Tag Archives: Michael Jordan

Protecting Jordan legacy motivating LeBron criticism? Yes, but….

Much of this suggestion (see below) LeBron James faces undue criticism because of the legacy of Michael Jordan is accurate, but it oversimplifies the situation as well. Why? Because sometimes the criticism is warranted.

If Jordan fans (of which I am one) are too quick to jump on James for every little thing he does (I try to avoid this,  as I gave him the benefit of the doubt on the cramping issue in Game 1), it is at least in part due to a tendency of those on the other side to crown James prematurely.

When LeBron came into the league, I looked forward to a chance to see someone new, someone truly from my generation who I saw play in high school, challenge the legacy of Jordan, who retired from the Bulls when I was 16. As much as I cherish the memories of watching him play during my formative years as a sports fan, there is also an appeal to having such a stud in my generation and watching him from nearly the very beginning.

Even when James’ last season with the Cavaliers was over, he was still was on track as far as I was concerned given his age, and I thought The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s cover shot noting no rings on his finger was a cheap one. Of course, “The Decision” changed the course, and I thought that took LeBron out of the running to really equal Jordan’s greatness because it involved trying to build a super team rather than going through the rigors of building one from scratch.

However, that has not proven to be the case as a result of James’ continued improvement, the decline of Dwyane Wade and how natural former high-scorer Chris Bosh looks as a role player. There is no doubt it is James’ team as much as the Bulls were Jordan’s, and I would say he has won the past two titles with a worse supporting cast than Jordan had for his first three-peat.

But the game has changed, and there are still plenty of variables that must be determined before James’ legacy is complete. If the Heat win this series, he will take another huge step forward in the race to unseat Jordan as the greatest player of all time, but he will also be only halfway there. I’m also going to suggest James’ claim to the top spot won’t be null and void forever even if the Spurs win this series, but it won’t help him when all is said and done to have at least two more Finals series defeats than Jordan because Jordan’s indomitableness was a big part of his legacy. He won the championship in each of his last six full seasons with the Bulls, and he won the scoring title in the last nine years he played in Chicago. Everyone talks about going out on your own terms, and no one ever did it better than Jordan.

Ultimately, James is going to be regarded as one of the all-time greats, and it is a shame we spend as much time debating his legacy as we do admiring what he does. His career is not going to neatly match Jordan’s, but that doesn’t mean we can’t compare now — for better or for worse.

I agree with the notion James is probably the subject of too much criticism in the present, but I also think often nowadays we are too guilty of overanalyzing not only every action in every game but also the reaction to that analyzation. The pushback is sometimes greater than the initial wave of opinions these days, and too often I think we forget that what we say today can change tomorrow as long as there are still games to be played. Much of it is just noise to pass the time, you know? Especially before they pass out the trophy and the rings every year.

Bottom line? It’s OK to criticize LeBron because he’s not Jordan yet as long as we’re willing to concede he could still be.

Much of Lebron’s Criticism | FOX Sports on MSN.

Regarding LeBron (post championship No. 2)

I found it satisfying watching LeBron James smoothly and yet somewhat subtly carry his team to victory in an NBA Finals game seven.  That is despite really not feeling comfortable watching the team he was carrying win.

I’ve always wanted to like LeBron, and most of the time that hasn’t been very hard. There are the obvious exceptions of The Decision and his reaction to the reaction to that, but overall he has done quite well rehabilitating his image since then. Amazing what a few cell phone commercials and some sympathetic magazine articles can do even in a short time.

His performance last night came after his teammates – the combination of overrated, over-the-hill and young, inconsistency that they are – bailed him out from a pair of terrible plays that for all intents and purposes should have cost his team the championship one game earlier.

The Heat were playing for this team’s legacy to a much greater extent than they were LeBron’s. He has more work to do to reach G.O.A.T. status, and that remains true today as it did yesterday. He is closer, of course, but not particularly close yet to reaching the complicated, nuanced and complete greatness of Michael Jordan. But of course the conversation has started and the path is in front of him.

He has a lot more time to get there, too, and that still would have been true if the Heat lost last night. Last night was about one chapter in his story, just like Cleveland was another.

I am not a Cavs fan, though I have nothing against them whatsoever. I have always been something of an NBA nomad, for better or for worse. My first memory of the league is vaguely understanding that Larry Bird was on his farewell tour and seeing NBC broadcast one of those games some afternoon.

After that came the Dream Team, and by then I was swept up in His Airness so I became a Bulls fan (Yes, a bandwagonning teenager, I admit, but I have no regrets). Jordan cut quite a career arc, of course, growing up with one team, becoming an individual superstar, learning the frustrations of building a team and necessity of sharing while having to overcome various obstacles (including the two-time champion Pistons) to get to the top of the heap.

Then he created (unintentionally) a whole new set of variables to conquer when he retired the first time, and when he walked away from the game in 1999 it was as an indomitable champion. He set the standard that all who come after will be measured against, and the layers of his greatness are many, varied and thick. They extend beyond his physical ability to include his will, drive and killer instinct.

I thought I would become a Cavs fan when LeBron joined the team, but it just didn’t feel right. I hadn’t been in the trenches with those folks. I liked seeing him and the team succeed, but the Wine and Gold just never took hold.

However (or perhaps thanks to that detached perspective), I always felt like the people who looked at his tenure in Cleveland as a failure were not being realistic. I thought the Plain Dealer cover noting he had no championships there was over the top, especially for a daily newspaper.

He didn’t get over the hump there, but he wasn’t ready to and I don’t think it was really fair to expect him to be based on his age and the fact the cast varied from bad to mismatched as the years advanced. Not only was he lacking another great talent even of the Scottie Pippen variety – the role players didn’t complement him or each other.

That said, the Heat have rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning, both for why they came together – it felt like they were cheating the system – and how they acted when they got together. So I respect nothing about the team, the franchise or its fans. It all feels fake, and the contrived storyline about hardships they have supposedly faced made me want to see them win less. Have they had to deal with a lot of negativity? Yes, but they brought that on themselves, so overcoming it doesn’t really move me at all.

And as young as LeBron is and as difficult as it looks like it’s going to be for this team to stay together for more than another year, it was not hard for me to root against the Heat while watching with ambivalence LeBron’s legacy continue to build. As I said, he has a lot more time either way.

And so he won another title, and he did most of the work even though one could argue that was one of the more subtle 37-point performances you will ever see, right up until he hit a couple of jump shot daggers in the closing minutes.

It was quite a journey with troubles he probably never considered popping up. The chapter has its pinnacle. Should be fascinating to see what happens next.

Let’s watch it with an open mind, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves either. That will make it easier to enjoy the ride, wherever it ends up.