2. I Wanna Be Like Mike… Er, LeBron James!
Since Jordan’s retirement, people have often asked, who will be the next Michael Jordan? Or will there ever be another Jordan? Well, for some Kobe Bryant played a lot like Jordan. Both were dominant, ball-controlling shooting guards who scored in volume. While Jordan’s career assist totals were higher than Bryant’s, the two shared a lot of similarities. That’s what’s confusing about the Jordan and James comparison.
LeBron James is more Magic Johnson than he is Jordan. James takes pride in not only his scoring ability but also his impact on the game through passing, rebounding, blocking, and defense. Jordan was strictly a backcourt player, while James and Johnson could play any position on the court because of their size and athleticism. So when the national media or other NBA fans want to compare Jordan and James you’re really looking at two different players. So will James ever be the next Jordan? Will he live up to that “Ghost?”
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Well, in a lot of ways he already has. Despite being a few titles short, more and more NBA players are coming into the league as the next “LeBron James” rather than the next Jordan. Players are coming into the league with more tools than just shooting and defense. They are coming into college and the NBA with more court vision, a passion for defense, and a willingness to defer to teammates. The result is a continued trend in the NBA of players who bring multiple talents to their teams beyond just scoring.
Take for example Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s looked at by many to have the tools to be another LeBron James-esqueplayer. When was the last time a player was drafted and thought to be the next Jordan?
To be the next “LeBron,” there’s a lot of meaning behind that. When Jordan was drafted into the NBA, team’s weren’t sure of how he’d pan out at the NBA level. Two other players were taken ahead of him, including the infamous Sam Bowie, who Portland Trailblazers fans will never forgive their front office for drafting ahead of Jordan.
The point is Jordan didn’t come into the NBA with lofty expectations, while LeBron James did. The fact that James lived up to the hype and surpassed it in his very first NBA game is a feat that alone has left a “ghost” on the NBA. Rare is the NBA talent that has come close to the expectation James had put on him coming into the league and even rarer is the talent who can live up to it in every way.
LeBron James’s impact on the league has already been felt. Players want to be him, and coaches want players like him. Selfless, talented, and multi-versital. Remember the days of the “I Wanna Be Like Mike” ads? Well, those might as well be changed to “I Wanna Be Like LeBron” nowadays. It’s just another way in which LeBron James has already created his own “ghost,” yet it’s not the last…
Next: A Promise Fulfilled