Correlation ain’t causation but… y’all know I look at things from a weird lens…
We live in a world where the greatness of Obama is hated and that can help Trump get elected because some folk wanna go back to the good ol days.
Makes me look at the Jordan/Kobe defenders-LeBron bashers in a different light.
Social media is filled with folks who want to make the NBA Great Again. Go back to the time where a man could dominate a whole country–i mean game. Back when America–I mean jordan didn’t lose any finals. Back when we used to win.
That’s what happens when a person thinks that acknowledging greatness in the present means that the stuff you like and find meaningful is no longer important. It tears up social media for days and a country for years…
You right, it ain’t the same… The ring of power ain’t real either…
I’m a weird dude though so don’t pay me no nevermind.
“Republicans buy Jordans too.”
Stop reading now if you don’t want the rabbit hole and you don’t feel like reading…
I mean it…..
Ok…. here goes….
Here is history. Jordan is 6-0 in the Finals. He faced a Lakers team that was on the downswing. Then he faced a Trailblazers team with one Hall of Fame player (Drexler) and a coach in Rick Adelman that never won anything. Next he faced the Phoenix Suns and one Hall of Famer (Barkley) and this franchise has never won an NBA finals to this day.
Next he took two years off while Hakeem Olajuwon slayed the Admiral, Ewing, and set a finals record on points per game on the Diesel. One of his teammates, Robert Horry, would end up winning 5 titles on 3 diffferent teams. Drexler was also on the ’95 squad.
Jordan came back and played the Supersonics, another franchise that has not won a title til this day and had one Hall of Famer (Payton). Then the Bulls played the Jazz twice, a franchise that to this day has not won a Title, but had 2 Hall of Famers.
Jordan’s rise was meteoric. His exceptional talent was matched by exceptional timing. Bird and Magic were like John the Baptist and Jordan was like Jesus… his two-year retirement serving as Good Friday and Holy Saturday. There was no social media and Jordan didn’t have to worry about the public scrutiny that so many stars today have to deal with. He was on a video with Michael Jackson–and let me tell you that as a big deal. But they were calling Michael Jordan the GOAT even before he won his last 3.
Why? This is just my conjecture, but I think it has something to do with the ultimate. If you stop and think about it, Bird and Magic were on great teams. And even though convos abounded about who the best player was, no one ever lied to themselves and removed those players from the team. Showtime Lakers. The Bad Boy Pistons. But then it became Jordan. Shaq and Kobe. Jordan was able to leverage the Western philosophical drive to place the one above the many, the male above the female, coercive power above collaboration. The NBA was made great by Bird and Magic. Even though Magic and the Lakers won more than Bird, the ascendancy of the Lakers vs. Celtics–team vs team revitalized the league.
Jordan–that is, the apotheosis of Jordan–took that away. Folks still act like he coulda won without Scottie Pippen–that he literally could have beat a team by himself. This is American exceptionalism. This is the self-made man. This is spiritual desire.
But this spiritual desire can only be cultivated if you shun history.
History. Magic Johnson is 5-4 in the Finals. I won’t break down everything. But Magic went to 9 Finals in 12 seasons. Think about that. From ’79-’91, Magic and the Lakers were in the Finals all but three years. His opponents included the 76ers, who they beat and who swept the Lakers in ’83. Magic played against 2 Hall of Famers on that team (Malone and Dr. J.) He played against the Boston Celtics, the most storied Franchise in Basketball, and who had 3 Hall of Famers (Bird, McHale, and Parish). He also played against the Bad Boy Pistons who had 3 Hall of Fame Players (Zeke, Dumars, and Rodman). And finally, after playing against a total of 8 Hall of Famers in the Finals, he played Michael Jordan in his Prime. And Scottie Pippen. Two Hall of Famers. Oh, and Phil–11 Rings but sucks as Knicks President–Jackson. Oh, by the way, Magic played with Kareem, Wilkes, and Worthy and happened to have Pat Riley as his coach in the mid to late 80s.
