If you were LeBron James, you’d have thought it too.
If you gave Cleveland its first major sports title in 52 years and the first ever to the Cavaliers, you’d be emboldened.
And if you’d done it by leading the Cavs from a two-game deficit against one of the best teams in history, you might be tempted to say it aloud, with cameras rolling.
“That one right there made me the greatest player of all time … that’s what I felt,” said James in a now-famous episode of ESPN’s More Than An Athlete.
“The first wave of emotion was when everyone saw me crying, like, that was all for 52 years of everything in sports that’s gone on in Cleveland.
“And then after I stopped, I was like — that one right there made you the greatest player of all time.”
But if you’re LeBron James, you can’t say that.
Because you’ve got three championship rings and Michael has six.
That’s it. End of story. Slow your roll, young man. Let the adults speak.
“There’s a certain thing about greatness,” said Isiah Thomas, the Detroit Pistons
Hall-of-Famer and two-time champ.
“That demands that you have humility … I have never heard Michael Jordan say he’s the greatest of all time — even though he may think that. You just don’t come out and say that.”
Kevin McHale, a member of the great Boston Celtics teams of the 1980s an early ’90s, had similar thoughts.
“You don’t need to say that about yourself,” said McHale. “Let other people say that for you.
“It’s disrespectful to other players who came before you that were great, great players. You can’t compare eras … I didn’t like the way that sounded.”
In other words: Get off our lawn.
That’s not how we handle things here in the Unofficial NBA Legends Club.
Jordan has yet to publicly comment on the situation, but a 2009 interview with ESPN’s Michael Wilbon has been making the rounds on social media.
Wilbon asked Jordan if he wanted to be known as the greatest player of all time. His response was careful, measured and seemingly humble.
“I don’t want it, in a sense, because I think it disrespects Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West — you know, all the guys that, prior to me, I never had a chance to play against,” said Jordan.
“What everybody is saying I am, I never had the chance to compete against other legends that was prior to me.
“When I hear it, I cringe a little bit, because it’s a little bit embarrassing, because no one knows. I never had the chance to, once again, to play against those guys.
“I would love to have played against them, but I never did. And for you to say that I’m better than him, I mean it’s your opinion, it’s their opinion. I accept that as their opinion.
“If you ask me, I would never say that I am the greatest player. That’s because I never played against all the people that represented the league prior to Michael Jordan.”
A perfect answer from a man who rarely, if ever, said the wrong thing.
But if you watched James in that 2016 Finals series against Golden State, when he pulled the Cavs out of a 3-1 hole, you saw him on the cusp of the greatness he spoke about.
He put the team on his back, just as Jordan used to. He nearly averaged a triple-double (29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists).
He was the undisputed Finals MVP, after putting up one of the greatest performances in Finals history.
So maybe you wouldn’t say it aloud, with cameras rolling. But you’d think it.
You’d have to, because knowing you’re great is part of what makes you great.
Jordan averaged more points and steals than James during his NBA career. He had five regular-season MVPs to James’s four and six Finals MVPs to James’s three.
He was a better free-throw shooter, and was arguably a better defender. His 10 scoring titles vastly overshadow James’s one.
But James is a better rebounder, has averaged more assists and roughly the same number of blocks.
He has more All-NBA Team selections, and barring some disaster he will easily eclipse Jordan in total regular-season points, having already bested him in assists, rebounds, steals and blocks.
Jordan built the modern NBA, and James has gone a long way to guiding its next iteration.
They both personify greatness.
James said aloud what many of us were tempted to think when he brought a championship to Cleveland three seasons ago.
There’s no sense slamming him for an honest, slightly careless statement while he was among friends, perhaps not thinking about the world outside that room.
As McHale said, you can’t compare eras.
We’re not still playing by the same set of rules, either when it comes to defining greatness or in deciding who gets to acknowledge it.
The Warriors Came Out To Play This Series
Even without the fantasy Basketball of Kevin Durant in this series, the Golden State Warriors still brought out the brooms like ‘Fantasia’.
And swept out of Game 4 like Thanos click finger dust, the Portland Trailblazers may have only lost by a bucket (119-117)…and in overtime at that. But with all the Splash they had to contend with this series from brothers Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, they were left dealing with more leaks and holes in all of their own ones like Mickey Mouse in said Disney epic.
This was meant to be the showdown between Dell Curry’s boys Steph and Seth which divided a household. And although the youngest gun stepped up to the plate, swung big in this carnival and knocked them down, big brother was always watching.
Steph Curry averaged over 36 points a game this series. Just read that again. 36 points. Right now we don’t need to talk about Kevin.
The Warriors are a dynasty for the ages even without their best player (although this writer thinks he wasn’t missing this entire series). The first team to make it to five straight finals since the Boston Celtics. The 1960’s Bill Russell Celtics. That’s King James crowning legendary. And Steph Curry with the shot and that facet of the game is just as iconic and dominant as a Bill block.
