It is the bar set for LeBron James — Michael Jordan set it.
LeBron’s game is really more Magic Johnson — an oversized ball handler on the perimeter with great vision who breaks the mold of what we expect. But Jordan with his six rings and massive collection of hardware — not to mention the iconic status and ownership of the basketball shoe market to this day — is the measuring stick.
Dwyane Wade, speaking before his adult basketball camp with Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel, compared LeBron to Jordan.
“He’s on that level,” Wade said, “but he has a lot more to do to get there. I think he understands he has an unbelievable opportunity to be one of the greatest to play this game. But that’s when he gets done playing, he can say that.
“Right now, he has so much more to cover in his career. He’s just getting started at the same time when Michael kind of just got started. We’ll see how it all shakes out. I hope it shakes out the same way. I’ll be a very happy man.”
Yes, get anywhere near that legacy and Wade will be quite happy.
LeBron’s last season in the NBA — NBA MVP, NBA title, NBA finals MVP — followed by a gold medal in the Olympics was Jordan like.
But the problem with comparing legacies with Jordan is not just the hardware — LeBron needs a handful more rings — it’s the iconic status. Jordan gambled off the court, Jordan left the game for a couple years to play baseball, Jordan was at times a brutal teammate and it’s all sort of romanticized. It’s all seen as an outgrowth of just who he was.
In today’s media and Internet age no player will be able to maintain that kind of legacy. LeBron certainly made mistakes with “the decision” but in this age they will never be glossed over as Jordan’s were. That is neither right nor wrong, it just is. It’s a fact of the changing times that LeBron can’t control.
What he can control is what he does on the court, and there he seems to be playing like a man with his burden lifted. And that could be bad news for the rest of the league. And it could bring him Jordan’s legacy.
As for what he is doing right now, from Wade to Team USA coaches they are calling it Jordanesque.