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Why Lebron James Can’t Win

LeBron James is poised awkwardly on the precipice of NBA history, where a championship may do more to tarnish his legacy than it will to burnish his mythical status amongst roundball intelligentsia and Scottie Pippen, but that is the hyper-opinionated 24×7 world of sports opinions we live in. If Miami’s Big Three is able to tame its schizophrenic fourth quarter behavior, dash the hopes of Dirk and his supporting cast to win an NBA title, will we recognize this as the moment LeBron James became Pau Gasol to Dwayne Wade’s Kobe Bryant?

After the Heat failed to nail down a Game 4 victory against the “just die motherfucker” Mavericks, which was achieved by the James Gang scoring all of 14 points in the decisive fourth quarter, all eyes turned to LeBron James and the 8 points he scored in Game 4.

This is the same LeBron James who Scottie Pippen had christened – as better than Michael Jordan – after his virtuoso performance versus the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. We, the drooling masses, eagerly lapped up Pippen’s fawning praise of LeBron, because we desperately want to believe that another Michael Jordan will exist in our lifetime. One Michael Jordan wasn’t enough – we want a bigger and better model than the original MJ prototype.

Lebron’s Game 4 performance (8 points, 3-of-11 from the field, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 4 turnovers)  has stifled the better than Jordan chatter, but why did a superb performance in one playoff series and a dubious comment from Scottie Pippen unleash a maelstrom of support for LeBron James as the greatest player in basketball history?

A generation of fans yearns to anoint LeBron as better than His Airness. This is a nouveau hoops generation who never saw Jordan play in his prime, who write blog pieces that herald King James as an enlightened Jordan who deigns to pass the rock, and neglects to acknowledge that LeBron hasn’t won a title. We are now so enamored by PER, Effective Field Goal Percentage, Defensive Efficiency Rating, Offensive Efficiency Rating, Offensive Win Shares, Defensive Win Shares and Win Shares that we tend to overlook what the end goal is: The goal is to win a championship.

Michael Jordan achieved that six times, and would have possibly accrued two more rings if he hadn’t taken a minor league baseball sabbatical with the Birmingham Barons. At the age of 26, LeBron has zero rings but one is dangling at the edge of his fingertips. At the same age, Michael Jordan had zero rings. Jordan won his first NBA title at the age of 27.



Ring Counting

With all of the metrics at our disposal, we have started to decrease the value of winning an NBA championship. On Chasing 23’s own NBA Forum, the NBA Realist writes this under the thread “Shaquille O’Neal Announces His Retirement”:

But I disagree that Bill Russell is #1 or even top 3. You are right. I hate ring counting. Russell played with 5 other Hall of Famers, was part of the best organization in basketball, and had the best coach in basketball. He offensive game was extremely limited and his shooting percentage (44% career) was easily one of the lowest amongst HOF Centers. Moreover, his rebounding average (22.5) was really more the byproduct of pace during that era, and the fact that there were more rebounds to be had (Russell played during an era where there were 65-70 rebounds to be had while todays game only consists of 40-45) Everyone had high rebounding totals.

I often hear the argument that Russell figured out how to win, but that is easy to do when you you’re supporting cast is loaded with Hall of Famers. Or in other words, Russell had to perform at a lower level to achieve the same results of winning than players such as Hakeem and Kareem.

Its just my opinion, but I grossly feel that Russell is overrated.


I respect the NBA Realist. I consider him a bright guy, but this is absolute bullshit, where we are employing metrics to define something that is intangible. The NBA Realist hates ring counting, but isn’t that the true measure of NBA superstars? If Michael Jordan was unable to acquire a ring, because his supporting cast was too weak, would Jordan have been named ESPN’s Athlete of the Century or would we look at MJ the same way we now view Vince Carter? The ability and hunger to win championships is an intangible quality that can’t be measured by any stats at our disposal. No one has yet to devise a metric that can accurately gauge a person’s hunger or thirst for victory.

Bill Russell is overrated: how much more could Russell have accomplished than winning 11 NBA championships? In the 1960s, Russell’s Celtics won every NBA title, except for the 1967 championship, where the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the San Francisco Warriors. (We now throw out the word dynasty when a team wins back-to-back titles.) Russell even player-coached his team to the 1969 NBA title. In head-to-head matchups, Russell’s Celtics teams lost one playoff series to a Wilt Chamberlain-led squad, which was the 1967 Eastern Conference Finals.

