Shut up, Michael Jordan. Nobody should be listening to you. You were an excellent basketball player—probably the best ever—but you are an arrogant, selfish idiot. We all know that by now.
So nobody should care that you said you would never have called Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and asked them to join you on the same team: “There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry, called up Magic and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team.’” Oh, really? “With hindsight,” you wouldn’t make drastic changes to what pretty much everyone agrees was the greatest professional basketball career of all time? Shocking.
What about without hindsight? What about when you were 25, like LeBron James is now, and you, like LeBron James, had never won an NBA title?
“In all honesty, I was trying to beat those guys.” But, presumably, you were not trying to beat future Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, who was on your team for all six of your championships. Oh, and good job with the whole “trying to beat those guys” thing. Your 0-8 playoff record against Larry Bird is truly the crown jewel of your legacy.
Which brings us to Magic Johnson, who Jordan did ultimately succeed in beating, for his first NBA Title, in 1991. Magic, who just echoed Jordan’s sentiment by saying he would never have joined forces with LeBron James. Magic, who never won an NBA Finals without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time scoring leader. Magic, who won four of his five NBA titles playing for the man who just recruited LeBron to Miami.
Obviously Magic, who was part of the most storied individual rivalry in NBA history, would not have joined forces with Larry Bird. They had been rivals since college, when they played one of the most memorable national title games against each other. From 1980 to 1987, either Larry Bird or Magic Johnson was the NBA Finals MVP five of eight times. They faced each other three times in the Finals in those years.
As I’ve said before, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have never met in the playoffs. They didn’t play against each other in college. For the last four years, neither has had a decent supporting cast. Their situations bear little resemblance to the careers of Magic, Jordan, and Larry, aside from the fact that they are both very good professional basketball players.
It’s not that I expect Jordan and Magic to say anything but the thinly veiled criticisms of LeBron they’ve offered so far—it’s the job of faded stars to complain that this generation isn’t as tough as the last. But that doesn’t mean we have to take them seriously. Jordan and Magic never faced the decision LeBron faced, so how they would have responded to it is irrelevant—comparisons between these greats are doomed to fail. As Charles Barkley said of LeBron (to quote one last former NBA star), “He’ll never be Jordan.” That’s right, but being LeBron James is pretty good too.