As a nearly 30-year old Bulls fan, I was raised on Michael Jordan. Outside of my family and my friends, there’s not many others that I hold more dear to me than His Airness (and the roster on the second three-peat). As far as sports heroes go, there will never be anyone out there that can take his throne at the top. He’s Basketball Thanos, complete with a six ringed gauntlet of his own. He’s more than a basketball player or the GOAT: He’s a Basketball God.
Nothing could happen to make me change my mind.
For better of worse, a lot of my personal and professional competitive make up is directly pulled from Jordan’s demeanor that I picked up from the countless stories and books and articles that I read throughout the years. If you’re not winning a sale and cutting your competitions throat out while doing so, you’re not doing it right.
Or something like that.
Being “Like Mike” was something I took seriously, at least, as much as a husky adolescent with an overly gelled side part could. Whether I was playing Guess Who against my sister or playing Pony Little League Baseball or traveling around the greater Bolingbrook/Joliet area for “travel” basketball or just messing around with my friends in games we made up in the driveway, losing was something I loathed. I always felt like I was letting someone down. Like I wasn’t performing at the level I could. Like there was something more I should’ve done.
Obviously, it was a chaotic way to go about my childhood and I know that now. Shit, I knew it then. But being GREAT was something I ingested and digested on a daily basis throughout all of my formative years. It’s how I bonded with my Dad and my uncles and my cousins and my teachers and my friends. Jordan was the ultimate and universal glue. He brought everyone together.
I still remember walking around Singapore during a two week vacation to visit my uncle and sharing the magic of Jordan with kids I didn’t even speak the same language as. It was a remarkable moment. The reach Jordan had was more than my little mind could have ever imagined.
Experiencing all of that happen through the wide eye of adolescence made it that much more exciting. The adrenaline that came from one of Jordan’s dominating performances and talking about it with your friends the next day at school in your crisp black Champion replica jersey was a rush I’ve only experienced a few times since. Part of that is the understanding that those fond memories are locked away in a bank with the rest of my childhood and as the years tick by, a golden shimmer reflects off of them brighter and brighter.
How can you even begin to effectively and fairly compare one player that your life revolved around as a kid to a player that you watch to unwind after a long day at work? It will never be a fair comparison.
Now, with all of that said…
I don’t understand why a healthy majority of us that feel like Jordan is and always will be the G.O.A.T. can’t enjoy what LeBron James is doing, has done and will continue to do for the next several years without comparing him to our Lord and Basketball Savior, Michael Jordan every chance that we get?
I can’t get on Twitter or Facebook or Reddit or Instagram before, after or during a Cavaliers game without seeing SOMEONE argue that James is a chump that doesn’t deserve our adulation or our time.
I’ve been talking a lot with a buddy of mine who is from Ohio and the whole “but who’s better” topic is infuriating him. Not only are these debates a waste of time and energy (we’re talking about two totally different types of players in two totally different eras that are played and officiated in two entirely different ways), but they go nowhere. It’s an endless loop with endless jabs that come from either direction with rage and fury. For every “BUT THE RINGS” argument in favor of Jordan, there is the “He’s been to seven straight Finals and is about to go to his eighth in the era of the Super Teams “. For every “Jordan had Pippen” there’s “LeBron left Cleveland to join D-Wade”. For every “LeBron is a freak of nature that would dominate in the early 90’s” there’s “Jordan would score 50-a game now with all the space”.
There is a rebuttal for everything.
And it’s mind numbing.
There is a whole generation of kids that watch LeBron James the way we watched Michael. They idolize him. They want to be him in every way. They have posters in their rooms that they stare at before they go to bed. They get yanked out of bed by their parents when LeBron is on the West Coast and is flirting with a triple-double in the first half.
This may seem blasphemous to a lot of my fellow brothers and sisters in 23-armor, but LeBron James too, is a Basketball God.
And just like Michael before him, he’s entered this stage in his career where every time he walks on the court he’s playing against himself. It’s one-upmanship from one man only. Nobody else can step to him.
He’s also Thanos and I can’t stop starring at his three ringed gauntlet, wondering not if, but when he completes it.
I understand why these debates happen. They are oftentimes extremely entertaining when done in a cordial way. But when LeBron James hits a game winning, fading left, one handed bank shot to rip the hearts out of the LeBronto Raptors for the umpteenth time, why is the first thing out of Jordan-lovers mouths “Yeah, but”?
Are we that insecure in our love for Jordan that we have to defend him every time LeBron James adds to his throne in the Ultimate Pantheon next to him? Can we not let people revel in THEIR favorite basketball player in peace? Can we not accept that greatness isn’t a one time thing?
Isn’t it all just so exhausting?
I’ve joked for a long time that LeBron James is my King, but Michael Jordan is my Basketball God. But, as every game goes by in this insane season for the 33-year old, I’m starting to think that’s not quite right.
Perhaps, they’re both untouchable and undeniable.
And we’re all lucky to have bared WITNESS to both.