Does that leave Russell as the greatest center in NBA history? In my book, it does. But let’s leave it that Russell is the greatest winner in NBA history.

Reclaiming The Legacy

How does the Russell tangent relate to LeBron’s abysmal Game 4 performance? Allow me to explain.

No player in NBA history has played under a greater media microscope, and endured more intense pressure, then what has transpired with LeBron James throughout the 2010-11 season. The Heat are now viewed as LeBron James’ team. LeBron joined D Wade in South Beach, but the concept of Miami’s Big Three has been overtaken by the LeBron James media machine. Nearly every story about the Heat relates to LeBron James.

In large part, LeBron James has no one to blame for these problems but himself. It was James and Maverick Carter’s marketing mafia that devised “The Decision”, which possessed all the refinement and savoir faire of the Washington Wizards’ Andray Blatche hosting “Lap Dance Tuesday” at a Miami strip club, but it is also our insatiable quest to find the next teenage Jordan that has allowed LeBron James a cultural relevancy that is beyond his accomplishments. Better than Jordan?

LeBron James cannot control the Wordwide Leader, who has made his every move fodder for the rotating cast of talking heads that populate their expanding empire of channels, but when do the rest of us stop and realize we are talking about a 26-year-old? Skip Bayless refuses to acknowledge that LeBron James is a human being, and attaches a level of soulless manipulation to James, which is at odds with a player who is dedicated to his craft.


A 26-year-old who has generally conducted himself with more professionalism than most of us would under the same demanding circumstances (i.e. Skip Bayless). And if Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert publicly insulted every aspect of your character, would you utter some banal p.r. statement or attempt to blow up his car in the take-no-prisoners tradition of a Cleveland 1970s’ mafioso don?

LeBron James may not be the next MJ, but where is it mandated that James has to be the next anything? LeBron is a transcendent talent – who has such a unique skill set – that we probably lack the proper vocabulary to describe his absurd level of talent.  How many players, in the game’s history, have possessed the tools to effectively guard a Derrick Rose and a Dirk Nowitzki? Physically, LeBron James is the ultimate bad ass. Mentally, it’s apparent LeBron understands the game. LeBron is the real deal.

Say what you will, tweet what you want, blog till your finger tips bleed – LeBron has proven himself to be a winner. When the 2010-11 season started, LeBron carried the Heat. Dwyane Wade had spent most of training camp dealing with an ugly child custody battle in Chicago, returned to the team in less than peak conditoning, and Wade’s game suffered because of it. LeBron was ready to roll. And based on the scrutiny he was under, how could he not be ready?

Conversely, the 2011 NBA Finals have been Dwayne Wade and Dirk Nowitzki’s time to shine. With D Wade playing scintillating basketball, Chasing 23’s Brown Mamba introduces us to the “The Dwyane Wade Dilemma” where LeBron James is watching his legacy reduced to D Wade’s ball boy. As Brown Mamba penned:

However, it now throws into question how you can be called the Greatest of All Time when you haven’t even been the greatest player on your team on basketball’s greatest stage. Furthermore, it would be a potential dent in the Lebron championship resume (i.e., Jordan won 6 Finals MVPs in 6 tries; Lebron would have won zero in 2 tries).


No Win Situation

LeBron can’t win. If the Heat lose to the Mavericks as the Brown Mamba pointed out, LeBron will be 0-for-2 in NBA Finals, and that is not worthy of a comparison to MJ or Bill Russell. If the Heat wins, LeBron will be accorded Scottie Pippen status, which isn’t completely accurate.

The 2011 NBA playoffs have brought us comparisons that are ill-fitting and often illogical, but they are easy. Dirk Nowitzki has been compared to Larry Bird, which probably has more to do with each player being blond and white, and little to do with their respective games. Bird was a tenacious rebounder, and Dirk grabs rebounds that fall into his hands. As discussed, LeBron is better than MJ. And, in the most apt comparison, D Wade has been compared to Kobe.

