By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) He arrived in Miami predicting “Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” NBA championships, which leaves us to assume that LeBron James bolted Cleveland for South Beach to win eight crowns with the Heat.
And if King James ever truly expects his hoops legend to sit on a throne above Michael Jordan’s in the court of public opinion, he just might need every last one of them.
Today in a piece for NPR, columnist Gene Demby mixed summer blockbusters – flicks and Finals – and delved into that topic when he shared his belief tthat “LeBron James is Superman to Michael Jordan’s Lex Luthor.”
“That’s going to sound blasphemous,” Demby continued, “but more than the San Antonio Spurs whom he faces for all of the marbles in tonight’s NBA Finals, or any other team he might face in the future, James’ biggest foil is actually Michael Jordan, The Greatest Basketball Player Ever.”
It’s difficult to disagree. After all, during Game 6 when LeBron was fumbling and airballing his way down the stretch against the Spurs, Twitter went wild with a flurry of tweets not so much about the miscues but rather about how LBJ is no MJ and never will be.
Of course, LeBron then helped will the Heat to a miraculous rally, forcing an overtime during which he – and his legacy – survived to force Game 7. And, in theory, survived to challenge Jordan’s rep, as well.
Now, I happen to agree that James is no Jordan – not when it comes to his killer instinct and pure championship chops. But the tidal wave of criticism that LeBron receives when compared to the guy who Demby says has essentially trademarked the moniker “Greatest Basketball Player Ever” did get me thinking about what exactly James would need to do to eventually top Jordan in the reputation game.
But I really don’t think that’s a game that can be won. Not by LeBron. Not by anyone.
Because, it isn’t just that Michael Jordan won six times in the NBA Finals that has cemented his greatness so deeply in the minds of most basketball fans – it’s that he also never lost once. And that 6-0 record in the championship round is almost impossible to duplicate.
After all, no one has. Of the all-time greats, consider that Magic Johnson went 5-4 in the NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant is 5-2. Larry Bird was 3-2, while Dr. J was just 1-3. Heck, Bill Russell won 11 championships, but he still lost once. Jordan never did, which was an awesome achievement when it was happening and looks even more awesome given hindsight.
Tonight, LeBron very well may win his second championship, but he also already has lost twice in the NBA Finals, including once with the Heat. And fair or not, someone will surely always hold that against him when it comes to comparisons with Jordan for the mantle of “The Greatest.”
During his bawdy introductory press conference in Miami, LeBron said about the number of titles he projected with the Heat, “When I say that, I really believe it. You know, I’m not just up here blowing smoke at none of these fans because, that’s not what I’m about. I’m about business. And we believe we can win multiple championships if we take care of business and do it the right way.”
But when battling Jordan’s ghost, even eight championships might not be enough. Because, it’s those NBA Finals losses that can’t be taken away.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.