Another day, another slew of rumors regarding LeBron James and his decision. Thankfully, this is really the only time of year when LeBron isn’t compared to Michael Jordan. However, the state of the NBA right now has never been more indicative of the differences between the two players, and that state revolves around free agency.
Four years ago to the date, LeBron announced live on TV he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to sign with the Miami Heat. Now true Miami fans are experiencing the gut-wrenching uncertainty felt by Cleveland fans in 2010 while the majority of Heat “fans” are already checking prices on Cavs jerseys. Both franchises are experiencing something Jordan’s Chicago Bulls never did: wondering if he would leave to join a different NBA team.
Of course, Bulls fans dealt with Jordan’s baseball episode and the uncertainty that came with it, but that wasn’t a betrayal of a city and its fan base that could be described simply as the star selfishly seeking greener pastures. Jordan truly wanted to try something else after nine years in the NBA, and not just something — he wanted to play baseball just like he told his late dad he would. Plus, his father was murdered during the same offseason Jordan dediced he wanted to take his talents to the diamond. You can’t fault the guy for that.
LeBron, on the other hand? Oh yeah.
After seven years of grinding with the Cavaliers and growing into the most beloved player in Cleveland sports history, LeBron got impatient and willingly gave up his chance to be the greatest of all time. No matter how many opinions are given on the topic, none of them can justify James’ candidacy as the G.O.A.T. after leaving the Cavs, especially given the humiliating manner in which he left them.
Although he went to play baseball and then later came back to the NBA a third time to play for the Washington Wizards because he missed basketball, Jordan never would have held the league or the Bulls hostage as a free agent.
One may argue LeBron first needs to see what the Heat (or any other team) will do to entice him to sign, but that’s the point: Jordan never considered leaving, even after he lost to the Detroit Pistons in the playoffs time and time again before wining his first title.
Everyone remembers James taking off the Cavs jersey for the last time when he went into the locker room following their loss to the Boston Celtics in the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Do you think Jordan felt that same frustration when his Bulls finished below .500 and were bounced in the first round of the playoffs in each of his first three years? Or what about losing to the Pistons in the playoffs the next three seasons? Of course he was frustrated, but he didn’t give up, fold his arms, pout and leave.
But that’s not even the worst part; LeBron is not only considering changing teams again, but he’s taking his sweet time making up his mind and thus holding virtually the entire league hostage in the process. There are a slew of ignorant front offices that are waiting to make any free agency-related transactions in hopes LeBron will take his talents to their respective cities. Once James decides, Carmelo Anthony will choose his destination immediately afterward and the rest of the teams and free agents can conduct business as usual.
The most despicable part of the entire thing is LeBron knows good and well the basketball world is waiting on him and he’s enjoying every second of it. Sure, Jordan was arrogant and somewhat of a jerk to some, but he never gave the Bulls’ front office any reason to believe he would simply leave to make things easier on himself. He even reiterated that in 2010 when LeBron created his Big Three in South Beach by saying he never would have called Larry Bird and Magic Johnson with the intent of joining forces. Jordan’s point was clear: He was going to play for the team that drafted him and take what came with that.
Although LeBron is the poster child for today’s embarrassing NBA free agency carousel, he’s not nearly the only one to blame. The finger can be pointed at Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard and many others but none of them ever had what LeBron arguably did, albeit briefly: a ghost’s chance of being the G.O.A.T. So much for that.