We can wrap our heads around these comparisons, but there has never been anything on this planet that remotely compares to LeBron James. He displays superhuman physical gifts, an affinity to get lost in big games, a desire to be one of the guys and not the alpha male, and he lacks Michael Jordan’s bloodlust for victory. This description may indicate that LeBron isn’t fueled by the personal demons that drove Jordan to six NBA championships – LeBron may even be a nicer guy – but he isn’t hardwired like MJ. LeBron likely will never give a Hall of Fame speech, where he catalogues each of the slights he endured on his way to the top. LeBron probably won’t leave the NBA to pursue a career in the NFL. And none of us have heard mention of LeBron’s insatiable desire to gamble.

I won’t be rooting for the Heat to beat the Mavericks, but I will be rooting for LeBron James to reclaim his legacy. That is – his own legacy.


39 Responses to “Why Lebron James Can’t Win”

  1. To fully understand how the reactions and perceptions of players has changed since the 80’s/90’s – consider that both Magic Johnson and Kareem get equal credit for winning 5 titles in the 80’s, That everyone forgot “Tragic Magic” in the ’84 Finals. That no one cares that Magic never won a title without Kareem. Magic and Kareem are on most people’s top 5 or 10 lists despite playing on the same team.

    What seems to be happening is players are being declared failures based on goals other people have set for their careers. Instead of judging players based on what they did – they’re judged on what they didn’t do when referencing some makeshift list some blogger put together.

    It all started with the search for the next MJ. Before MJ the title of best basketball player was given to the best basketball player. Now it’s the best perimeter player. If you don’t remind us of MJ you’re a failure (or at least not good enough). If you don’t play as good or better than MJ in key areas – you’re a failure – or relegated with an asterisks forever.

    And you’re right in general – It’s all because we’re greedy. We want another MJ. We didn’t get enough. We want someone to come into the league who is better than MJ. But what’s happening is we’re labeling players based on previous stars. Trying to put them in a box so it’s easier to rank them. “You’re a neo-Bird” or “That guy is the next Isiah Thomas”. Instead of “That’s Dirk” and “That’s CP3”.

    Posted by Adam | June 9, 2011, 2:32 pm
    • Yep, you nailed it. We as fans and lovers of the game need to stop trying to force legacies onto current players that they have no way of fulfilling. Comparison to past players is fine to a point, but once you cross the line where a certain player is deemed a failure because he didn’t live up to our vision of his success, then we’ve got a problem. We need to let LeBron be LeBron, let him play his game and fulfill his legacy, and stop searching so hard for the new MJ.

      If “the next MJ” ever does show up, I’m sure he won’t be too hard to spot.

      Posted by Jay | June 9, 2011, 5:54 pm
    • Adam,

      I completely agree with you on the fact that lazy writers/bloggers/fans/talking heads want to make the easy comparison between Dirk and Larry Legend and CP3 and Isiah … etc.

      Good point about MJ: Unless you play at MJ’s level, you’re a failure. Last night in Game 5, LeBron James submitted a triple double and he choked. How is it news to people that LeBron has an erratic jumper?

      We want LeBron to be the next Jordan – he’s not. Let’s get over it and appreciate the player that LeBron James is – warts and all.

      Posted by Dave Sheridan | June 10, 2011, 9:21 am
    • Great points Adam. I couldn’t agree with you more. While MJ may have catapulted the popularity of the league, in many ways, he has unwittingly created an unhealthy environment for future stars who cannot simply be themselves.

      Posted by The NBA Realist | June 10, 2011, 12:17 pm
      • I think the biggest issue, especially with the LeBrons and Kobe’s of the world, is that the masses (or better yet the talking heads) believe that these guys can be come the next Jordan if they “put in the work”. Kobe was close to being that person that would compare most to Jordan, but the scandal with the hotel worker made him not worthy. And, I think what everyone is trying to say is, its extremely hard to eclipse the greatest of all time. If MJ or Wilt or Magic is the bar, how the hell does the next person get above that? LeBron can be great if he stays on his path. He’s not MJ or Magic, but somehow, he has some of the best traits of both of them.

        Posted by Andrew | June 13, 2011, 12:26 pm
  2. I think its still premature to say that Lebron has proven himself to be a winner. A couple of playoff series does not make you a winner. As good as Dirk has been, look how many years he has struggled under the shadows because he has not won it all.

    Its more than just stat’s and unique athletic talents that equal championships. That’s why Lebron seems to be such a paradox. On one had the guy possesses talents that no one has ever seen but has yet to show he can lead his team to win a Championship. I do agree he deserves credit for his play in earlier series, but now is when it matters and he has not proven himself yet upon this stage.

