Renew your subscription
 
 
Sports & Fitness // Hot Air
Steve Murray

Cult Of Michael Does LeBron Wrong

LeBron James is the toughest matchup in league history | AP photo

Cults can be dangerous. Not political party dangerous, but problematic all the same.

While not all such organizations have their followers literally drinking the Kool-Aid, each exists to control the thoughts and actions of the many to reflect a singular belief of the few – or just one. Large or small, well-funded or nutty startups awaiting an angel investor of intolerance, all cults boast this common thread. Christianity has it, so does Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, the Republican Party and the National Basketball Association. The final may be the most active.

The cult of Michael Jordan is unique in its organization and popularity. The NRA should take note.

Even the most stubborn Brazilian soccer fans can argue which single-named superstar is the best. Not in the NBA. With apologies to Brett Hart, Michael Jordan is best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be. To argue otherwise is not just folly, but an admittance of ignorance and an invitation to ridicule and abuse.

LeBron James’ inability to crack the all-time top spot has nothing to do with his leaving the Rustbelt, his move to Miami, the disastrous decision to take part in “The Decision” or the subsequent claim of multiple championships. The glass ceiling comes from his rare combination of size, court vision and quickness. James is the biggest threat to MJ’s legacy, therefore the cult must act.

Let’s get this out of the way. James is not Jordan. The younger man came too late and lacks the carefully crafted media image necessary for GOAT status. But don’t mistake a lack of PR for a lack of talent. James is a more complete player than Jordan and just lacks the needed games to join the sport’s top tier, which includes Jordan, Chamberlain, Magic and Oscar Robinson.

And no, titles mean nothing. One cannot judge an individual by the success or failures of a group. Ernie Banks is not a worse player because he failed to win a title; Trent Dilfer isn’t better because he did. And IRS employees should not be denied agreed-upon bonuses because their leaders are inept or corrupt.

James is one the few true five-position players in NBA history. He can score over or around nearly any opponent while defending larger bodies in the post. He even proved quick enough to guard the Spurs’ Tony Parker when Miami’s own brash-talking point guard was relegated to bystander status after getting consistently abused by the Frenchman.

James’ nearest competitor may not be Jordan but Cal Ripken. The Hall of Fame shortstop transformed the middle infield position from one manned by slight defensive specialists to one boasting run producers capable of filling the wide infield gap. James could have a similar impact, though it may take a Dr. Mephesto-type to do the genetic engineering, because James is a freak.

For the time being, Jordan (or Magic or Wilt) remains the best of all time. James, after just 10 years in the league, needs time to build up his statistical resume. He is already the most physically gifted athlete to ever play in the NBA – whether the cultists agree or not.

smurray@midweek.com Twitter @SteveMurray84

MidWeek Newsletter
2013-2014 Ilima Awards
EVENTS CALENDAR
Community