Anyone who has read this blog for any significant time knows that I chastise LeBron James regularly for his arrogance, bravado, and overall lack of sportsmanship. Today, however, I have to come to his defense. Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley publicly criticized James’ move to the Miami Heat last week to join fellow free agents Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. Jordan said he would have never called Magic Johnson or Larry Bird to go build a super team. Barkley pretty much echoed Jordan’s sentiments when asked in a separate interview.
Somewhere in the quest for championship rings, basketball lost its standing as a team sport. It’s no longer good enough to be on a great team. You have to be “The Man” on that team. This selfish thought process leads to a lot of revisionist history and people making irresponsible statements. I looked up all of the NBA Champions dating back to 1976. Why ’76? It was the year I was born. There have been 34 NBA Champions crowned. Thirty of the eventual champions had two or more hall of fame players on the roster. The only exceptions are the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers, 1979 Seattle Supersonics, 1994 Houston Rockets, and the 2004 Detroit Pistons.
Even the exceptions have exceptions. Although Bill Walton is the only hall of fame player from the ’77 championship team, five of his teammates had their numbers retired by the Trail Blazers. Dennis Johnson had help from leading scorer Gus Williams in ’79. Williams’ number has also been retired by the Supersonics. Hakeem Olajuwon was teammates with Robert Horry in ’94. Horry is the only man in NBA history to win seven championship rings and not play for the Boston Celtics in the 1960’s. Moreover, Horry holds the record for most three-pointers made in the NBA Finals with 53. Jordan’s 42 is second all-time.
No one does it by themselves. While I certainly don’t approve of the way James handled his announcement, I don’t fault him for wanting to play with great players. This post is dedicated to the teammates – guys who don’t mind you standing on their shoulders. I know kids want to be like James, Bryant, Jordan, and Wade. Just keep this in mind though. Being Pippen, McAdoo, Worthy, McHale, Parish, or Hayes ain’t a bad gig either. Until next time…
Be a Good Sport!