    I think part of the problem people have with Lebron since joining the Heat is not so much him leaving Cleveland’ but more so him leaving to team up with a guy in D-wade who is a king in his own right. Wade has show he can win it all leading his own team. Lebron has not.

    Kill the perception that people are making this a no win situation for Lebron. He made it a no win situation for himself.Neither him or D-Wade can be a Scottie Pippen, and that’s the inherent problem. Both of them are Alpha dog’s in their own right. They need their own team, and their own ball. At times they look magnificent together and at other times they seem to stifle their each others brilliance.

    If Lebron wanted to save his legacy he would have stayed in Cleveland and forced their brass to recruit better players, or he would have gone to a team that had a good cast but needed a leader. Miami was not lacking leadership, they just needed better role players and they were poised to get that this off season with the cap room they had. Lebron is a great player, but will be remembered by some as the king who abandoned his own throne for a seat in D-Wade’s court. Whether that’s right assessment or not, that is how he will be viewed.

    Posted by Bob | June 9, 2011, 5:19 pm
    • Bob,

      Thanks for the read. If you look at LeBron’s carreer winning percentage, we would have to classify the guy a winner. Does he have a tendency to enter WITSEC during big games? Absolutely!

      I agree that he should have stayed in Cleveland if he was so concerned about his legacy, but being 25, the attractions of South Beach might have been too much to turn down.

      After The Decision, which was his own doing, it is a No Win situation for LeBron. If he wins, he needed D Wade’s help. If the Heat lose, The Decision will be universally criticized.

      LeBron spent the better part of last summer, with the Heat dog and pony show, when his time would have been better spent shooting thousands of jumpers. MJ always added things to his game. What has LeBron added to his game?

      Posted by Dave Sheridan | June 10, 2011, 9:45 am
  3. Nice article Sheridan.

    Re: ring counting, I generally agree. The greatest find a way to win championships. Sometimes that falls into your lap, sometimes you create your own destiny. Let’s not forget, a young Kobe Bryant demanded a trade to the Lakers before the draft. This was partly because he loved LA, and partly because he was consumed to be the best on the best. It’s just not a good enough excuse to say “so-and-so never had enough talent around him, so he never won rings”.

    Posted by Brown Mamba | June 9, 2011, 9:42 pm
    • I like the stories about Kobe playing one-on-one with a teammate after his high schoolpractices. Kobe crucified the kid ooin a daily basis, and still seethes when the guy said he once scored “X” amount of points on Bryant.

      When they played together on the Bulls, Jordan did the same thing to Dennis Hopson. He emasculated Hopson is scrimmages, and Phil Jackson asked MJ to tone it down, because he was destroying Hopson’s confidence.

      LeBron simply doesn’t possess that killer trait.

      Posted by Dave Sheridan | June 10, 2011, 9:50 am
      • I think that trait is overrated, Mj’s “killer instincts” were undeniably detrimental to his teams early on in his career. He did the same thing to Pippen in practice one time, in a world where MJ doesn’t leave the nba to play in the minors (it humbled him b/c he sucked at baseball) than Pippen may have left the bulls before the second 3peat in which case i think we look at mj’s career radically different, but what made MJ so great was that he was humbled and worked out the issues with pippen. Kobe on the other hand had the most dominant center of the last 20 years or so shipped out of time for the very same reasons, and probably put a limit to the amount of rings he could win doing so. Killer instinct is very overrated as it can consume a player for the worse in some cases i.e. kobe

        Posted by jon | January 7, 2012, 6:21 pm
  4. No matter how intelligent this article is. No matter what words you use to praise LeBron.

    The fact of the matter is his team just lost 2 close games in which James played total of 92 minutes and had only 25 points (11/30 fgs; 3/6 fts).

    In both 4 quarters combined he scored only 2 points and that was in garbage time. So it doesn’t really matter what huge talent he is if this doesn’t translate into results.

    I do believe LeBron is the best player in the NBA right now, but at the same time he’s overhyped and overrated. Physically he’s a freak of nature, but his game is nowhere near as polished as MJ’s or Kobe’s.

    I don’t think he has the hunger MJ had to work on his game and evolve as a player when his athleticism is slowly taken away from him. As he gets older he won’t be able to maintain the same level of dominance.

    In that way MJ was unique.

