Posts Tagged ‘Michael Jordan’

The 2011 NBA Finals is now tied at 2 games apiece. The Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat are putting on a great show for all the fans. Every game seems to come down to the last possession, making for great theater. Some people are even asking if this is the best Finals in the last decade.

But the real question on everybody’s mind is; “Where is LeBron James?”

It was only a few weeks ago that Scottie Pippen was saying he is a better player than Michael Jordan and now people are ready to put his face on the back of a milk carton.

On the biggest stage of his career LeBron has come up small. After playing 46 minutes and only scoring eight points in Game 4 of the Finals people are beginning to wonder if he has what it takes to be a true champion.

To be fair, James has had great playoffs so far. After dominating late in games against the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls people were beginning to talk about how clutch LeBron had become. It seemed like he was finally ready to be crowned “King James.”  But something funny happened on the way to the coronation. Namely, LeBron stopped playing. At least in the fourth quarter of the Finals. So far in the first four games of the Finals LeBron has a combined 12 fourth quarter points. Those numbers are certainly not Jordanesque.

The one player in this series who has earned the right to be compared to Jordan has been Dwayne Wade. He has been dominant in the fourth quarter and has carried the Heat throughout the Finals. He’s been the one closing out games while LeBron fades into the backdrop.

Fans and media alike are starting to bring up Game 5 against the Boston Celtics from last year’s playoffs. It was widely believed that LeBron, then with the Cleveland Cavaliers, simply gave up during that game and used it as an excuse to leave Cleveland. People may now look at that as just another example of LeBron not being able to handle the pressure of a big game.

He came to Miami to win a championship and he very well may do it this year. The Heat still have a great chance to win this series. Two of the last three games will be played in Miami. But what happens if LeBron continues to play poorly and still get a ring? Will he be happy to be playing the Scottie Pippen role instead of the Michael Jordan role?

It will be interesting to see if the Heat can win a championship not because of LeBron but in spite of him.

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Scottie Pippen sent shock waves throughout the sports world today when he suggested that LeBron James “may be” the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of sneakers. Even better than Michael Jordan.

Most people could not believe their ears and some even questioned Pippen’s sanity. Michael Jordan is a Sacred Cow as far as most sports writers and fans are concerned. “He is the greatest ever”, goes the mantra. “No one will ever be better than him. Not Kobe Bryant, not LeBron.” The only fact that anyone has to bring up to end all comparisons is, “Jordan has six rings. LeBron has none.”

So for a former teammate of Jordan’s to come out and say that LeBron may be better player, it sounds like blasphemy to most.

To be fair, Pippen did preface his comment by stating, “Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to play the game.”  Even though Kareem Abdul Jabbar is the All Time Leading Scorer in NBA history, I see where Pippen is coming from. He has to try to differentiate between Jordan and LeBron. It’s like when so many sports casters didn’t want to say Kobe was better than LeBron they started saying Kobe was the best “closer” in the game. But LeBron was still the best “player.” He was just trying to soften what was coming next.

And then he dropped the hammer when he said, “But I may go as far as to say LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game because he is so potent offensively that not only can he score at will but he keeps everybody involved.” This is what got everybody up in arms.

And the reactions were swift and harsh. Many fans said Pippen was just bitter and jealous of Jordan’s fame and skill. Some said he was just downright stupid. Some even took the time to make fun of his recent financial troubles. But they all seem to forget that the man is entitled to his own opinion.

Pippen shot back to all his critics via Twitter, saying, “For all of you that don’t know, I played the game. You keep watching and cheering.”  Touché, Scottie, touché.

And all this brings up to one important question: Will there ever be a time when a player comes along who is better than Jordan? It seems like an inevitability. I’m sure people never thought they would see a better player than Julius “Dr. J” Irving until Jordan came along.

There will always be a debate as to who was the greatest in every sport. Is Mike Tyson better then Muhammad Ali? Is Tiger Woods better than Jack Nicklaus? Is Barry Bonds better than Hank Aaron? And so on. It’s never going to end. But that’s what makes sports so great.

Maybe LeBron James will wind up having a better career than Michael Jordan. Who knows? Let’s all just enjoy watching this great group of talented players that we have in the NBA right now. There may even come a time when we get to tell our children, “I got to see LeBron play.”

Do you remember LeBron James’ “What Should I do?” Nike commercial? In one scene he is dressed up like a desperado from the Wild West. He asks, “Should I accept my role as a villain?” That may have been a bit of foreshadowing because LeBron has certainly been relishing his role as the villain lately.

