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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

LeBron vs MJ and the NBA

Scroll through social media and you'll find countless articles and video footage breaking down the NBA Finals.
Then you'll find twice as many links and articles breaking down who is the greatest of all time, MJ or LeBron.
Stats vs stats, pretty clear LeBron wins and will always win this area.
MJ lovers will fire back with "6-0 in the finals!!" and it's unclear if LeBron will ever beat that.
But neither of those categories mean who is or will be the greatest.

In my opinion, to find the "X" factor in this debate, which will live for many years to come, you should read David Halberstam's "Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made."

After MJ won his 3rd consecutive title, he was asked where this ranks him among the all time greats.  He answered "Every era is different, so that's an unfair comparable, but I do think these championships put us as a team right up there."
Break that down for a second and know that he did eventually go on to modestly compare himself to Bird and Magic but his initial response was the cream... "us as a team."
And i dont highlight that because of what LeBron recently said, something like "Im confident because Im the greatest player in the world," but because of the team MJ made.
I love Phil Jackson, probably the greatest coach ever, but MJ made that team and the NBA of the 90's.  How?
Like Steve Jobs and other mad geniuses, they're obsessed.  Obsessed to the point where nothing else matters but that one goal and they will do absolutely anything and everything to make that goal happen.
MJ would bully teammates, he would taunt the front office, and he would relentlessly trash talk opponents.  At one point, it was written that he was the most disliked player in the league.
He made Scottie Pippen become who he became, because he demanded it of him.  He saw Scottie could be his counterpart but he needed to toughen him up and help him find an identity.
Steve Kerr once set a screen on MJ at practice, MJ ran through it, knocked Kerr down and Kerr got up swinging, both players exchanged punches and practice was called.  MJ throwing punches with teammates was not an uncommon moment.  Often it was a reaction to his taunting, tough love at its "finest."
When the Pistons were ruling the NBA in the late 80's, MJ threatened Horace Grant to "grow balls or don't get off the bus," prior to a matchup in the 1990 season.
In 1992, Clyde Drexler was compared to MJ as his west coast rival and took 2nd in MVP voting then faced the Bulls in the finals, which the Bulls won.  A month later during the 1992 Dream Team practices, he was trash talking Clyde Drexler so bad, Clyde came out for practice one day with his shoes on the wrong feet and Clyde nearly quit.  What was MJ's aim?  To crush Clyde and the Trailblazers, not the Dream Team.  Come 1993, he wanted to already have the Blazers defeated.  And this is the great difference between MJ and LeBron and the NBA in general and its rubbed off on todays youth.

I doubt another team will ever beat the Bulls win record they set in 1996.  Players and teams coast now, they think they can flip switches and just turn on "winning," when they need to.... wrong.  MJ and the Bulls wanted to beat you so bad, every time, it stayed in your head for the next game.  MJ wanted to completely demoralize you.  All the greats did.  Bird used to keep stats during games and rattle off numbers to his match up as they came up the floor, talking non stop, "16-2, me," or "that was you 3rd turnover, coach is going to the bench soon."  Magic was the same way, even Shaq and Kobe.  They made it personal.
LeBron, hopefully this loss hurt him.  All those years losing to the Pistons made MJ the bastard he was, that he needed to be.  The NBA didn't used to be this friendly hip-hop club.  I cant remember the last time i saw an NBA fight, it used to happen weekly.  Do we need them?  I almost wrote "no," but yes we do.  With intensity that high and guys going that hard, we need scrappers to crank things up a notch.  In my opinion, the Bad Boys of the late 80's are the second best team of all time.  The Bulls teams of the 90's and the Pistons of the 80's would demolish the league now.  Even the Starks-Ewing-Oakley-Riley Knicks would win the championship.  The league just isn't tough anymore.  It's soft, its 3's, its high fiving your opponent and helping them up off the floor.

LeBron is the most talented player to ever play.  He has all the skills of Magic and MJ in a body we've never seen in the NBA.  Big, fast, athletic, durable.  Is he MJ?  Not as of now.  We need this loss to sting.  We need the criticism to bother him and motivate him.
When people are handing you gifts from 16 years old on... I dont see it happening.
I'm not a hater, I think he's unreal, but as MJ said in 1993, different players of different eras cant be compared fairly.  If MJ grew up in the Twitter age, he may have been a different guy too.

To sum it up, LeBron is too nice and MJ will fight you over a game of tic tac toe if you beat him.
(I actually do think I read he fought someone over a card game)

5 players I wish we could recreate for todays game:
Ron Artest
Patrick Ewing
Charles Barkely
Gary Payton
Dennis Rodman
honorable mention:  Agent 0, Gilbert Arenas

5 coaches I wish the Cavs could pull but cant because they're all too old or dead:
Pat Riley
Don Nelson
Greg Popovich
Larry Brown
Phil Jackson

Todays NBA is just like everything else.  Watered down and Disney.  It's all about selling commercials and jerseys.