NBA Playoffs 2011: How Michael Jordan's Shadow Won't Let LeBron Win

Joe AcampadoCorrespondent IJune 14, 2011

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat walks into the interview room to answer questions after the Heat were defeated 105-95 by the Dallas Mavericks in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. 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 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It’s been two days since Dirk Nowitzki and his Mavs made "The Decision" and its pep rally the joke of the year.  People are still trying to analyze and understand what just happened.

Yesterday, I took a look at what winning meant to Dirk, the rest of Dallas and the league.  Today, I’m looking at LeBron and what went wrong.

The Finals consisted of two teams, polar opposites of each other, facing off.  One was considered too old at the beginning of the season.  The other was pretty much crowned champion before a single game.

At stake was a decision, a couple of legacies, a town’s vengeance, and the state of professional basketball.  How the series went and who won would’ve determined how teams would be constructed from now on and whether or not we’ll have professional basketball next year as I covered yesterday.

And now, today, we live in a world where Peja Stojakovic and Brian Cardinal have a championship and LeBron James still doesn’t.

Not to overlook the fact that Dallas played great and Dirk played even greater, but something went wrong with the Heat, LeBron in particular.

The fourth quarter of the last two games were kind of like watching "CSI" as they try to figure out what happened to the victim as it lies in pieces all over the city.  Only, the victim was LeBron’s psyche and we’re the ones trying to figure out what exactly happened.

And something did happen.  Some point to the moment Dwayne Wade yelled at LeBron, others say LeBron’s not the clutch guy we all thought he was.  There’s some truth in both of those, but it goes further than that.  In fact, it starts with the original No. 23, Michael Jordan.

Ever since Jordan left (talking about when he really retired from Chicago, not his return with the Wizards), we fans have been looking for the next Michael Jordan.  We were looking for that next star to captivate us and to wow us regardless of our allegiances.

You can argue about his off-court antics and personality, but you can’t dispute the fact that you had to respect the guy on the court.

Then James came along and we hailed him as the next Michael Jordan before he even proved anything.  His entire life he’s been praised and hailed.  People were handing him greatness before he showed he was great.

Fast forward a few years and we know he’s a great basketball player, but that’s just it.  He was supposed to a champion, the savior of a city, the one who would challenge Jordan for his title of greatest of all time.  But now, we just have a great player.

A lot of people were angry with LeBron over how he handled "The Decision," turned his back on Cleveland, or even "The Decision" after party.  But that was just covering the fact that he denied us fans the chance to witness greatness once again.

The sports world is fast-paced and ever-changing with people always looking to the future.  While Jordan’s greatness was still relatively fresh in some minds, they were already looking for the next legend to come their way.

LeBron was supposed to be that legend.  He was thrown into Jordan’s shadow the moment he started playing professional basketball.  Now that he’s in Miami with Wade and Chris Bosh, all we can wonder is what if.

What if he hadn’t left Cleveland and won there?  What if he had gone to New York or Chicago or anywhere other than Miami?  What if he was the one who took over the game instead of Wade?  What if he was the one who was unstoppable and raised his game with each quarter instead of Dirk?

So many questions that will remain unanswered.

Some say he didn’t go to Chicago because he didn’t want to be in Jordan’s shadow.  The irony is that he’ll always be in Jordan’s shadow no matter where he plays.

LeBron needs to make some changes if he wants to win.  I’m not just talking about his basketball skills.  I’m looking more at his mentality.

Right now, whether he admits it or not, whether you believe it or not, he’s playing for the critics, the media, the fans.  Winning this year’s Finals would have validated himself and his decision in our eyes, not his.

LeBron perceives himself as this mega-star who the people love.  He never intended to be the villain, it just happened because of some poor choices (see the after party, especially when he mentions seven championships). 

Everything he’s done to this point was to prove something to someone.  He wanted to prove he could be the next Michael Jordan.  He wanted to prove he could win a championship.  He wanted to prove his decision was the right one.

And that’s not how you win championships.  Dirk did this for himself.  You could see the emotion as he left the court after Game 6.  Winning meant so much to him.  Same goes for everyone else on the Mavs.  Had LeBron won, it would’ve been for us, to us, just to shut us up.

LeBron’s still young and I’m sure there are some championships heading his way, just not yet, not the way he is now. He needs to change and figure out what he wants.

It’s kind of our fault that he’s in MJ’s shadow, but at the same time he brought it upon himself too. 

He’ll never get out of it until he starts playing for himself.