Published on June 20th, 2016 | by Thompson0
LeBron eclipses Jordan, forever chasing Ali
LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of all time. After leading in all five of the major categories — points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks — over a seven-game series for the first time in the history of playoff basketball, we can end this irrelevant debate. And this is coming from a long-time fan of Michael Jordan’s and an initial James’ hater.
I was mad at James for leaving Cleveland despite not paying much attention to the NBA after Jordan retired for the last time. Maybe it was the way James announced all the rings they would win, but my heroes stuck around and played for bad teams until they became elite. They didn’t chase rings by assembling trios in big markets. They got better, played tough defense and built chemistry. But with James beating the better team, something Jordan never did, he’s eclipsed him on the court and off.
Both LeBron and Jordan are athletic businessmen. LeBron, like Jordan, aspires to be an owner of an NBA team, something that will cost him billions, which he makes wearing shoes — not playing basketball. But Jordan was never the man LeBron is, and it took me a long while to realize that. I loved Jordan for the same reasons most casual fans loved him. He played above the rim, overcame just about everything and was marketed better than any athlete ever. There’s one man who didn’t need help marketing — Muhammad Ali.
I heard someone ask recently, “Who cares about Ali’s funeral? Every time a n***** dies we gonna give him a parade?” I proceeded to interject that Ali transcended race and religion, which is why he deserved a parade. He fought to make black beautiful and powerful and urged others to embrace their blackness, because not doing so was just another form of racism. He also fought for the rights of all religious Americans by not fighting. The conscientious objector defense exists for all religious peoples thanks to him. I’m not even a religious man, and I appreciate that.
LeBron has embraced the work of Ali more so than his predecessor, Jordan. Whether it’s responding to the NYPD murder of Eric Garner by motivating athletes to wear “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts, lip-syncing “black to the bone” from Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terrordome” in an advertisement, or paying $41 million for 1,100 Akron high school seniors to go to college who otherwise wouldn’t, the King is not only more athletic, but a better humanitarian than His Airness.
James and Ali were nearly the same age when overcoming their biggest obstacle. For James, it was winning one for his home. For Ali, it was winning back the title stripped from him after being sentenced to five years in prison for refusing Army induction. King James will forever chase “The Greatest” — a name Ali made outside the ring — but at least James realizes it.