Since taking his talents down to South Beach, LeBron James has found himself on the wrong end of a media blitz that is questioning whether or not he has what it takes to be the leader of a NBA Championship winning team. While critics aren’t necessarily panning LeBron for wanting better players next to him in the huddle, they are intrigued by the fact that LeBron openly chose to play with somebody who is viewed as his equal. Seven years into their respective playing careers, one could argue that Dwyane Wade has been the more successful player. While LeBron has a leg up in regular season MVP awards, Wade has a NBA Championship ring and a Finals MVP trophy to go with it. Did LeBron take the easy way out when he opted to play with somebody who has already gotten it done?
At a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada last weekend, Michael Jordan was asked about LeBron’s decision to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. “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. “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.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Earvin “Magic” Johnson” at Baruch College in New York on Tuesday. “We didn’t think about it cause that’s not what we were about,” Johnson said. “From college, I was trying to figure out how to beat Larry Bird.” Johnson also added that the idea of that type of union never entered his mind because it hadn’t been done before.
When James made his decision, he pointed out the fact that championship teams of the past were successful because of a group of stars as opposed to just one. Of course, we know Magic had the fortune of developing alongside Kareem-Abdul Jabbar. Michael Jordan spent majority of his playing career with Scottie Pippen as his running-mate. However, there are differences worth noting in all of these situations. As great as Pippen was, he was never viewed as being Jordan’s peer. Magic was able to come into the league under the guidance and leadership of Abdul-Jabbar, but seized control of those duties when Kareem was on the downside of his career. Most importantly, neither player made the choice to team up with these players. Their unions were a product of the NBA Draft.
Perhaps it’s unfair to contemplate the legacy of LeBron James half-way through his playing career. It was only a short time ago that Kobe Bryant was all but written off as the latest in the line of “Jordan pretenders.” As we’ve seen time and time again in sports, winning cures all. However, the opinions of two of the league’s all-time great competitors will not fall on deaf ears. Even in the most polite roundabout way, they’ve expressed disagreement with LeBron’s choice. How do you feel about the comments made by Michael and Magic?
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