I’m moving apartments this month, which has led to more hours of Chicago traffic than I’m willing to reflect on. But as I crawled past the United Center on the Eisenhower earlier today, reflections from my childhood as a kid growing up during the Michael Jordan era dawned back on me.
McDonald’s cups with Dennis Rodman’s color-changing hair. The jumbo-sized Gatorade bottles that Michael Jordan could grip with one hand. And most of all, the number “23” stitched across the back of every kid in the Greater Chicago area.
In the early-to-mid 90’s, the Chicago Bulls were Chicago.
LeBron James can talk shit, hit game-winners, and even win a couple more rings if he so pleases. But one thing LeBron James will never do is compare to Michael Jordan.
No stat, no trophy, and no commercial can ever change that.
When LeBron James made “the decision” to move to Miami, it was a good business decision. But business aside, that decision deserves an asterisk.
Although he had an emotional attachment to Cleveland, LeBron moved on when the city needed him to stay the most. When LeBron James announced his decision on July 1st, 2010, his intention was to win championships. The move was admirable, but not very honorable.
In the eyes of most, he abandoned his hometown.
Jerseys were burnt, and so were bridges. LeBron went on to win two NBA Championships with two other superstars, before crawling back to the place that made him. Thanks to his return, Cuyahoga County projects that King James will boost the local economy by about $50 million in doing so.
Good for LeBron, good for the Cavaliers, and good for the city of Cleveland.
And while I’m not here to start a holy war, I am here (online) to say this: LeBron James will never, ever compare to the greatness of Michael Jordan.
Before you scroll down to the comment section to call me a “homer piece of shit”, don’t.
Before Michael Jordan won six NBA Championships and six NBA Finals MVP’s in as many appearances, he struggled through seasons riddled with injury, defeat, and criticism. Much like Derrick Rose, he too had his doubters throughout the first six years of his career.
Clutch or not, LeBron James will simply never represent what Michael Jordan represents.Through his flaws, vices and even gambling addictions, MJ personified the “work hard, play hard” mentality that made Chicago the ruthless, unique, and booming world-class city that it is today.
Despite his one-year hiatus to experiment professional baseball after the murder of his father, Jordan still played for the Chicago White Sox organization, also owned by his former boss, Jerry Reinsdorf. Whether it was his dedication to the Windy City or secretly another David Stern conspiracy, the gap in Michael Jordan’s playing career does not begin to compare to LeBron James’ absence from the city of Cleveland.
While his talents gave South Beach the party of a lifetime, the already declining city of Cleveland continued wallowing in their despair. But despite all the baggage, LeBron has won back the city of Cleveland. As you saw last night in his victory over the Chicago Bulls, the burnt bridges have been magically rebuilt.
James, a four-time league MVP, tormented the Bulls with 38 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. In summary, LeBron had a LeBron night. And this Thursday night, Chicago faces elimination at home in what’s expected to be a heated Game 6.
LeBron and the Cavaliers might win the series.
They might go on to win the Eastern Conference.
And hell, King James might even go on to win his third NBA Championship. But it won’t matter.
None of it will matter.
As Stacey King proved on Twitter earlier with some borderline unprofessional comments, LeBron’s salty reputation will linger without question.
No matter what LeBron James does for the city of Cleveland, they will never forget that he once abandoned them. And no matter how many championships he wins, it will never change the fact that he once abandoned them.
(Photo courtesy of David Shankbone)