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Thought experiment: His Airness vs. King James

A statement was made that "not much sports [discussion] delves deeply into thought experiments," I am curious to see what the sports intellect of the Pulse is.

We are pretty close to being two drafts removed from the NBA draft which brought LeBron James into the league. In the time building up to that draft a discussion was held about the impact that LeBron would bring to the league. At the time I made the now infamous statement "With the hype surrounding LeBron James' entry into the league that if LeBron is even as half as successful as Michael Jordon in terms of championships, that he (LeBron) will end up being the name associated with greatness in the NBA and Jordan will fade into the blackness."

Obviously, His Airness is not in the league to perpetuate his name, but two years into his career LeBron is already capturing all kinds of accolades for the talent he has. How do you see this playing out?

MJ vs. KJ

okay djake, how to attack this one. I have to say that I didn't think there was ANY way that LeBron could live up to the hype that was surrounding him coming into the NBA. But he certainly, and pleasantly, surprised me!

Currently, who is the greatest to ever play...hands down, it's MJ. Perhaps LeBron has had a better start to his career, but it's his over-all career that it's going to come down to. I do think though, that he has the potential to be 'that' great, and dare I say, maybe even better.

But to say he'll be better is a hard thing to claim...because he couldn't just be a 'great' on the stats...he'd have to 're-invent' the game somehow - cause that's what Jordan did. It's not that Jordan had these numbers that blew everybody away...it's because he re-invented the game. He not only made basketball what it is today (most of the greatest players on the court today are there because of MJ. Kevin Garnett chalks his hands everytime he goes on the court to pay his respect to 'the best', and even LeBron himself wears the number 23!), but he also made one of the biggest, if not the biggest, sports brand out there what it is today...Nike (and do we really need to mention others like Hans and Gatorade). The only reason stand-out athletes today are as big as they are (on and off the field), such as Mia Hamm for womens soccer, or Beckham for men's soccer, etc...is because Michael Jordan was that way for basketball first. So really, he didn't just effect basketball...he effected all sports! Once Nike signed him and they became 'huger' (though that's not a word, but stay with me) together...then Nike could do the same for 'the best' in every sport...which in turn made that sport even bigger, which made the sport bigger, which made the sales for the sport (Nike) bigger...etc. And the sports world continues to turn!

So hmmm...can LeBron become the next MJ? Possibly...but I think he should first change his number! Everytime I walk into the basketball section of a sports store and see the number 23...I automatically think 'Jordan', and sometimes I'm disappointed to find that it's actually LeBron. I think he should have 'invented' his own number...cause the number 23 has already been invented, and basketball players everywhere (no matter the age) have been choosing it just so they can be that much closer to being 'like Mike'.

Kobe wanted to be the next Mike...but it's never going to happen. Kobe has the numbers and definitely has the 'game finish drive' and heart of a winner...but as he's shown this year, his greatness doesn't make others great. And after recent events (whether he actually raped her or not)...he can't have the added publicity of all the endorsers, it's gone.Haha...remember all the hype around when he and Jordan faced each other in the all-star game...what a joke.

LeBron has shown that he can make others great, and he has been putting up the numbers...but he has a LONG way to go! He has to do more than just consistently score, dunk, stupify, assist, finish, etc. He has to be more than just: be the most feared player on the court; the one that you know the ball is going to for the last shot even though he's got over a 100 degree temprature and his body isn't working as well as anyone elses on the court; the one that retires twice...and if he came back again, it would probably still be okay because although he still isn't as good as he was - you can take your kid, or heck, just yourself...to see the 'best that ever was' for the first time, or maybe the 'last' time; one who can be next to Dennis Rodman on the court...and no matter how crazy Rodman has made himself this game, he still isn't the stand-out; the one that with-out a doubt you know is taking that last shot to win the game, and despite the perfect defense against him...he still scores... etc, etc, etc! The list in never-ending!

Jordan didn't just re-define the game of basketball, he re-defined the sports world. He did what was the unthinkable. Nobody could have seen what he would do for basketball or sports. And so I guess in the end, I'd have to say that LeBron can't do it. There's just too much MJ has done. But then again, I'm sure that given a discussion during MJ's rookie year as to whether he would ever be better than 'the best'...nobody called it! But MJ did it! The problem today is that, because of Jordan...everyone is guilty of making a call that 'this is the next best' on anyone who shows a glimpse of 'greatness'. Maybe LeBron is just another victim of it in the long run...but you know, as hard as it would be to ever NOT say that MJ is the best.....I hope LeBron, or someone in the future can do it - cause that's what will keep it going!

So...let's see it LeBron! The best of luck to you...

man...nice question!

I've got alot to say on this

I've got alot to say on this subject, but finals are driving me crazy. Give me some time, and I will have a great response for you. I was to scared to ask the question dJake, maybe its a karma thing. But I will answer since you asked. Get back to you all soon!

