Michael Jordan spoke on LeBron James’ “Decision.” The world listened.
Magic Johnson followed suit, and the world still listened.
Charles Barkley did too, but not many people cared because he shoots from the hip so often because he hasn’t won a ring, and because he isn’t a logical comparison to LeBron James. We will go with the latter for the sake of discussion.
But logic says that Jordan and Magic are not really the best comparisons either.
Jordan changed the game due to his undying competitive fire and the birth of the “Air Jordan” brand. Magic changed the game due to his rivalry with Larry and his incredible passing acumen that was the gasoline for “Showtime,” not to mention his trademark smile.
LeBron really hasn’t shown that competitive fire (yet), and everyone has their own shoes these days. He hasn’t ever gotten that rivalry with Kobe started yet, even though the commercials try to make you believe it exists, and LeBron’s smile is thought of in a negative way because it was plastered all over TV screens in conjunction with the “Decision.”
More than anything, LeBron is thought of as a physical specimen unlike any the game has ever truly seen before. He does things most people have never been able to put together in one single player before, but unfortunately, he hasn’t translated that into winning (those reasons have been speculated enough, so this article will not delve into them).
Maybe the King should be compared to the Doctor. Yes, Julius Erving.
(Disclaimer: This is strictly a basketball comparison, so don’t think I’m saying Dr. J would have pulled off something like the “Decision”)
Doctor J started off in the ABA, where he won two titles. For comparison sake, let’s say that the Eastern Conference of LeBron’s early days was also a lesser league, one that he won single-handedly before being decimated in the Finals.
Both were good starts for unbelievably hyped athletes.
Erving averaged 32.5 points and 20.2 rebounds per game at UMass. LeBron took the world by storm in high school and you could say he was the reason high school games are broadcast on television now, although his might have been the only one anyone remotely cared about.
LeBron took the world by storm in his debut. High school players were supposed to take time to develop before they could truly impact the game, but with AAU shortening the learning curve, this was no longer an issue. Or perhaps LeBron really was the Chosen One. This only raised the hype to the basketball heavens.
The Doctor did things on the court that people didn’t think were possible. He went behind the backboard before wrapping under and flipping the ball up. Yeah, so crazy I can’t even correctly describe it in words. He was also the first guy to dunk from the free throw line. His skills embodied what the ABA was known for.
These don’t sound so incredible now, but this was back in the 70s and 80s. There will be plenty of guys physically like LeBron 20 or 30 years from now. It’s actually kind of amazing that after all these years of basketball we can say we have never really seen anyone like LeBron.
Fast Forward to the NBA. Neither guy has really been able to turn that physical dominance into championships.
Julius Erving only won one ring, and that was on a 1983 Sixers team that had just acquired Moses Malone to create an incredible collection of talent. You might remember ‘Fo, ‘Fo, ‘Fo. They were able to take Magic and Kareem’s Lakers in four games.
LeBron has not won a ring yet. He has actively decided to join a collection of talented players in an effort to win a ring (yes, I know Erving did not actively do this, but bear with me). LeBron has not won a ring yet, but there is a good chance he will. They will most likely be taking on Kobe and the Lakers in the Finals to do so.
Ultimately, Erving’s legacy was that of one of the most exciting basketball players to ever live. People who watched him will recount his talents in awe, saying they had never seen anyone like him before. Players like Dominique Wilkins followed suit in the “physically imposing but not able to bring home multiple championships” category, but Julius Erving was one of the first.
I have a feeling that people will say the same about LeBron as well when all is said and done. Based on his recent “Decision,” this might overshadow any other legacy he could forge, such as the greatest ever or a great champion, at least based on the immediate backlash.
People always want to hold modern players to incredibly high standards. Magic and Jordan? Yeah, those are about as high as you can go. This is all based on LeBron’s incredible physical talents, but maybe his comparison should be one who was similarly lauded strictly for those talents. It’s not a perfect comparison, but no comparison really is if you think about it.
Somebody needs to call a Doctor. I think LeBron’s comparison has been misdiagnosed this whole time.