    People shouldn’t compare anyone to MJ until the person they’re comparing retires. However the problem is that if they waited for next “MJs” to retire there would be nothing to compare.

    Just look at a case of one named Kobe Bryant.

    Posted by doosiolek | June 10, 2011, 12:09 am
    • I agree that LeBron hasn’t put in the work to improve his game. MJ improved his jumper. Later in his career, MJ pulled put a devestating fall-away jumper that was unstoppable.

      Kobe has done the same thing.

      As of yet. LeBron’s game hasn’t evolved. He may never be a good shooter, but where is the new feature to his arsenal? As you wrote, he has a tendency to rely on his physical skills.

      LeBron needs to mature and so does his game.

      Posted by Dave Sheridan | June 10, 2011, 9:56 am
  5. Plain conclusion: Dumb report…no way comparing LBJ to MJ. It’s not only athletic abilities but the whole package including having the drive, ability to better your teammates and relentless desire to win.

    We always tell our children sports is not all about winning but nobody enjoys loosing!

    Posted by Krylon | June 10, 2011, 11:08 am
  6. My point is that everybody should stop wasting their time trying to compare LBJ to MJ. LBJ has yet to prove he is better than others who may be closer (but still very far away) and even be considered worthy of being comapared to the shadow of MJ. Again his athletic abilities are not in question, you can have the best INDI 500 car you can humanly engineer but if you lack the right driver you’ll never get to the finish line first. The comparisons today are not timely, not even fair to LeBron. Let’s wait until the end of his career, he may mature and surprise us all on what he can achieve. As of today is a waist of time just discussing this topic.

    Posted by Krylon | June 10, 2011, 11:58 am
    • Krylon,

      You’re correct. This was probably a dumb report, but did you read the last sentence of said dumb report?

      The whole point of the piece was that we shouldn’t compare LeBron to MJ – that LeBron is unique and we, as fans, should appreciate that, which is what you wrote in your last comment.

      Thanks for the read!

      Posted by Dave Sheridan | June 10, 2011, 1:10 pm
  7. What I can say without any hesitation that LeBron James has the most Made-For-The-NBA body and athleticism in NBA History. He can run the open floor like a gazelle. He can charge through the lane initiating contact with every step (usually three) and finish at the rim like nobody’s business. I truly believe that if he had Kobe Bryant’s brain, he would EASILY be the best player to ever live. But he doesn’t. So, he won’t. He is routinely guarded by a 38 year old Jason Kidd and a 6’3″ (at best) Jason Terry. He should be absolutely drooling to get the ball so he can destroy them in the post on every possession, but he’s not. Why? Because his post game is non-existant. It’s fair to say that the first time he was in the finals, he didn’t have enough help to even have a chance. But this time? He has no one to blame but himself. His lack of a killer instinct and drive to get better during the offseason instead of enjoying the wonders of South Beach is likely going to cost him a ring this year, and at the very least a Finals MVP trophy if they do pull it out. That, more than anything, is inexcuseable.

    Some will be offended by the fact that I would say that if LeBron had Kobe’s brain he would hands down be the best ever. I would say to them (before they attack) that there is a huge differenc between the greatest and the best. Tim Duncan is the greatest PF ever in the NBA but he is not even the best in the NBA today. Jordan with the Wizards was still one of the greatest players to ever live, but he wasn’t even the best in the NBA at the time. The greatest in my opinion refers to accomplishments, while the best is simply and plainly, skill.

    Posted by Chris | June 10, 2011, 3:00 pm
    • Chris, I totally agree with your take on transferring Kobe’s brain to LeBron’s cranium. Can you imagine what Kobe would do with LeBron’s physical assets?

      Kobe is a fighter, and when he has quit – he makes it look as if he is completely fed up with the ineptitude of his teammates.

      LeBron appears to withdraw – as if he isn’t completely comfortable with his alpa role.

      Maybe we are placing too much of the blame on LeBron and we are refusing to acknowledge the defensive work of the Mavericks? Ah … I don’t think so.

      Thanks for the read.

      Posted by Dave Sheridan | June 11, 2011, 11:06 am
    • If he had kobe’s brain he wouldn’t be anywhere near the facillitator that he is and would be a selfish gunner.

      Posted by jon | January 7, 2012, 6:25 pm
  8. “If Michael Jordan was unable to acquire a ring, because his supporting cast was too weak, would Jordan have been named ESPN’s Athlete of the Century or would we look at MJ the same way we now view Vince Carter?