Give some credit to a blazing Portland side who never gave up despite the box score. They can hold their heads in the PDX. Even in their Moda Center home-stand City Of Roses end in RIP City. Their season eulogy should read as a celebration and commiseration, not a trolling condescension from critically entitled fans who have done nothing to determine the outcome of these games and could never make it this far in their wildest memes. They call themselves “influencers”? Well no one’s going to remember them in 50 years.
The NBA will remember one of their Top 100 greatest of all-time in a half century though. As after hitting the biggest buzzer beater in playoff history against Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, Damian Lillard played through the pain of separated ribs this series and still made the Basketball God’s look down from the hoop heavens with praise. Like New York singer St. Vincent tweeted, “Damian Lillard is my hero”. Even his backcourt brother of splash CJ McCollum in the only small man set up to rival Curry and Klay came out to play against the Warriors after midrange mining the Nuggets into submission in Denver just over a week ago.
But Curry’s red hot triple double, starter, mains and dessert dish of 37, 13 and 11, to go along with a playing not crying, Draymond Green’s day of 18, 14 and 11 assists also was just too much in the clutch. As Stephen and Dray became the first teammates in NBA history to have a triple double in the same playoff game. Forget how much this team can unbelievably keep winning, how does this ball manage to get shared this much?
Well that just may be the secret of success?
The real test is dubbed next however in the Warriors last season in Golden State before they move across that Golden bridge to the Silicon Valley of a digital age in San Francisco. They will play the winner of the Milwaukee Bucks (probably…Giannis…MVP. Sorry Toronto but come on!) and Raptors series. But by then they should have some guy called Kevin back.
I mean come on. This has been getting crazy. This is just out of hand like said ball in Splash City.
Now Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics’ record of eight straight finals and wins doesn’t look far out of reach for Steph Curry and the player and team with the biggest range in the association over the gate of the Pacific.
Welcome to the Toronto Raptors’ Jurassic Park
“In Jurassic Park, Raptor fans wait until after dark. Even if the cold might eat them!”
Fans find a way.
An ace serve or two away from being as legendary as Wimbledon’s ‘Murray Mound’ or ‘Henman Hill’ outside the Scotiabank Arena, the Toronto Raptors Maple Leaf Square’s “Jurassic Park” may just be the ticket for this sold out crowd.
Raptor Klaw, Kawhi Leonard ruled the earth last night. He and the T-Dot at the final tick beat the Sixers in The Six, as his shot bobbled like a beach ball on the surface of a swimming pool before making the biggest splash of these postseason playoffs. Taking longer to fall than Leonardo DiCaprio’s spinning top in ‘Inception’. But this was no dream.
And if you thought the Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto erupted last night, then outside in Maple Leaf Square it was like the volcanoes that killed the dinosaurs after that big ball dropped. An Armageddon even Bruce Willis couldn’t save like he wish he could his career.
Welcome to Jurassic World.
With all due respect to the Linsanity of Jeremy Lin, or pick your poison whoever is your flash card pick of the bench mob pack, but the Jurassic Park crowd fenced in outside of Scotia is the teams spiritual sixth man, spark plug. As electric as the paddock like perimeter fence surrounding them feels with this buzz over basketball (and national sport hockey come Leaf picking season), this crowd can’t be contained.
Forget rain or shine. You see the slickers. These faithful fans will pitch a spot waiting for game time like the ball to drop in Times Square for New Year in New York, sleeping bag lining up all day in their hordes huddled for warmth. These beautiful fans will brave the harshest, most frigid temperatures to be the coldest fans in the game in more ways than one. Part of the ‘We The North’ community in the 6 that the Basketball God’s look down on with pride, whilst other armchair fans watch this game for the throne from home. Or leave early like those suit and tie corporate seats trying to catch that last red eye Matt Bonner home.
Can you imagine of they called game early before Kawhi last night?
I could imagine Drake taking in the CN Tower looking up views of the Jurassic though, like it was all the basketball God’s plan.
Well those in the park for recreation stayed until the beautiful end to a game Butler almost delivered bitter. And you could could phantom cam see every emotion in slow motion last night as Leonard’s buzzer beating ball toyed with the rim like three dots on messenger, or Damien Lillard even further downtown in Oklahoma City.
This is the spirit of the stadium and the soul of the squad, expanding the capacity arena and the Canadian ballclubs worldwide fanbase watching on their own Jumbotrons.
And the Toronto Raptors are going to need all the north they can get if they’re going to stop the Bucks in Milwaukee.
But this club has the claws to do it. And if you don’t think they can win in Wisconsin on their own road to being the first franchise outside of the United States to be NBA finalists and who knows what next against the Warriors(?), then just watch this Canadian cornerstone from the Jurassic era.
Extinct in six? Nah! Get ready to hear the North roar.