I’ve heard the stories about the night the Pistons eliminated the Bulls from the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals. After a grueling 7 game series in which Michael Jordan and the Bulls were beaten, physically, emotionally, mentally, Jordan sat on the team bus with his father. He cried. He screamed. What if he never had another shot like this? How were the Bulls going to get over the hump? He was angry. He was hurt. His heart was bruised. His heart took a beating that series. Not because anyone questioned it. He went down swinging, doing any and everything he could to keep the Bulls alive. No, his heart had to endure his team’s greatest shot at a title (thus far) slowly slipping away. Instead of succumbing to defeat, the pain fueled him. We know the rest.
Last night Lebron James sat at the podium and essentially told the “little people” that they could stop hating on him and the Heat. He told them that they could go back to their ordinary lives. Last summer he went on national television and spurned the ordinary fans of Cleveland. He was breaking their ordinary hearts and taking his talents, as well as a fat paycheck, to Miami. The Heat made it to the finals and Lebron showed the world what many of us knew during last year’s playoffs. He has no ticker. He checked out. Physically. Mentally. There was nowhere to hide. On a national level we saw the NBA’s premier “talent” crumble. We were witness to an ordinary heart. And there he sat after the game, telling people, many of whom have extraordinary hearts in living the daily grind on a planet called reality, to go back to their ordinary lives. The people who flock to arenas and pay the ticket prices which make his extraordinary salary possible.
The NBA Finals kicked off amidst a slew of Michael and Lebron comparisons. Writers, analysts, and former players chimed in. Talent, athleticism, shooting, passing, rebounding, clutchness, any stat that could be compared was compared. Most still gave Michael the nod. Others said that Lebron has the potential to one day be the greatest. But we all just bared witness to the single most intangible quality that was beyond comparison. In defeat, Michael bared the blame, the hurt, and the loss. It strengthened his resolve. He showed his heart. Lebron turned the blame outward. I won’t pretend to know what he thinks about this latest failure. But in defeat, Lebron decided to deflect the blame and show us all how small his heart really is. Bill Russell once said the thing that stood out about Jordan the most was this, “He’s determined to be Michael Jordan every night”. What would he say about Lebron?
Daniel MazlerTwitter - @DMazzle