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Though extremely popular with the public, LeBron James’s “Decision 2.0” to return to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers isn’t exactly the great occurrence that everyone is making it out to be. Sure, the heartfelt letter to the Cavs was touching, and the whole premise of the situation, much like the prodigal lost son returning home after four years confused and adrift, is one of the most moving things that we’ll ever see in the world of sports.
Image courtesy of Elder Ordonez/INFphoto.com
But let’s take a look now at the legacies of the two greatest players ever to touch a basketball. Per NBA.com, Michael Jordan’s resume reads as follows: Six championships (including MVP honors in all of them) in 13 years with the Chicago Bulls, five MVPs, 14 All-Star appearances, and countless tongue-twirling high-flying dunks.
According to L.A. Times, LeBron’s currently looks like this: Two championships (both of which he was voted MVP of as well) in 11 years with two teams, four MVPs, 10 All-Star appearances, and too many thunderous rim-shaking ally oops to name here.
Both mini-bios (both players are so great that there simply isn’t enough room to include a full summation of their work; I’ll save that for a different article) look fairly similar to the untrained eye, but if one examines them more thoroughly, a few subtle, yet imperative, differences will become apparent.
First off, James has played almost as many seasons as Jordan did with the Bulls, and has four fewer rings to show for it. Jordan also took a break from the Bulls to pursue baseball during what many considered to be the prime of his career. This sabbatical was sandwiched in between his two three-peats, which leads us to beg the question of could he have procured three more if he hadn’t left the game? So that would put Jordan at possibly nine titles, a feat that LeBron most certainly will have a tough time replicating, even given the fact that he will inevitably play a significant amount of seasons more than MJ, not only due to the latter’s leave of absence, but because James turned pro straight out of high school, and Jordan didn’t enter the league until he was 21. These facts may obviously lead to James accumulating more MVP awards, All-Star appearances, you name it.
Image courtesy of INFGoff.com
Secondly, and more importantly, Jordan accomplished all of his success with just one team, and it was the team that drafted him at that. That is just about the most honorable and admirable way to succeed in the world of sports, to stay loyal to one team, the team that gave you a chance to play your sport professionally in the first place. James, on the other hand, was only able to take the Cavs to one Finals the first time around, and while I’m not faulting the man at all, the fact is that he still had to pair up with his fellow superstar buddies in order to finally obtain the elusive gold hardware. And then when that team started to fall apart (Wade is all but broken down, Bosh decided to trade in his boards for some 3 point shooting, in addition to the rest of the team aging faster than you can say “South Beach”), he decides to opt out of his contract not to work a fourth “superstar” into the roster as we all thought, but rather leave on a mission of redemption in his home state.
Image courtesy of INFevents.com
Superstars don’t usually switch teams, especially in the NBA. Unless it is in the twilight of their careers (i.e., Jordan and the Hall of Fame bound Karl Malone, who went from Utah to L.A.), they stay put. Even though he is going back to Cleveland, this will be the King’s third team of his career. Any championships that he wins from here on out won’t mean as much as Jordan’s because they weren’t with the same team his whole career. What LeBron did is a prime example of what some fear the NBA might ultimately become, and arguably already is: He went championship chasing. And what’s worse is that he spit in the face of his hometown to do so. I could never see Jordan doing that.
And the news, per reports from USA Today, of LeBron’s two year deal with an option to opt out at this very same time next year, more credence may be lent to my argument; this is reportedly to ensure that the Cavs have the best cap situation possible to surround LeBron with the supporting cast that he didn’t have in the 2007 Final run. While this all may very well be true, there is still the possibility that LeBron didn’t like the situations that any of the other teams available had to offer, so he decided to give his old hometown another run, and if this upcoming year doesn’t go well, he then has the freedom to bolt again, perhaps when there is a more enticing team situation in his midst. Or even if this isn’t part of his full-fledged plan, can we really expect him to stay if there is a ready-made championship opportunity elsewhere staring him in the face and calling his name?
Call me a cynic, but the “Decision” was so disgraceful that I simply cannot fully overlook this potential outcome.
Either way, I believe the evidence is so overwhelmingly in Jordan’s favor that nothing now can change that outcome. Jordan must be held in higher regard than LeBron. Thirteen years, six rings, one team. Case closed.