Ever since David Stern masterminded his ingenious plan to pump NBA marketing dollars into individuals, the modern game has thrived. It has brought back the casual fans, who are big on name recognition. It began with the ascension of Michael Jordan and, let us hope, ends with the dethroning of the self-anointed NBA King, Lebron James.
For two years running LBJ has used the regular season as his personal "And 1" video playground. Five years before that he was dubbed "The Best;" before he even laced up for the NBA. His first outing he dropped 25 points and thus began the speculation and the culmination of unfulfilled dreams and expectations.
Jordan never had the weight of a city's economic future in his hands. You can argue he did make an impact in Chicago, but his leaving didn't send the city into despair. There wasn't any talk of how the Windy City would huff and puff to beg him to comeback.
Like MJ, LBJ has a shrewd business mind, but that is where the similarities end.
Micheal brought Chicago six championships, three in a row on two different occasions, after taking a hiatus between both runs due to a personal tragedy (his father being murdered).
He took average players such as Luc Longley, Bill Cartwright, Stacey King, Steve Kerr, Horace Grant, and the Paxson brothers and drove them to championship glory. That takes mental maturity and a maniacal focus.
He even had a clause in his contract that said "for the love of the game he can play at anytime and anywhere he wanted." That was evident when he was recovering from his foot injury.
He even drove his team to a win during the Finals while suffering form food poisoning. After the game a physically exhausted Jordan collapsed in Scottie Pippen’s' arms. While we are on the subject of Pippen and MJ let us stop looking for the "next" when it comes to those two. They both admitted that they needed each other to win, before they had to put any PR spin on their relationship.
Lebron gave himself a convenient loophole when he shot a left handed free throw during Game Five of the first round against the Chicago Bulls. All of a sudden elbow-gate exploded on the scene to give him a convenient excuse when they lost.
This is something Kobe (whose game I have respect for, but is someone I just don't like), or MJ would never do. Bryant has played with a broken finger and has had his knee drained this year, but his team is in the Western Conference Finals. You think his supporting cast would punk out because he didn't produce?
MJ and Kobe demand quality play no matter what the skill-level of their running mates. If you are a rebounder, they expected you to do just that. If you are three-point shooter, make your shots. If you are known for defense, do just that.
LeBron wants the feel-good atmosphere of his minions and for everybody to tell him how great he is. Now he sees that his castle was not built on solid ground and it takes more than his estimable skills to be an NBA success story.
Maybe this will force the NBA to rethink bestowing the mantle of greatness on the next best thing, i.e. John Wall. Because it is totally unfair to the individual and it may quite possibly cost the next team to make ridiculous decisions regarding their franchise like the Cavaliers did.
So David Stern, if you’re listening, tell your marketing-heads to big-up team play and yes, by all means be proud of the players with tremendous skills, but give them time to grow and understand that the NBA does not revolve around them. The casual fan will still be there to fill your coffers.