NBA Finals: The Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James Debate and Heat Hating

Tim Fitzgerald@TimmyFitz76Contributor IJune 6, 2011

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 05:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat dunks against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Three of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center on June 5, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by David J. Phillip-Pool/Getty Images)
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Ever since Michael Jordan established himself as the most exciting player in NBA history, we began obsessing over what new young player reminded us of Jordan. Ever since Jordan began his series of retirements, everyone began predicting who would be the next Jordan.

Aren’t we over this yet? Aren’t we far enough removed from the Jordan era that we can just enjoy the NBA’s best for who they are? Players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and others have expressed to us that they don’t want to be compared to him and want to make their own legacy.

It’s quite alright to compare current players to those of previous eras when describing their play or mannerisms on the court, especially for scouting or sportswriting purposes. In that regard James could be called, “Magic Jordan” in that his style of play seems like a melding of the two. 

But to consider a player a failure or not one of the top players in NBA history because their career path doesn’t perfectly mimic Michael Jordan’s is ridiculous. 

James apparently isn’t allowed to have an off night or to make the smart pass at the end of games. All things Jordan would do that our short memories have forgotten.

To say that a 26 year old man must play and plan his career in the exact manner of Michael Jordan and carry the load of a team himself (though Jordan had some exceptional help) to be considered a great player makes us seem very stuck in the past and rigid in what we want from our NBA stars.

I think we go too far with the Jordan comparisons, and I think the average NBA fan has gone too far with the Heat hating.

I’m rooting for the Miami Heat, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I understand and respect rooting for veterans like Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd to finally get a championship ring. But I won’t root for Dallas, just for the sake of being a Heat Hater.

I liked James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh as players separately. Why can’t I root for them collectively?

Is it because of the way the team was put together? Miami's big three took less than the maximum in years and dollars. That should be commended. 

The big three of Boston coming together was seen as something to root for. Was it because they were older players? Was it because it happened a traditional hoops happy market like Boston?

A lot of championship teams bought or dealt for big stars to improved their team.

Is the hating still based on “The Decision?” Of course “The Decision” was wack. Even James will tell you that now.

Doing that TV special was a bad decision by a very young man with a lot of people in his ear looking to boost his Q rating, under the guise of helping the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

It fed our need to treat his decision about his job and life like a soap opera. ESPN was more than happy to feed our obsession with "The Decision" and "LeBroncenters," only to then slam him after he gave the “sports leader” the ratings fest they craved.

If you tell me you never made any dumb decisions in your mid-twenties, I won’t believe you.  Picture having your entire life televised and scrutinized at that age.

The hating of James signing with Miami still stinks of comparing him with Jordan or Magic Johnson.

Critics and NBA legends turned commentators said James was dimming his star power, lessening his legacy, or that he couldn’t be considered an NBA great because Jordan or Magic wouldn’t have joined another team to get an NBA title.

It meant nothing to James to be THE man only to end up a man with no rings. Being a one-man show wasn’t going to help him beat the Spurs, Lakers or Celtics.

Jordan had Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman, serviceable big men like Bill Cartwright and Will Purdue, and reliable, clutch outside shooters like John Paxson, Steve Kerr, and BJ Armstrong during his tenure in Chicago

All while being coached by one the greatest NBA coaches of all time in Phil Jackson, and already playing in a big, bustling market like Chicago. So it’s no wonder Jordan never had to leave the Bulls to compete for a championship.

Jordan also had and has a competitive, screw-you-attitude-filled, chip on his shoulder the size of North America. James’ stubborn pride doesn’t reach the same heights as Jordan's.

Magic Johnson didn’t have to leave the bright lights of Los Angeles while playing with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott, and slew of quality role players like Michael Cooper and Kurt Rambis, all while being coach by... wait for it... one of the greatest coaches of all time, Pat Riley.

It’s fun to compare and rank players against one another. It makes for great debates and it’s part of the fun of watching sports. 

But we’ve taken the, “LeBron will never be Michael” argument too far.

It’s pointless, motivated by a need to continue knocking James for veering from the script we had in mind for him to stay in Cleveland, and is unrealistic. 

No player will ever be Michael Jordan, and we should be thankful for that. If a bunch of Michael Jordans came along, he wouldn’t seem so special anymore. 

We should also remember there’s only one LeBron James, and to appreciate him for what he is if you’re an NBA fan. 

If James spurned your team or plays for a rival, I understand the hating.  But if you’re reaching for straws in reasons to hate on James by saying he’ll never be Jordan, then you’re a shoe in... for hater of the year. 

Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate!

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 05:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat stands on the court against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Three of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center on June 5, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agr
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