By Marcus Vanderberg
What do LeBron James and Michael Jordan have in common?
Outside of James wearing #23 for his first seven seasons in the NBA, not a damn thing.
Jordan illustrated that point last weekend, questioning James’ decision to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat.
And in pure Jordan fashion, the majority owner and head of basketball operations for the Charlotte Bobcats managed to take a swipe as the self-proclaimed “King.”
“There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry [Bird], called up Magic [Johnson] and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team,'” said Jordan on NBC after playing in a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada. “But that’s…things are different. I can’t say that’s a bad thing. It’s an opportunity these kids have today. In all honesty, I was trying to beat those guys.”
Long after his retirement (for the final time) in 2003, Jordan is still proving why he will be considered the greatest basketball player of this generation and why James won’t come close to touching his legacy
While Jordan never won a playoff game against Bird and the Celtics, he beat Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals for his first of six NBA championships.
You had to know the same guy who called out his high school coach for leaving him off the varsity team during his sophomore year during his Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech wasn’t going to treat James with kid gloves.
Frankly, James needed to hear those very words from someone of Jordan’s stature. James has clearly surrounded himself with a group of “yes men” who tell him what he wants to hear on a daily basis. Why else would he rip the heart out of Cavaliers fans in an hour-long national television special and tarnish his reputation in the process?
For the small number of you foolish enough to buy into the “King James” hype and think he would eclipse Jordan’s legacy, think again.
I’m not buying this excuse that James, Wade and Bosh are such great friends off the court that they had to jump at the opportunity to play with each other. Do you really think these guys are crashing at each other’s mansions or vacationing together?
James could win seven straight NBA titles in Miami but critics and the media will scrutinize his decision to align himself with Wade and Bosh — and rightfully so.
“He’ll never be Jordan,” Charles Barkley said last week on 790 The Ticket in Miami.
“This clearly takes him out of the conversation. He can win as much as he wants to. There would have been something honorable about staying in Cleveland and trying to win it as ‘The Man’… LeBron, if he would’ve in Cleveland, and if he could’ve got a championship there, it would have been over the top for his legacy, just one in Cleveland.”
Yes, Jordan had a Hall of Famer and one of the 50 greatest players in Scottie Pippen alongside him.
But Jordan didn’t choose to play with Pippen, who was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft by the Seattle SuperSonics before eventually getting traded to the Bulls for Olden Polynice.
As for the rest of the players that surrounded Jordan during his championship runs between 1991-1993 and 1996-1998, the likes of Luc Longley, John Paxton, Bill Cartwright and Ron Harper were serviceable players at best.
Outside of the Bulls trading for an aging Dennis Rodman, Jordan played alongside one star and essentially 10 scrubs.
Even with Pippen, there was no mistaking who was the real alpha dog on the Bulls.
Who will be the alpha dog on the Heat? Who knows?
Some nights it will be Wade.
Other nights it will be James.
(We can all agree that on none of those nights it will be Bosh.)
At the end of the day, it will always be Wade’s team.
As legendary wrestler Ric Flair once said, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.”
Unfortunately for James, you can’t be the man when you’re playing alongside the man