    The ability and hunger to win championships is an intangible quality that can’t be measured by any stats at our disposal. No one has yet to devise a metric that can accurately gauge a person’s hunger or thirst for victory.”

    Who cares how “we” would or do look at it? Maybe “we” don’t see things clearly because we’re fettered by psychological distortions such as confirmation bias.

    Maybe if we saw things more clearly, we’d take into account the obvious fact that, literally, no single man can or ever will win a championship by himself.

    Maybe we’d realize that it’s possible to be better than anyone else on the court(that is, to contribute to your team having more points at the end of the game more than anyone else), and to want to win more than anyone, and still fail, because basketball is not an individual sport.

    Maybe we’d see that to win a championship (which has always been a TEAM award, not an individual one), you have to be really, really fortunate no matter how great you are.

    If, as you say, this ability and hunger to win is intangible and can’t be measured, then you can’t say that Jordan had while others didn’t.

    You might say “Well, I know he had it. I watched him play.” I’d take that with a heavy dose of skepticism, due to the well-documented, if involuntary, tendency of the human brain to distort the past, through selective memory (ie. ignoring bad moments and embellishing the good ones). Do you know, to give just one example, if Tim Duncan wanted to win more than Jason Kidd in the 2003 Finals? Maybe his team was just better. Maybe Jordan’s teams were just better.

    I’m no Jordan hater, but maybe he got really lucky to play with the most accomplished coach of the last 40 years, one of the most versatile wing men ever, and perhaps the greatest defensive power forward ever. Jordan wasn’t the GM for the Bulls, was he?

    If pressed to pick the #1 player ever, I’ll take Jordan, but I think Wilt and Kareem have really good arguments as well. We’ll never really know whether Jordan was the greatest, and it doesn’t really matter much.

    On a tangent, it seems to me a lot of people would say that Jordan is the best ever, Pippen is a top 20 player of all time, Phil is the best coach ever, Rodman is a Hall of Famer/legend, and even that Jerry Reinsdorf is a legendary owner. If all these things were true, I would think the Bulls should have gone about 82-0 rather than 72-10. Just sayin’, there’s a finite amount of credit to go around. There’s something to chew on.

    Posted by Some Guy | June 10, 2011, 9:26 pm
  9. Some Guy wrote “Who cares about how we look at things?”

    If that was truly the case, there would be no Chasing 23 and you wouldn’t have written nine paragraphs that details how none of us should care, and that our judgments, as fans, are inherently biased and wrong.

    Though clever and contrarian, your argument is specious at best. Your premise centers around the fact that we, as humans, are incapable of watching an athletic performance and deeming the true value of an athlete’s contributions.

    Before there was an attempt to impossibily quantify every aspect of a basketball game, select human beings, also referred to as NBA scouts, attempted to define the ability of a professional basketball player. Was it a perfect formula? No, but some people were better at it than others.

    For a long time, people have either rightly or wrongly dared to judge the character of athletes. We have labeled boxers gutless. We have excoriated certain wide receivers for possessing “gator arms” when they go across the middle and attempt to snare a pass. And we have watched Eddy Curry and Michael Jordan perform on the hardwood, and there is a pronounced difference in Eddy Curry and Michael Jordan’s commitment to the game. (And I didn’t need to be a psych major to figure out that one. I did it all by myself.)

    As flawed as human beings are to dare make decisions, without the use of metrics, good scouts made a lot of very astute decisions that resulted in their teams acquiring talented individuals. Was luck involved? Of course, but Red Auerbach seemed to evaluate talent better than other general managers, or he knew which of his peers were more susceptible to being fleeced.

    If a person walked into your office looking for a job, you would discuss the applicant’s accomplishments, and you would also make a decision about the person’s character. That decision would be based on the limited amount of time you spent with the applicant – your decision could be flawed – but it was done to the best of your ability.

    As basketball fans, we were able to watch Michael Jordan operate on a basketball court for over 41,000 regular season minutes and nearly 7,500 playoff minutes. That’s a large sample size, where I feel very confident to write that Michael Jordan had an insatiabale appetite to win and compete that cannot be completely defined, but was witnessed on occasions such as Jordan’s flu game versus the Utah Jazz. Of course, there is anecdotal evidence that suggests MJ has to win at everything, but why let that ruin your argument.