Story title

dJake, I don't have time to comment at the moment, but I do want to say one thing: This has got to be the best title of any story in Provo Pulse history.

Are you kidding?

Once Lebron actually makes the playoffs, and gets a good Pippen-esque sidekick, we can begin to have this discussion.

Until then...blah...

From NBA.com on Michael Jordan:

1984-85: Won NBA Rookie of the Year Award and earned All-Rookie First Team and All-NBA Second Team honors....Led team that had finished 27-55 the previous season to a 38-44 record and a playoff berth for the first time since 1981.

MJ...

Think of that commercial (I think it's gatorade)...where they use some great computer work to have college MJ playing against repeat NBA champion MJ. If any other player out there was even close to 'a great' as MJ was (is)...then they would have been playing against MJ in that commercial. The fact that they have him playing against himself speaks volumes!

3 guys in a car for a 3 hour drive

So there was three guys in a 2001 Toyota Corolla leaving Rexburg (we had just had a boot removed from the tire. You can't begin to imagine the amount of swear that took place.) for the drive down to Salt Lake (that's where I was living at the time) and this was THE discussion that we had for all three hours. Chelsy, what you just said in that 850 word beautiful piece of literature you posted you would have beat at least one, if not two of the guys I was with into submission. Anyways... major props.

First a word on Kobe... I read an article once that compared Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant in the context of their media relations. Michael NEVER said the wrong thing. Michael NEVER was out of whatever uniform was required for the event (ie suit coming into the arena, leaving his jersey on a little bit longer during post game interviews, having the right set of clothes for a semi-casual occasion). Michael NEVER personally responded to an attack in the media. Michael NEVER had controversy surrounding extra-marital affairs (and the rumor was that he had them everywhere he went.) In contrast Kobe is the exact opposite of MJ in the media. MJ was the image, not only on the court, but off the court as well. Kobe has the on-court image but can't seem to find the mental fortitude to pull off the off-court image. And I don't like Kobe because he's Kobe. But that's just me.

Not to discount what you said, but I seperate the on and off court accomplishments in my determination of success. The reality of it is, nobody can beat what Jordan has done. Michael turned the athlete endorsment game into what it is, and to top it all off, he's still as marketable today as he was in 1998 when he won his last championship. If you were to look at the overall marketing of any one athlete, and you factored in inflation, you could go until the end of time and still not beat Michael Jordan.

In terms of on-court presence, it remains to be seen what LeBron will be able to do, because one of the major criteria of being the greatest is being able to shred the strongest of defenses. I think that LeBron has more natural ability than Jordan does. (I already can feel the collective gasp of everybody reading this site) LAST YEAR LeBron James walked onto the court and commanded IMMEDIATE respect. There have been 5 players in the history of the NBA who have averaged 25 ppg, 7 rpg and 7 apg. John Havlicek, Oscar Robinson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan AND LeBron James.

If you compare and contrast Jordan and James in their second seasons (might be a little skewed because the Cavs have two games left this season) In the '85-'86 campaign, Jordan posted 22.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.9 apg and 2.1 spg. If you look at LeBron's season stats for this year, he's at 27.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 7.1 apg and 2.2 spg. When LeBron is on the court, as a sophomore he's a threat where ever he is. If you look at the most prolific players to ever play the game, there has never been a sophomore player that has come close to being the threat LeBron is now.

In reality, the only way to match the feat of what Jordan did is to take your team to the NBA Finals six times and win all six series. And with the likelyhood of LeBron missing out of playoff action for the second year in a row, it is concievable that his path to stardom might take a hit. I think part of LeBron's path to either pace or out run Jordan's legacy will revolve around finding James a Scottie Pippin to work with. Imagine what would happen if Michael Redd came over from the Bucks to the Cavs. Between James and Redd you would have 50 points a game, and if you improved the quality of Redd's defensive game a little I think that could be a dangerous pairing. My point being, that without Scottie, Michael does not acheive greatness. On the current Cav's team you don't have a second legitimate threat, and no matter how good LeBron may be, he's got his hands tied behind his back because you can cover LeBron and nobody else can make a move to take over the court.

Imagine what would happen if LeBron, Kirelenko and Okur were all on the same team. Imagine if that team were the Jazz. My mouth can salivate the savoring taste of that little gem all it wants, but I highly doubt that it would ever happen. I put the odds at somewhere around 1 in 10 million.

I think with the proper support on the court that LeBron becomes the next great one... but in the theory of NBA evolution, once LeBron is gone, and let's assume he ends his career in prolific fashion (ie, considered one of the greatest to play the game) how long is it before the next person steps on the court and makes us wonder "Can this guy possibly surpass King James?"

clarification for anyone wanting it...

