It’s barely a month into football season, but NBA basketball is already grabbing headlines. The preseason tipped off earlier this week and various storylines are already looming ahead of the upcoming 2016-2017 season. The heroics of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in completing a dramatic comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to the Golden State Warriors in last summer’s Finals will be hard to top. But according to Chicago’s Dwyane Wade, James besting Michael Jordan’s legacy may be an even more impossible feat.
LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers (left), and Former NBA star Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan (right). (AP Photos)
“It’s not possible,” Wade told ESPN earlier in the week. “The only thing you can do is tie it. There is no 19th hole.”
Wade’s comments came in response to James’ own statements in a summer interview with Sports Illustrated, in which he said that his motivation derives from “this ghost I’m chasing…The ghost played in Chicago.” Cleveland’s win over Golden State gave James a hard-earned third title, three shy of the six titles with which Jordan retired. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate whether or not James can surpass Jordan’s legacy.
Riley: Winning three more championships just seems like a far-fetched goal before the end of what’s already been a stellar career by James. But after the performance we saw from James in the Finals, who’s going to count him out? Jordan’s legacy is held in such high regard because he was dominant on and off the court, but James has had similar success as a marketing genius. His business moves have been sound and his NBA championship count appears to be finally catching up with the superstar label he earned in a legendary prep career. Jordan’s legacy is broken up into multiple sections, and while tying or even surpassing his ring count might be asking too much, James might not even have to accomplish that to surpass Jordan.
Green: To answer the question straight up: there’s no chance. Not only is it too late for LeBron to surpass Jordan’s legacy as the greatest of all time, but in my opinion, LeBron will also never eclipse Magic Johnson for the No. 2 spot. If you want to be better than Jordan or Magic then you absolutely have to win more rings than them, first and foremost. James has been both marketable and successful on the hardwood, but he hasn’t been Jordan or Magic. Jordan was so much a brand that his shoes, made by Nike, became better known then his name instead. His jersey number, the hanging tongue and the style and the grace were all things that he unofficially branded. James is a once-in-a-lifetime talent, but the waning years of his career would have to be better than anything we’ve seen so far to approach Jordan’s legacy. At 31 years old and already 13 years in, it might be better to just appreciate James for what he’s done, because there will never be another Jordan.
Riley: At 31 years old, both Jordan and James possess the same number of titles. But we’re not talking about just career achievements, we’re talking about legacies and everything that comes with the term. It wouldn’t take James tying or besting Jordan’s ring count for him to enter the discussion of greatest player ever—because from a talent and skill standpoint, he’s already in the conversation. Titles aside, James has dominated media coverage and has been the perfect successor to Jordan as Nike’s top basketball athlete. He’s won Olympic medals and league MVPs, won Finals MVPs and dominated All-Star games. He’s won at every level that Jordan did except college, only because James left straight for the league after high school. The accolades are already there for James. He’s already the greatest ever in my opinion, but if he can nail another two championships, I think he’ll sway a lot more opinions his way.
Green: We’re so desperate for someone to top Jordan’s legacy that we’re talking about a player coming up short and still being considered better than him? That doesn’t make sense, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Kobe Bryant just retired with five championships under his belt, and we’re not even talking about his place as Jordan’s successor, giving you an example of how tough this beast is to overcome. Bryant wasn’t on James’ level as far as marketing, but it just goes to show you all that Jordan’s legacy entails. I completely agree with Wade. Chasing Jordan is fool’s gold. James’ best bet is continuing to establish his own legacy, because the odds are against him topping Jordan’s.