The Great Debate – Jordan vs. James

Opening note – this post is a week late.  Last week was “Jordan Week,” which was a week long celebration of Michael Jordan’s career for his 50th birthday.  I, however, decided to write about how much I hate baseball.  Which also would have been topical during Jordan Week because the worthless sport of baseball kept MJ from winning a couple more championships.  Oh, missed opportunities.

I was born in 1985, which was one year after Michael Jordan began his professional basketball career.  I was six years old when he, and the Chicago Bulls, won their first NBA championship and began a three-peat.  I watched the Dream Team in 1992, and had a poster of them on my wall (which made meeting David Robinson in person last year one of the coolest moments of my life, but that’s for another time).  I was crushed when he announced he was leaving the Bulls to play professional baseball, but was ecstatic when he announced his return in 1995.  95-96, 96-97, and 97-98 were probably the highlight of my basketball fanhood.

Michael Jordan was my favorite basketball player during a period when sports heroes still meant something (to me, anyway).  Guys like Reggie White, John Elway, Ken Griffey Jr., and the combination of Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux (yeah, I used to like baseball) were up there on my list of sports heroes, but none compared to MJ.  I mean, Space Jam still is one of my favorite movies.  I’m serious.  A movie where Michael Jordan saves the cartoon world is still, to this day, one of my favorite movies.

I graduated high school in 2003.  My senior year, during basketball season, we were talking about this kid in Ohio named Lebron James that was surely going to go straight to the NBA from high school.  His games were on ESPN.  Regular season high school basketball games, on ESPN.  I don’t remember it that well, but I’m pretty sure that was ridiculous at the time.

Lebron has lived up to the hype.  He made a terrible team into a very good team, leading the awful Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA finals one year.  He’s had highlight after highlight, and has become the face of the NBA.  Not bad for a guy my age.

But Lebron James is one of the most hated athletes in professional sports.  Even before “The Decision,” people were down on the guy.  And, hey, I’m not here to defend him.  He doesn’t need it.  But haters gonna hate, and hate they did.  “The Decision” happened and hate for King James reached an all time high.  (“The Decision” – you know, that time Lebron announced he was “taking his talents to South Beach” and then gave like $6 million to charity?  What a jerk).

Then last season, he won an NBA championship, as well as his second Olympic gold medal, and it seemed like the hate died down some.  Then this year the guy took his game to a ridiculous level.  He is destroying people right now.

But I’m not here to debate who was better (yes, this is a misleading blog title, but so was my last one).  I’ve just been fascinated with the almost uncritical love for Jordan and the completely irrational hate for Lebron (unless you’re a Cavs fan.  But if you’re a Cavs fan, we all just feel sorry for you anyway).  Why is this?

One reason might be because the eras are just different.  In the 13 or so years since Jordan retired (and no, the Wizard years don’t count), the culture of sports has changed.  Seemingly every athlete has some major character flaw in there somewhere that was bad enough to make us question everyone.  And like I said – MJ was my hero when sports heroes were big deals.  I mean, seriously, he made Space Jam.  But we all do that.  Our generation’s stuff is always better than the next generation’s stuff.  Listen to your parents, or older siblings, talk about music, or TV, or movies.  And then look at the crap the next generation is mindlessly consuming (Twilight….seriously?).

Another reason, and I think the main reason, is the Internet has caused cynicism to grow and grow and grow.  Just think if Jordan had played in the Twitter era.  Imagine if Jordan’s flaws (and there were many) were as scrutinized as  much as Lebron’s.  Twitter and the blogosphere were, at one time, designed to have fun and keep up with people and news, but now it’s just devolved into being cynical about everything.  I know because I’m a part of it.  But that’s another post for another day.

The Jordan/James debate boils down to this – championships.  I don’t think that’s an entirely fair thing to solely base greatness on, but the OMG JORDAN WON SIX LEBRON HASN’T WON ANY ONLY WON ONE is the default answer to the argument every time.  And that part of the debate won’t be resolved until Lebron’s career ends.  Maybe he’ll get to six.  Maybe more.  Dude’s playing the best basketball of his life right now, and it’s hard to see anyone but himself slowing him down any time soon.

But regardless of who’s better, I’m glad to say I got to see two of the greatest basketball players in the history of the world play during my lifetime.

And that Michael Jordan saved Bugs Bunny and co.

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