    You’re right, I can’t definitively prove that MJ had a hunger to win that trumped others, but good scouts are able to aptly gauge intangibles. No one definitively knows what makes one player compete harder than the next, but that is the role of the scout to a gauge a player’s talent and motor. The great players are usually a hybrid of the two.

    Oh, and if Some Guy showed up in my living room and started to tell me that Wilt or Kareem had a legitimate claim to the label of greatest player of all-time, I would kindly ask the crazy person to willingly leave my living room, or else I would be forced to call the local constabulary and have you forceably removed from my house. Wilt’s teams couldn’t beat Russell’s Celtics. And Kareem wasn’t always the most positive influence on his team. The Kareem joke in “Airplane” is really funny, because it’s based on a kernel of truth.

    Thanks for the read. I look forward to knocking heads with you in the future, but don’t bring that Wilt/Kareem crap into my house.

    Posted by Dave Sheridan | June 11, 2011, 10:59 am
  10. Nice article. Let us stop this MJ-LBJ comparisons n just enjoy Lebron’s game while it lasts. There will never be another MJ, or Lebron but there will be the next . MJ is a legend, LBJ will be a legend after it’s all said and done.

    Posted by Orao | June 11, 2011, 12:59 pm
  11. Let me state the obvious while everyone else here debates LeBron’s greatness in comparison with MJ:

    It’s LeBron’s doing, and largely a function of modern celebrity culture and PR. No one made him sign huge endorsement deals selling everything from shoes to insurance, no one made him become a global media icon, no one but himself titled LBJ as ‘The King,’ or the rest of us as ‘witnesses.’ The expectations FOLLOW the advertisements and the marketing men at Nike, and LBJ is the most over-hyped, over-advertised player I have seen. His failure is wonderful, because it brings us back to reality: maybe LBJ isn’t as great as we all wanted to believe, and maybe we shouldn’t have BOUGHT the hype.


    Posted by fz1999 | June 11, 2011, 1:00 pm
  12. Put a seasoned coach who brings some discipline and a well-defined system into Miami, and you might see different results.

    All strong teams, even those that never won the title, have had more than one star. Often, the difference is depth and coaching. Both issues go back to management.

    Posted by Mike Field | June 13, 2011, 6:09 pm
  13. One of you excellent writers here at Chasing 23 needs to address the issue of The Jordan Spell and how it is poisoning the basketball world.

    I know all about the Jordan Spell because I was under it for a long time. Most (not all) of the people now shaping the opinions and markets in the basketball world grew up watching Jordan’s Bulls dominate the league. Many of us were children at the time. Jordan became synonymous with basketball, victory, supremacy. He also represented the next level of sports as a business gone global.

    So Jordan was a watershed in a lot of ways. Even if a player comes along with similar stats to Jordan’s, that player could never compete with Jordan in the eyes of many of us because he won’t be the one we watched as kids, not only in the games but in the commercials, movies, and TV shows.

    What I’m saying here is that the whole GOAT discussion is poisoned by sentimental considerations. Until recently, I would have argued with anybody that MJ is the GOAT. But at the root of this was just a feeling of appreciation and nostalgia: Jordan made some of my favorite childhood memories, so how could he NOT be the GOAT?

    Recently I’ve come to see differently. Just because Jordan meant so much to my generation – and perhaps more than any athlete has ever meant to any generation – doesn’t mean that his success needs to be used to put today’s players in an impossible psychological trap. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that it closes former greats like Kareem and Russell out of the GOAT discussion.

    What changed my mind about all this was none other than LeBron James. Which brings me to why I appreciate this article so much. In the wake of the Jordan era came a bunch of players who had made themselves in his mold, or at least partly. There were so many: Jerry Stackhouse, Grant Hill, Allen Iverson, Penny Hardaway, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Tracy MacGrady, Dwyane Wade. And it’s always been “Who’s gonna be the next Jordan?”

    This was doomed from the very beginning for reasons I’ve already said: no one can be the next Jordan to many of us because we’re not teenagers anymore and the world has changed and it’s a different moment in history. The players I listed above, I think, more or less bought into the Jordan Spell and have played under it most of their careers. It has not served most of them very well.

    But LeBron! LeBron is not the next Jordan. He’s not the next Magic. He is the first – and very likely the last – of his kind. Anyone who watches him play knows this to be true. Even those of us who were similarly wowed by MJ back in the Day know that we’re witnessing something extraordinary, even when it is less than likeable.