Before I go on, I want to make an obvious point. Since Magic got into the league, there has never been a team that won the Finals–other than perhaps the ’04 Pistons–that didn’t have at least 2 Hall of Famers on their team. On Three occasions, Jordan beat a team with only one Hall of famer (Trailblazers, Suns, and Supersonics). His Lakers win was a win against an old team. Which leaves his Jazz victories as anything close to what Magic had to overcome in the Finals. Magic won collaboratively and faced stiffer Finals competition for a longer duration than Jordan. This is nothing but a statement of fact not a value judgment.
Also, and this is to take nothing away from Jordan, the Bulls ascended after the megapowers of the 80s got old and faded and the new influx of players had yet to emerge. What Jordan did was absolutely remarkable–to go undefeated on the biggest stage is worthy of underscoring and generating conversation. And having watched him play, the cat was ridiculously extraordinary–offensively and defensively. The dude’s competitive spirit was insane–to the point that he would generate false material to motivate him before his games. And Jordan’s Playoff PPG was astounding. His dominance was through the power of coercion. He forced his will onto the game. But Jordan also scored 60 on the Celtics in the playoffs and lost. He was the only Hall of Famer on his team. That level of power means nothing when you play against a better team.
Regardless of what anyone has said, superior teams beat superior players 98/100. Ask Jerry West. Ask Wilt. Ask Kobe. Ask Ewing. Ask Malone. Ask LeBron.
(There is hero worship, imperial seduction, and the elevation of coercive masculinity onto apotheosis of Jordan–the kind of stuff Paul warned about in 1 Corinthians. Champion crucified, Jordan is not. Every time he goes to Jerusalem and gets to the cross–he never dies. I talked about this last year. How sports reveal what we hold as sacred!)
History: Shaq and Kobe. The early 2000s Lakers had to get through a stacked Western conference, but the Eastern Conference champs were hot boo boo. The Lakers faced Indiana (1 Hall of fame player-1Miller– and Bird as coach). They played the 76ers with one Hall of Fame player (A.I.) and Larry Brown as the coach. And they played against the New Jersey Nets, who had one future Hall of Famer (Jason Kidd).
Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE THE LA LAKERS. Love them. But the Lakers had Shaq and Kobe. And the league was reeling from the loss of the Bulls and as history has shown, the Spurs and (for 2 seasons) the Kings were the only real rivals in the west. The Lakers also had Derek Fisher–and I pray things get better for him–who was one of the best role players in playoff history and Robert Horry–my favorite role player of all time.
Shaq and Kobe were alpha males who won coercively, just like Jordan. But, when the Lakers lost in ’04 to the Pistons, amidst Kobe’s sexual assault case and the ridiculous beef between Shaq and Kobe… they proved that even a Hall of Fame coach and two of the best to ever do it, could not beat a better team. The Lakers had more talent, but they were a dysfunctional team.
History. LeBron. This is not a LeBron apology. But before I continue, I am reminded of how Jesus warns his disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He said this for two reasons. 1) His adversaries couldn’t see what was in front of them. 2) And they labeled what was godly and great, demonic and sinful. In other words, Jesus reveals a deep problem for human beings: not only will we not recognize greatness; we demonize what is great. (Religious folk, and Christians sho ’nuff do this too).
I’m not here to say LeBron is the best of all time. Personally, I could care less. I don’t think there is a best all time of any category. Just don’t. I think there are players I prefer over others, but eras, teams, circumstance, rule changes, and randomness makes that “greatest of all time” category stupid to me… not to mention, time is still moving and basketball is still being played…
Yeah. I get it. I’m weird. I watch team sports for the competition, the collaboration, and ritualized drama. I don’t watch it to name a player the best all time.
