I’m tired of this outdated narrative.
LeBron James is a competitor. Period. He shouldn’t have to continue to explain that to anyone.
Early Tuesday morning, James was stuck defending his competitive spirit once again, after ESPN’s Brian Windhorst posted an article on Twitter saying James envisioned Michael Jordan “as a teammate, not an adversary.”
James spoke on “Uninterrupted’s” YouTube Channel about how great it would have been to play with Michael Jordan.
“Me personally, the way I play the game — team first — I feel like my best assets work perfectly with Mike,” said James. “Mike is an assassin. When it comes to playing the game of basketball, scoring the way he scored the ball, [then] my ability to pass, my ability to read the game plays and plays and plays in advance.”
The post and the article prompted to reiterate the same old notions about James. They questioned his competitive spirit and once again tried to diminish James’ legacy.
James quoted Windhorst’s tweet a few hours later saying that he was only responding to a question that he was asked on the YouTube series about how the two legendary stars could have complemented each other.
He also said that he “would die to compete” against every single one of the greats.
If you are caught up in the reinvigorated Jordan hysteria from The Last Dance it can be easy to forget that James has amassed one of the greatest playoff resumes in the history of the game.
When the competition was at its best and the stakes were at their highest LeBron has not only been good, he’s been excellent.
Do you remember 25 straight points to beat the Pistons in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals as a 22-year-old?
What about 45 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists on 73% shooting to hold off elimination versus the Celtics in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals?
And you can’t forget the 27 point triple-double in game seven of the 2016 NBA finals to secure arguably the greatest championship upset in NBA history.
James averages 34 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block in playoff elimination games over his career. He has had either 40 points or a triple-double in seven of his last eight elimination games. James also has a winning record in these games (13-10).
Jordan only averaged 31.3 points in elimination games over his career and had a losing record in those contests (6-7).
In no way is this an attack on Jordan’s competitive nature. He was as ferocious of a competitor that the sports world has ever seen.
But, the context is different. Jordan was undefeated in the Finals during his career. However, he was favored in all six of those Finals appearances. James, on the other hand, was an underdog in seven of the nine finals he has played in and has still managed to win three titles.
It’s obvious that Jordan’s teams were put in better circumstances to be successful.
Many will try to counter that argument by saying that Jordan’s competitive edge elevated his teammates through his tyrannical leadership style and demanding personality.
But what about James’ unique competitive style that helps his teammates excel by putting them in the best position to be successful on the court?
James has an innate gift to be able to orchestrate the game for not only himself, but for his teammates. This allows for the most unlikely role players to make plays when they’re on the floor with James.
Newsflash: You don’t have to punch your teammates in the face or call them “bitches” or “ho’s” to prove you are competitive.
And don’t even try to use the excuse that James shied away from competition because of his choices to play in other cities. Jordan had Jerry Krause, one of the best talent evaluators in the history of the NBA, during practically his whole career in Chicago.
Despite the issues players in the organization had with him, Krause put together dynamic teams for Jordan to thrive on. And he crafted these teams in an era where there was less player mobility and less opportunity to acquire good players. Don’t forget Jordan won all of his titles with Phil Jackson, who won five titles without MJ.
During James’ seasons in Cleveland, he played under multiple team executives who struggled to put adequate pieces around him. In James’ final season with the Cavaliers before “The Decision,” he averaged nearly twice as many points as the next leading scorers on the squad and his best interior threat was a 37-year-old Shaquille O’Neal who could barely make it up and down the court without falling.
James left so he could have the best chance to win and defeat a Celtics team that was stacked with three Hall of Famer players, a Hall of Fame Coach and one of the most intelligent point guards to ever play the game. How anyone could question his competitiveness for making a decision that he felt would lead to more winning is beyond delusional.
The point is simple.
I’m tired of the lack of objectivity in comparing these great players. Where saying bogus statements about one player is supposed to enhance another.
Don’t fall into the trap.
Jordan and James are both cultural titans, athletic artists, and insanely competitive basketball players.
They just did it in different ways and in different circumstances.