Hopefully, now, the comparisons will stop. LeBron James is not a better basketball player than Michael Jordan. Sorry Scottie Pippen. You were wrong. James might be an incredible physical specimen and could probably beat most one-on-one, but champions like Jordan have something more than physical ability when the pressure gets intense. In the fourth quarters of his championship runs, Jordan always did something to amaze me (And usually break my heart as I wasn’t a Bulls fan), whether it be a steal, a pass, or a shot. His will to be the best elevated him beyond his physical skills.
Bill Russell had that, too. So did Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. They played their best when all was on the line. Last night, the Heat and LeBron quit with over two minutes to go in an elimination game. They simply stopped competing. It was obvious by their body language, their lazy defense down the stretch, and then their decision not to foul in the last minute until that stupid foul with .18 left when the game was over. I can’t imagine Michael Jordan ever letting his teammates quit in the Finals under any circumstances.
It’s not entirely James’s fault that he doesn’t have that will to win the others had. All his life, he’s been told he’s the best, and he didn’t have a Dean Smith or John Wooden to mold his competitive spirit during his late teens. Instead, he had multi-million dollar endorsement deals with commercials touting his greatness. Anyone’s ego would get over-blown under those circumstances. In many ways, he’s the perfect symbol for his generation–all flash and style, no heart.
I’m happy for the Mavericks, especially Jason Kidd. They deserve to be champions because they fought for it. Jason Kidd has worked as hard as anyone to win this title, and I respect his tenacity to get back to the Finals and get another chance. The Mavericks played as a team, and even in the two losses, they battled until the end. It was an entertaining series that came down to one simple equation: a good team fighting together can always beat a collection of individuals, no matter how athletic those individuals might be.