1. Game Changer
If asked to quickly name, the greatest”basketball player of all time who would you say?
Are you thinking of Michael Jordan? If you are, you’re probably among the majority of NBA fans who saw his dominant play from the mid-80’s and into his retirement in 2003.
Jordan’s Chicago Bulls teams were six-time NBA Champions having “three-peated” twice, while Jordan himself was a six-time Finals MVP, a five-time NBA MVP, and 10-time scoring champion.
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His impact on the NBA game helped build the league’s international appeal, while his endorsement deals with Nike and Gatorade set an unprecedented level of success and marketability. His accolades speak for themselves, and not many will debate those who have dubbed Jordan the greatest of all time.
Fast forward to 2016, and look at the career of LeBron James. While James is merely a three-time NBA Champion, a 3-time Finals MVP, and a four–time NBA MVP, LeBron’s career at 31 is far from over. Not to mention, his impact on the game has transformed the league as much as Jordan’s, perhaps more.
In Jordan’s career, franchise players often stayed with their teams for their entire career. Whether it was Magic Johnson with the Lakers, Larry Bird and the Celtics, or the Pistons with Isiah Thomas, these ballers often stayed with their respective teams and never dreamed of teaming up. In fact, these players often considered themselves rivals and the thought of teaming up with a fellow superstar was blasphemous.
However, in today’s NBA, the idea of teaming up with other superstars to form “Big-3’s” or even now a “Big-4” like what we’re seeing in Golden State is common place. While teams have had Big-3’s before, the Boston Celtics changed the game and made the term famous when they acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to join Paul Pierce prior to the 2007-08 season. Never before had a team brought together three superstars together in such a way as the Celtics had. This left an impact on LeBron James, and when he struggled to defeat the Celtics throughout his first run with the Cavaliers, he began working on something that would change the way of the league forever.
Enter “The Decision.” As Cleveland fans, we hate to bring up that night, but for the NBA and James legacy, he forever changed the landscape of the NBA. It was on that fateful night that James opted to leave the shadow of great players before him and he opted to join fellow superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form a new “Big-3” in Miami.
Never before had a player of James stature and potential greatness chosen to share the spotlight with two other superstars in free agency. The thought at the time was how could he sacrifice the money, the scoring, and his legacy to go play with a few of his friends? Yet James saw how the Celtics trade impacted the league, and he knew that the days of winning a championship as a solo superstar were over.
Looking at the NBA today, the great rivalries of the Jordan, Bird, and Johnson era are a thing of the past. Superstars are now often seen hanging out together off the court, high-fiving on the court, and praising each other on Social Media. The reason? LeBron James made it okay to be friends with other superstars.
His friendships with Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul have brought about a different NBA. Other superstars have since followed suit, and now not only are there teams trying to build “Big-3’s,” they’re also trying to use friendships to bring them together. That wasn’t something you saw in the Jordan era, and it’s one way in which James has already left his own “ghost” in the NBA, but it’s not the only way…
Next: Who's the Next LeBron?