I looked it up, and this is a gatorade commercial. It first has the 39-year-old Jordan playing a pick-up game agaist 23-year-old chicago bulls Jordan. They then take a break and sit down and drink some Gatorade when a younger college aged Jordan in his UNC jersey comes in asking if he can play. I didn't look very hard, so I couldn't find the actual commercial...just articles on it. But it's a cool commercial. If you haven't seen it you should try to find it. Pretty impressive work to make this!

This article pays great tribute to it: http://espn.go.com/page2/s/neel/030116.html#

someone at my work just found the commercial (though I think it's a little shorter):
http://www.adforum.com/creative_archive/2003/AW1101/reel_detail.asp?ID=27332&TDI=VDNYLeEp&PAGE=4&bShop=False&awcat=&ob=intlevel&awid=

great thoughts!

That was great to read, thanks for the insight! Though I have to say, there was no salivation at the thought of the Jazz acquiring those players (sorry, I'm a Kings fan!) I usually only step into the Delta Center when Sacramento is in town - which is usually always a good game no matter how bad or good either team is at the time!

But I agree, if LeBron had a better supporting cast...the play-offs could be very different this year! Hmmm...what if LeBron played with Sacramento (could that be good chemistry?)

Okay, that poses another question: What do you think would be the best pairing for a championship team of all the players right now in the NBA? (not just who is the best at their respective position and slap them together...but chemistry as teammates too.)

Oh...and I thought of this one awhile ago: if you could build a 10 player team of any players from NBA history (taking them at their prime) - who would that team consist of and who would be the head coach (thow in assitant coaches too if you want)?

Wow

Chelsy... will you marry me? We'd be the match made in heaven. I was already impressed by everything else you said, and then to find out your a Kings fan. I think I'm in love.

Not only would I consider all of my life dreams fulfilled (because LeBron with Brad Miller, Mike Bibby, and oh yeah, Peja, would be the ULTIMATE team for domination.) because LeBron would take the Kings to 10 straight NBA finals, creating the most dominant sports dynasty EVER. But to top it all off, instead of watching an amazing baller, I would get to cheer and root for an amazing baller. Michael Jordan was fun to watch no matter who you were (unless you were on the opposing team, even then I wonder if they didn't just watch in awe half the time) but in Chicago, Jordan was like a god. Drop LeBron in a Kings uniform, he would become more popular in town than Arnold. I'm getting chills just thinking about it.

I gotta get back to work, and I need to give a little thought to the other two questions to provide adequate answers.

Best 1-2 punch in the league

This one is fun, because you could try out combos like Shaq and T-Dunk, KG and T-Mac, Vince and Kidd... oh wait, they are already together. If you look at it, the standard is best defined by two former pairings: Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen and Karl Malone/John Stockton. The history is well known so just pointing them out should suffice as the explanation.

Shaq and Kobe showed that a 2 5 combo could work, if you play with the math a little bit it looks like the Malone/Stockton 1 4 combo. But I think the 2 3 combo is the most potent of all because it gives you two solid perimeter players, and with the right personel (ie Scottie Pippen) you get a player who can pull a double double consistently. I think the best 2 3 combo that you could put together today would be Michael Redd and LeBron James. You need the superstar and an all star. Putting two super stars together will lead to clashes (Kobe/Shaq) and putting together two all stars will give you a solid combo, but not the consistent explosive power you need (Paul Pierce/Antoine Walker) I think in terms of chemistry putting KG together with LeBron, you MIGHT be able to pull off the superstar combo without a bad chemical reaction.

Another interesting 2 3 combo could be Ray Allen and Andrei Kirelinko. AK47 won't give you a lot of explosiveness on the offensive side, but the defensive strength he brings would offset the offensive lacking. Jason Kidd and KG could prove a very potent 1 4 combo because of the two players in the NBA who run the floor the best, Kidd has better control of the game than Nash. An interesting 3 4 combo could come in the form of Shawn Marion and Kevin Garnett. In fact, I think that could end up being a pairing to end all pairings. Shawn is one of the most unassuming players on the court and KG is MVP quality, but has more humility than any of the current super stars.

I'm waiting to reserve judgement on this until the Finals, but I think the best combo you could put together is already teamed up. The 1 5 combo of Wade and Shaq could prove to be the most dangerous pairing of players of all time. In terms of longevity it can't last because Shaq has two years tops of solid production, but imagine if Dwyane and Shaq ended up in the Eastern Confernce finals this year and the next two years. Imagine if they to the NBA title even twice in that time span.

Here's another one... we'll just call this brain candy. Allen Iverson at the 1 spot and Tim Duncan at the 4 spot. Think about it for a second, wouldn't that be the most devastating combo since MJ/SP?

I'm kinda rooting for the Suns to take it this year because I'm a Steve Nash and Shawn Marion fan (gotta love the humble guys) but I think when it comes down to it, the Heat have the power to make it happen.