LeBron is right. (Unlike Jordan) He found himself in a dispensation of dynasties. This point cannot be understated. Jordan played the Jazz twice. But LeBron has played the Spurs three times and the Warriors 3 times. What does that mean historically? It means that LeBron is in an age of great teams. Beyond the insane fact that LeBron is in his 7th straight finals–what is more insane is that FIVE of those years were split between 2 teams–the Warriors and the Spurs. In fact, in six of eight Finals, LeBron’s adversaries have been two teams: the Spurs and Warriors. LeBron is playing in Magic’s historical dispensation–not Jordan’s. Anyone who says otherwise is being a hater and untruthful.
This is why it is already impossible for me to compare LeBron to Jordan. Jordan was drafted in ’84 and couldn’t get out of the East. Because his version of the Spurs (Celtics) and Warriors (Pistons) were in the East. In other words, Jordan was like KG and Ray Allen in his early years–great players but the Spurs and the Lakers were better teams.
LeBron’s Finals record is worse than Magic’s. If things shake out like they look like, he will be 3-5. Yet some people still think he’s the GOAT. This is what Jordan and Kobe haters can’t stand. Instead of trying to rationalize their hatred and undying affection–i would rather do something more constructive… historicize.
The premise of this blog has never been hidden. I believe the mundane/historical reveals the extraordinary/transcendent and vice versa. Kobe is my favorite player, but I recognize LeBron’s greatness precisely because I believe in this exchange between the mundane and the extraordinary. I can’t stand Jordan worshippers because they make Jordan extraordinary at the expense of history and the mundane.
LeBron has been to 8 Finals.
His first Finals was horrific. But that team had LeBron facing 3 Hall of Famers (Duncan, Parker, and Ginobilli) the greatest coach of the 21st century so far in the NBA–Gregg Popovich. But it doesn’t stop there. Prior to Miami, LeBron never really played with another Hall of Fame player in their prime. Even Jordan didn’t have that scenario. Given historical precedent, Bron was supposed to get swept. I won’t even tell you the other members of the starting five…
Then came the Heat Years. Let’s be frank. Right now, only LeBron and Wade are certified Hall of Famers. Bosh probably won’t make it. And Ray Allen was at the end of his career and was a role player, so we will say that for 2 of those years, the Heat had 2.5 Hall of Famers. In 2011, they played the Mavericks, who had two first ballot Hall of Famers (Kidd and Nowitzski). They lost. Yes, LeBron folded like a chair in that Finals and so much of the world rejoiced. But they missed the point. The Heat were not the better team. They were one year in and had 9 new players from the year prior. But yes; the stats don’t lie. Chris Bosh average more points in that finals than LeBron.
Then the Heat played the Thunder. They were young, but if the trend continues, Westbrook, Harden, and Durant will all be first ballot Hall of Famers.
Let’s recap. Jordan’s first Finals had him play against an two aging Hall of Famers (Magic and Worthy), one Hall of Famer (Portland’s Drexler) and one Hall of Famer (Phoenix’s Barkley).
In LeBron first three finals, he played against Popovich, Duncan, Parker, and Ginobilli. Then he played against Kidd and Dirk. Then he played against Durant, Westbrook, and Harden.
No defense of LeBron. Just facts.
Then the Heat played the Spurs twice and split. Btw, that Heat team was the only team that beat Pop and the Spurs in the Finals.
So LeBron left Miami 2-2 in the Finals. And then the improbable happened. Golden State emerged.
First, let’s be honest. NOBODY saw the Warriors coming on this hard. No team in the history of the NBA has won more games than the Warriors in this 3 year period. Again. In the history of the NBA no team has won as many games as the Warriors. This means that the Warriors is an exceptional team. After learning how to play D under Mark Jackson, they are now coached by a man in Kerr who played with Jordan, and played under Phil Jackson and Popovich.
Draymond, Steph, and Klay are Hall of Famers in my mind. We don’t know how good the Warriors will be. But LeBron, in his first year back to Cleveland, played them without Kevin Love and virtually without Kyrie. And he took them to six. David Blatt was his coach. Again, he was the only hall of famer playing against what will probably end up being a Hall of Fame coach and three hall of famers.
