Fans and media pundits have been ripping into LeBron James for almost two weeks now and it's not looking like he'll get a break anytime soon.
Since the moment that James announced his decision to join fellow free agents Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, critics have asked: Would Michael Jordan would have made the same decision in a similar situation?
The constant comparisons to His Airness may be unfair to LeBron, but they are to be expected. From the moment LeBron stepped on an NBA court for his first professional game in Sacramento and fans were able to see his freakish talents on full display, LeBron has been engulfed by the Jordan comparisons.
Now that Jordan himself has spoken out on the whole situation, there is a definitive answer to the question.
"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," Jordan said.
To be fair to LeBron, Bosh, and Wade, they have all been good friends since they came into the NBA together in 2003 and by all accounts, they've wanted to play together for a while now. Jordan, Magic, and Bird all respected each other, but they weren't friends from the beginning like the three Heat stars have been.
But would it have made any difference at all?
What made Michael Jordan special was not necessarily his amazing talents. It was the fact that the man would do anything to win a basketball game and had a killer instinct that few basketball players have ever possessed.
LeBron's decision, along with Jordan's comments, bring light to the fact that LeBron has never had that killer instinct and that competitiveness among the players is different than it was when Jordan, Magic, and Bird were running things.
LeBron has always seemed to want to be a part of something great instead of wanting to lead the charge to something great. All of the dancing on the sidelines and pregame stuff he does is fine during the regular season, but it becomes annoying when his team does nothing in the postseason after going in with the best record for two straight years, especially when he is supposed to be the best basketball player on the planet.
We never saw Jordan do any of that. Kobe, the closest thing we've seen to Jordan since he left, never does any of that. Again, there's nothing wrong with it, but it just screams that LeBron just wants to be one of the guys instead of The Guy.
Jordan never really cared about hurting people's feelings, evidenced by his controversial Hall of Fame induction speech last year. That didn't endear him to a lot of people, but that's just how competitive he is. It's what made him a six-time NBA champion and is why he is widely regarded as the greatest to ever pick up a basketball.
In every way, his speech was the perfect way to send him into the Hall because it was everything that he was as a player; everything that LeBron is not.
To a lot of people, LeBron's decision is the easy way out, but really, Chicago would have been the best possible basketball move he could have made. Going to the Miami Heat was him wanting to play ball with his friends in South Beach.
Nothing wrong with that, but he can never be compared to Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, or Magic Johnson in any way again. Those guys wanted to beat each other at every opportunity. Hell, Magic and Bird had an almost unhealthy obsession with being better than the other.
It took Jordan a long time to get past the Pistons, but I'd never be able to convince myself that he ever even thought about joining Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars in Motown.
"He'll never be Jordan," Charles Barkley told a Miami radio station earlier this week. "No matter how many he wins in Miami, it clearly is Dwyane Wade's team."
Clearly, many former NBA players share Jordan's sentiments. The NBA is a different league than it was 20 years ago with social networking and AAU teams allowing these players to get to know each other years before they become millionaires.
But it also begs the question: Will anything LeBron does from this point on change the public's perception of him? Will it matter how many rings he retires with? Has this summer tarnished the image that he has worked so hard to build?
LeBron may go onto win as many titles as Jordan, but those rings will not carry as much weight as they would have in Cleveland. He clearly cares a lot about how he'll be remembered when he hangs up the sneakers, but public opinion on him has taken such a drastic turn that it will take a lot for him to be remembered in a positive light.
At least now he knows that he'll never be Jordan.
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