The Way It Is

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

LeBron and ESPN

Since LeBron James has entered the NBA, he has proven many things to a lot of people, including myself. I believe he will win at least one championship. I believe he will win a handful of MVP awards. I believe he will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play the game. However, after watching his performance against Atlanta the other night, he confirmed something else to me that I believed: He will never compare to the one man he has been set against since being drafted: Michael Jordan. In case you missed it, Cleveland had blown a 4th quarter lead and Atlanta was wrapping up an overtime comeback victory when James decided to walk off the court with seven seconds left on the clock, with the rest of his teammates finishing the game on the defensive end of the floor. I assume a lot of people would give him the benefit of the doubt, considering how well he had played (34 pts, 7 reb, 6 ast) and the fact that his teammates gave him no support offensively (20-64 from the field combined) and say that his frustrations were easy to relate to. I don't buy this. If there was one thing that separated Michael Jordan from any other player in history, it was his relentless leadership and will to win. Jordan would have NEVER walked off the floor and left his teammates behind. He would have ripped into them in the locker room and questioned if they wanted it as much as he did. James, through actions like this, is devolving into the typical NBA player of this generation: a me-first crybaby who bogs his team down through selfish actions. This defeats the ideals that Jordan based his game off of; Things like effort, leadership, courage.

On top of this, projecting to a demographic of increasingly younger children who idolize James, Stephen A. Smith goes on ESPN Sportscenter and actually condones James' actions, saying "his teammates are responsible for the collapse that ensued". If you remember, this is the same program that stopped the presses last year when Randy Moss walked off of the field in Washington with two seconds left in the game (Note: the Raiders defense was on the field, not the offense). Where's the difference here? The fact that we expect that type of behavior from a character like Moss should make it less of a news story than this one. This is the great King James we're talking about here, the one to lead basketball to the promised land! Instead, in an effort by "the World Wide Leader" to do whatever they can to anoint the next Michael Jordan, they sweep it under the rug and tell us it's OK to turn back on your teammates when they need you the most. I don't think the NBA would really promote a "Don't be like Mike" slogan, but that's slowly what is happening.


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