Yet over and over, Jordan apologists said that since LeBron was such a great player he shoulda won. But Jordan never had to play against those odds in the Finals, and when he did in the eastern conference playoffs against the Celtics and Pistons, he lost.
The next year, LeBron and Cavs beat the Warriors in the greatest NBA Finals I’ve ever witnessed.
Let me say something about that. Though Jordan was undefeated, ask yourself, in terms of Basketball, which Finals had the most drama? To me, it was last year’s.
The Cavs, improbably, beat a 73-win Warriors team after falling down 3-1. LeBron and the Cavs won the greatest championship series of my life. But prior to that, the 2013 Spurs/Heat series was my favorite. And because I can admit that I value last year’s finals so much–I can admit that it shaped my perception of James. I value competition and seven game series. And because LeBron is a part of what I find valuable and meaningful, his stock rises for me. But that’s subjective and I admit it.
Here’s what’s not subjective. The Warriors added KD. A hall of Famer. I can’t say that Kevin Love or Kyrie are Hall of Famers. Certainly, if Kyrie continues to show and prove, he will be. But that’s 1 and 2 possible. That’s 2.5 books. Meanwhile, the Warriors can clear board every night.
No team since Magic had 4 Hall of Fame players on one roster who are all in their prime. Neither Steph nor Durant have to work as hard as Bron cuz that team is loaded. Personally, I thought the Cavs would get swept. LeBron is in his 7th straight finals and I couldn’t see a team with four Hall of famers and a Hall of fame caliber coach losing any games to the Cavs, even if LeBron is the best player right now. That’s irrelevant. Basketball is a team game, and if folks could put down the phallocentrism, they would see the truth.
In his eight trips to the finals, Lebron has faced 11 Hall of Famers and One (and a possible Hall if fame coach). Six of the Finals had him face teams that had at least 3 Hall of famers, while this year he’s facing 4. Jordan faced 2 at the most.
Facts. Timing is feckless, random, and a blessing. But Jordan worshippers won’t admit to timing and history anymore than Trumpers will admit that the good ol’ days were good for a few but not for the many.
Jordan has become larger than life, but the historical circumstances of his ascendancy is largely ignored and treated as vague coincidence but not as important to the narrative.
Man, and I haven’t even said anything about LeBron’s collaborative style, his changing the rules of free agency, and the crazy fact that this dude ain’t had no major scandal in this social media TMZ era… The social dimension of greatness is important, but outside the scope of this blog.
Here’s the bottom line for me. While facts matter, I’m not deluded. Folks care about value and meaning more than facts. What we value and what has meaning shapes the facts we use and the lies we tell. There’s an idea that LeBron apologists are extra-sensitive (p****). And you don’t tolerate p******. You grab them and make them submit.
Make the NBA Great Again.
LeBron defenders, I would suggest you stop trying to debate and remember, one day you might be doing to somebody else what the Jordan/Kobe crowd is doing to you 20 years from now. Jordan, Kobe, and LeBron are exceptional players. They are also subject to time and space like all of us. Objects of appreciation too easily become objects of worship. But in America, sports is religion and players are deified. ESPN and other media outlets are the televangelists and stadiums and arenas are the churches. Folks are excommunicated, shamed, and character assasinated for their god.
Man, I love sports. But, man…. this is cray.
Russell had 7 more rings than Jordan and was undefeated in the Finals. But he doesn’t count. Those teams were “mythical.” As if Jordan himself has not turned into legend.
Magic faced consistently stiffer competition in the Finals, but he doesn’t count.
Kareem scored more points and his longeivity is astounding, but he doesn’t count.
So, no LeBron, you don’t count.
What Jordan fans don’t want to admit is that his appeal is not totally based on stats. It’s about what’s meaningful and valuable to them. I just wished these jokers would admit that….
Boy, you know this too long. This the 21st century. We don’t read ish this long anymore!!!!
I know. I ain’t convinced you. Make the NBA Great Again.
©2017 M. J. Sales