    My jaw never dropped watching Kobe, because I had seen Jordan do the same stuff. (Except the 81 points, that was just ice cold.) In fact, Kobe seems to have just tried to retrace Jordan’s steps as closely as he possibly could, and it’s frankly a little sad.

    LeBron represents the way forward from the Jordan Spell. I believe he will represent a similar pivot-point for the history of pro basketball and a similar model for future players, both with his phenomenal athleticism and with his Decision. Comparing LeBron to MJ makes zero sense. LeBron is not the new Jordan any more than Jordan was the first LeBron. But Jordan was the first Kobe.

    It is high time for intelligent basketball fans of all kinds to get past the Jordan mania that has gripped us all for so long. It is not fair to compare every new talent to enter this league to a man who was both preternaturally gifted and well-placed in history and in our own individual stories. We must learn to appreciate players on their own terms.

    Moreover, it is not fair to pre-Jordan-era players. I swear most people walking around calling Jordan the GOAT have never studied the history of the game. All they know is what they saw on the tube as children, and what they saw sure as hell wasn’t Jerry West or Oscar Robertson. It just happened to be Jordan.

    And this explains the ridiculous dogmatism of the “Jordan-is-the-GOAT-and-all-else-is-blasphemy” crowd. I’ll acknowledge that LeBron is not (yet!) a competitor with Jordan in that category. But how many MVPs, triple-doubles, conference championships, and how many years of beefed-out stat lines would James have to produce to be in the conversation? For those under the Jordan Spell, it would never be enough. They put all their emphasis on rings. Why? Because that’s what Jordan has! Lots of them! But I wonder sometimes if Jordan was great because he got rings, or do rings signify greatness because Jordan got so many of them?

    LeBron’s title may never come (though I seriously doubt it). It happened to Barkley, Miller, Stockton and Malone, Iverson, etc. But with or without a ring, with or without All-Star teammates, with or without the Decision and its effect on his legacy, LeBron James is a true phenomenon who represents a sea-change in the basketball world. Paradoxically, he is just like Jordan in what may be the most important sense: he’s unlike anyone who has come before.

    Posted by Joel | June 13, 2011, 11:13 pm
    • You have some good points, but I completely disagree with the reasons why you think people see Jordan as the GOAT.

      You say that “even if a player comes along with similar stats to Jordan’s, that player could never compete with Jordan”.

      The problem here? No one in the history of basketball has stats as good as Jordan.

      Jordan is the only player in history who averaged more than 30 points per game (RS+PO combined). He is the only player to average more than 30 points in the playoffs.

      Safe for his rookie campaign in every single season with the Bulls he captured a scoring title. In every single one(!) which is completely mind-boggling.

      He is the all-time leader in PER both in RS and PO.

      He is the all-time leader in Win Shares/48 Minutes both in RS and PO.

      Basically year after year there was no doubt he was the best player in the league.

      He simply dominated other greats to the point where they without hesitation acknowledged that MJ was better.

      You say we may never see another LeBron. How about Magic? Did we get to see another Magic Johnson? No. Magic was a freak of nature in his own right. Yet by most people he is considered a lesser player than Jordan. Many times Magic himself called MJ to be the GOAT.

      Jordan Spell definitely exists and I think that even Jordan himself would not be able to live up to the expectations.

      But when you put the Jordan Spell aside and look at the facts alone – most of them will tell you one thing – Michael Jordan is the best ever.

      Can LeBron at the end of the day be considered as good as Jordan or better? Perhaps although I seriously doubt it. But if he finished his career today he would be “nowhere near Mike”.

      Posted by Doosiolek | June 14, 2011, 2:47 am
  14. great article! this website is true to their word, referring to the “about us”. i have been looking for an nba insight page that is based on reality and not on personal opinion, and i think i found it.

    i have been a big mj fan, and now i’m a fan of lbj who might be the next or the first, too early to tell.

    right up to this time i may be sharing the same feelings of many over the lost of the miami heat. i just couldn’t believe it. im sure it has been mentioned over again that talent alone will not get the job done.

    i don’t wish for the miami heat to play better next season, i just hope they play to win, regardless of the result.

    Posted by rani bernardo | June 22, 2011, 2:31 am

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