He took a lot of heat for “The Decision” last summer. Most of it was warranted but some of it just piling on. And LeBron took notice. And he took down names. “Don’t think for one min that I haven’t been taking mental notes of everyone taking shots at me this summer. And I mean everyone!” he tweeted. (I have to confess, I was one of the people taking shots at him last summer. And I hope I am not on his list. I figure I am already on the Fox News hit list and I don’t need to be on another.)

LeBron as “The Villain” may not be a role any of us though he would play, but I have to admit, he’s doing a pretty good job.

During a recent game against the Portland Trailblazers he seemed to be egging on the crowd as they booed and jeered him after he led the Heat to an overtime win. The only thing that was missing was him cupping a hand to his ear in that “What’s that you’re saying? I can’t hear you,” pose. That’s classic Villain.

After the Cavaliers got a 54 point beat down by the Los Angeles Lakers he took a shot at his former team via Twitter. “Crazy. Karma is a bitch. Gets you every time. Its not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!” he said. That’s the Social Media Villain.

The only problem is, I can’t tell if he is just acting or if he is really pissed off and taking it out on the whole league. Up until now his whole persona has so manufactured and predictable. I hope that this is real because I don’t think I can take another pre-packaged LeBron personality.

I don’t want him to go into the stands and punch out some fans like Ron Artest or kick a cameraman in the crotch like Dennis Rodman, but I do want to see him get angry. I want to see 19,000 rabib fans boo and jeer him from the opening tip off to the final buzzer. And I want to see him take all of the negative energy and use it as inspiration. I want to see him develop a mean streak. Because I think he needs that mean streak.

Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant both have that mean streak in them. When they get pissed off and you see that look in their eye, you know they are about to take over a game and crush the opposing team. And they have eleven championship rings between them.

This is the probably the first time in his life where he has encountered this level of hatred and ill will. Think back to the pre-Decision LeBron. He was welcome in every arena the Cavs played in. Now, anywhere outside of South Beach he is public enemy number one.

This backlash may be exactly what LeBron needs to take his game to the next level. And by that I mean winning a championship. All this hate may be bringing out the killer instinct in LeBron. And that’s the one thing he has been missing. I think he is finally starting to enjoy crushing the hopes and dreams not only of his opponents, but of all their fans as well.

And that is bad news for the rest of the league.

I’ve been away for awhile. I was on a well deserved mini vacation and my sister decided to have her first child last Saturday. So, I’m an uncle once again. (You can see little Noah here.)

I’ve still been following the sports happenings though. And one of the trends that I see has me a little perplexed. The reaction to the reloaded Miami Heat has been crazy. They have simultaneously become the Most Loved and Most Hated Team in the NBA. And the people that love them REALLY love them. They are even using the term “Dynasty” to describe a team that, to my knowledge hasn’t even practiced together yet. Some people are musing about where this team fits in with the All Time Great NBA teams.

So where do they rank?

The short answer: They don’t.

The Long Answer: is quite a bit longer. How about we let these guys play at least ONE GAME before we start to put them in the same category as the Celtics, the Lakers, the Bull and the Spurs? And as far as the “Heat Dynasty” goes, one championship back in 2006 does not make a dynasty.

I’ve been hearing things like “LeBron plus D Wade and Chris Bosh equals 20 Championships!” I love the optimism but something tells me that LeBron is not going to play for 27 years. I really didn’t understand the hype surrounding this team.

And then I realized what this really is. It’s a shortcut to a title. People get tired of putting in the work and want a shortcut. LeBron James got tired of putting in a WHOLE LOT of work and not getting any rings. So he took a shortcut. And there may not be anything wrong with that. That is there wouldn’t be if the whole sports media (and many fans) had not already dubbed him “The Greatest Ever.” I can see ESPN spinning his defection from Cleveland to Dwayne Wade’s team on a daily basis. They have even gone so far as to call out Michael Jordan. The argument goes like this: “Hey, Jordan had Pippen when he won his titles. He couldn’t do it by himself.” True, but Jordan didn’t go play with Pippen. Or Toni Kukoc, or Dennis Rodman. They came to him. They wanted to play with the best player in the league.

I think Jordan summed it up best recently when he said that while he would never have done what LeBron did, he understands that things are different now. Aside from a very few players in all of sports no one has that same drive and will to win that Jordan and Magic Johnson or Larry Bird had.

We live in a different time. Our whole culture is about shortcuts. American Idol, The Jersey Shore, the Bachelor; it’s about being famous for being famous. It’s about getting from point A to point B in the shortest time possible. And with the least amount of work.

So when Noah gets old enough to understand I plan to show him plenty of videos of Magic and Bird, Jordan and Kobe. Hopefully he will take away those lessons of hard work and having the will to be the best you possibly can be.

And if that doesn’t work I’ll throw some funny videos of him on YouTube and see if he can get an acting job from that.