Regardless of whether you think it was right or wrong for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to take advantage of Florida’s tax laws to stack a team, one thing is for sure…
No matter how many championships he may win, LeBron James will never quite be as respected as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
Nor will Miami’s “Big Three” ever be as respected as Jordan, Pippen and Rodman. Or Bird, McHale and Parish. Or Magic, Kareem and Worthy.
Because these NBA legends won more than just championships, their epic battles waged against worthy nemesises won respect, even from their opponents, and earned them their place in NBA history.
Because if sports was just about the outcome and not the journey, we’d all stay home and get the scores off the Internet.
Because being on top of a mountain earns people little respect, it’s the size of the obstacles they had to overcome in their climb that make these men so impressive.
Consequently, it is debatable whether James, Wade and Bosh will even be respected as much as John Stockton, Steve Nash and Reggie Miller, NBA greats who, while they never won championships in their careers, also never opted to hit the sissy easy button either.
Some people just don’t get the whole character thing, and rather than try, they just hate on those who do.
However, some people do get it.
Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are all on record saying they would not have taken the short cut. All three of these NBA legends preferred to end their careers with less championships than they could have had, rather than do a Marvel Superhero team up to get more with a stacked team.
That really says something about the heart of a champion verses the heart of a short cutter.
Here’s another way of looking at this.
Imagine stacking a team with:
Guards: Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade
Forwards: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony
Centers: Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh
Can you imagine any team in the world that could beat them?
And yet a team without a single NBA player, Greece, beat this team in 2006 (101-95).
TeamUSA even had amazingly capable backup players such as Shane Battier, Brad Miller, Elton Brand, Antawn Jamison, Kirk Hinrich and Joe Johnson. And “Redeem Team” coach, Mike Krzyzewski was at the helm.
How could a team like this lose, much less lose to a team lacking any NBA All Stars?
And just THINK about how similar the 2006 losing team was in personnel to the 2008 Olympic gold medal team. Both teams had:
Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and Mike Krzyzewski.
So why did USA only win a Bronze medal in 2006, yet win in convincing fashion a Gold Medal in the 2008 Olympics?
What is the difference?
In 2008, for the Olympics, Team USA added a man with a heart of a true champion.
Coach Krzyzewski said Bryant completely changed the team. He said that when the other players saw Kobe’s work ethic and competitive intensity, they were shocked. And shamed. Kobe caused every other player on Team USA to raise their own standards for preparation and work ethic.
Before Kobe, Team USA was a group of determined players who felt they should win because they were so great. After Kobe, Team USA was transformed into a team with the heart to do whatever it takes to win.
It’s hard to keep from smirking whenever you hear some passionate LeBron apologist talking about the sacrifice LeBron made when he took his talents to South Beach.
When Karl Malone went to the Lakers in 2003-2004, it was the very late twilight of his career — the last year he ever played in fact. And it was at a time when the Jazz had no hope of a championship. That is what a person with some character would do. And Malone only signed on for 1 year, and he did it for the veteran’s minimum salary.
There is nothing about Lebron’s situation that is comparable.
It’s not like Lebron James is old and on the verge of retirement.
It’s not like Lebron was stuck in a situation where winning a championship was hopeless.
Lebron James gave up on a team that went to the NBA Finals, and then went on to have the best record in the NBA two years in a row, and he appeared to have given up on the Cavaliers while still playing for them in the playoffs against Boston.
Lebron James is insanely gifted, and probably has more going for him physically than Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan did. Nevertheless, by pressing the easy button rather than stepping up to battle each worthy nemesis of his time, Lebron has now guaranteed his legacy will never be as awe-inspiring as the accomplishments of his would be peers.
I will forget my own name before I will forget how Michael Jordan earned his first championship. The world watched with reverent respect as Michael Jordan cradled the Larry O’Brien trophy like a rescued child, unashamedly crying in huge sobs.
There will be no such joy when LeBron holds his first trophy, not for America, and not for him.
James groupies can quote stats all they want, but all the stats in the world could never compensate for the evidence we now have that when it comes to winning, Lebron James clearly doesn’t have the heart of a Michael Jordan, or even a Kobe Bryant.
Neither of them would have reached for the Easy Button, much less hit it.