starters...
Kobe or LeBron? LeBron or Kobe? Trying to settle on the best player in the NBA -- Lakers guard Kobe Bryant or Cavaliers forward LeBron James -- is no easy choice.
But, according to Sporting News' panel of experts, Bryant is the clear-cut No. 1. Bryant tops SN’s list of the 50 greatest players in the NBA today, as selected by a panel of 107 Hall of Famers, major award winners, executives, current players and coaches and other basketball experts.
Bryant received almost twice as many first-place votes as James, 62 to 34.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade was third on the list and received 11 first-place votes. Magic center Dwight Howard was fourth, and Spurs power forward Tim Duncan fifth.
Rounding out the top 10: Hornets point guard Chris Paul, Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett, Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki, Nuggets small forward Carmelo Anthony, and Celtics small forward Paul Pierce.
"I think what we've seen from Kobe in the last two, three years is that he has become an incredible leader," former Lakers great Magic Johnson said about Bryant. "That was the only thing he had to do that was left on his resume. Before, there was no question that he was the best basketball player in the world, like he is now. He was dominant every night, but he didn’t take on that leadership role. ... Now, he is the total package."
SN's Top 50 breakdown
4: Celtics, Spurs
3: Hawks, Nuggets, Rockets
2: Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Jazz, Magic, Mavericks, Pistons, Raptors, 76ers, Suns
1: Bulls, Bucks, Clippers, Heat, Hornets, Nets, Pacers, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Wizards
0: Bobcats, Kings, Knicks, Timberwolves, Warriors
Point guard: 11
Shooting guard: 12
Small forward: 11
Power forward: 10
SN's TOP 50 PLAYERS1. Kobe Bryant, SG, Lakers
2. LeBron James, SF, Cavaliers
3. Dwyane Wade, SG, Heat
4. Dwight Howard, C, Magic
5. Tim Duncan, PF, Spurs
6. Chris Paul, PG, Hornets
7. Kevin Garnett, PF, Celtics
8. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Mavericks
9. Carmelo Anthony, SF, Nuggets
10. Paul Pierce, SF, Celtics
11. Steve Nash, PG, Suns
12. Deron Williams, PG, Jazz
13. Tony Parker, PG, Spurs
14. Brandon Roy, SG, Trail Blazers
15. Yao Ming, C, Rockets
16. Shaquille O'Neal, C, Cavaliers
17. Pau Gasol, PF, Lakers
18. Chris Bosh, PF, Raptors
19. Amare Stoudemire, PF, Suns
20. Chauncey Billups, PG, Nuggets
21. Kevin Durant, SF, Thunder
22. Manu Ginobili, SG, Spurs
23. Jason Kidd, PG, Mavericks
24. Tracy McGrady, SG, Rockets
25. Joe Johnson, SG, Hawks
26. Derrick Rose, PG, Bulls
27. Ray Allen, SG, Celtics
28. Gilbert Arenas, PG, Wizards
29. Ron Artest, SF, Lakers
30. Vince Carter, SG, Magic
31. Danny Granger, SF, Pacers
32. Baron Davis, PG, Clippers
33. Devin Harris, PG, Nets
34. Ben Gordon, SG, Pistons
35. Al Horford, C, Hawks
36. Carlos Boozer, PF, Jazz
37. Nene, C, Nuggets
38. Rajon Rondo, PG, Celtics
39. Andre Iguodala, SG, 76ers
40. Josh Smith, PF, Hawks
41. Rudy Gay, SF, Grizzlies
42. Hedo Turkoglu, SF, Raptors
43. Lamar Odom, SF, Lakers
44. Shane Battier, SF, Rockets
45. Elton Brand, PF, 76ers
46. Richard Jefferson, SF, Spurs
47. O.J. Mayo, SG, Grizzlies
48. Charlie Villanueva, PF, Pistons
49. Michael Redd, SG, Bucks
50. Andrew Bynum, C, Lakers