LeBron Hits A Home Run With Return To Cleveland

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I’ve been hard on LeBron James in the past. I wasn’t a fan of how he left the Cleveland Cavaliers with “the decision”, and I thought it took him out of the conversation of all time greatest.

Mind you, prior to his leaving Cleveland I was a big fan of LeBron’s. And as big of a Michael Jordan fan as I am, for the first time, I thought one of the so-called heir apparents, LBJ, actually had a chance to eclipse MJ. So, while I wasn’t in the burning jerseys crowd, and I did think Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert went too far in his letter in response to the decision, I was feeling some sports hate (not to be confused with actual hate), for LeBron.

But his return to the  Cleveland Cavaliers and his letter on Sports Illustraded.Com has me feeling the sports love (not to be confused with actual love) for LeBron. He opened himself up, shared honestly, took the high road in looking past Gilbert’s letter, and took ownership for his owns actions.

One of LeBron’s biggest cheerleaders, ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, says it is now as if “the decision” never happened. I can’t go that far. From the point of view of how he handled the decision, yes, that part I can mostly agree with. It is officially time to move on from that aspect of it. (I have always tried to go by the saying, forgive don’t forget, learn don’t regret)

However, I still think his leaving Cleveland and needing Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat, champions prior to his arrival, to get over the hump, takes him out of the Jordan conversation. Colin will point out that Jordan never won until Scottie Pippen arrived. But the point Colin leaves out is that Pippen never won without Jordan as D. Wade did without James.

The leadership, the dual press conferences, Wade being a closer, these are things Jordan didn’t need from Pippen that helped LeBron grow as a player on and off the court.

I still think had LeBron never left Cleveland he was physically talented enough to lead them to a championship, but perhaps needed to grow mentally. And the truth is, by his own admission, he has. And that is a good thing. Besides, there are more important things in life than being the best of all time in basketball. And there is nothing wrong with being just one of the best. Even his most ardent haters can’t take that away from him.

Haters and cynics may cling to arguments like, well if the Heat were better positioned, if Wade wasn’t on his downside, if Cleveland didn’t have Kyrie Irving and a good foundation, or if there was a better option with another team, blah, blah, blah he wouldn’t have come back. All that is irrelevant. Bottom line is LeBron, as the most powerful man in the game, had all the choices in the world. He could have:

  • Went on a ring hunt, and joined teams like the Chicago Bulls.
  • He could have taken a two-year deal with a one year opt out to see how Miami retooled.
  • Or taken a similar deal to play with the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony (someone he has allegedly always wanted to play with).   And made max money in a year.

He could have done any of the above and more and still returned to Cleveland in the future. But he chose to go home now. He chose to take the high road with his former owner and see things from his and the fans perspective. He chose to do what was best for his family (something many say but do not follow through on). He chose a young team with promising talent but far from a guarantee of a championship.

I hope it doesn’t come easy, and that he and Cleveland have to work their way through it. Like Jordan’s Bulls had to do it with the Detroit Pistons, but it would be a nice story to see James lead Cleveland to a championship.

 

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An X-Factor Regarding Michael Sam

michael SamFor the most part the media response I have been hearing about Michael Sam coming out as being gay is exactly as it should be.  Supportive, encouraging and welcoming of Mr. Sam.  I often give ESPN’s Colin Cowherd a tough time but I think he spoke beautifully on the topic on his 2/10 radio show that you can download as a podcast. 

I applaud Sam’s courage, I applaud the support he received from his college at Missouri.  It’s about time, it’s overdue and I am glad this moment in history has arrived. 

Two prominent NFL team owners, Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots and the New York Giants Co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch have voiced support for Sam.  And other teams have released supportive statements as well.

On the other side, there have been anonymous general managers who have said that Sam’s draft status will fall as a result of his announcement because some locker rooms aren’t ready for an openly gay player.  Even those on the side of Sam, who are being very supportive, such as First Takes’ Steven A. Smith, acknowledge this is possible.  And that there can be locker room issues that are not necessarily related to discrimination. 

Whenever you are dealing with firsts, there are a lot of things that are possible, but you do not let it stop you from doing the right thing.  (Steven A. never suggested not drafting Sam.  He is strongly on the young man’s side.)

As far as the locker room goes, here is where the X-factor comes in.  Michael Sam may be the first openly gay player in the NFL, but he will not be the only gay player.  Odds are, whatever teams drafts him will have at least one gay player as well. 

IF Sam is having problems in the locker room because of his sexual orientation, will they stay silent?  I won’t judge them for not “coming out” previously; I can’t understand what it is like to be in their position.  But I would think, and hope, that they would feel a call to stand up for Sam should the need arise.  I would also hope that leaders of the team, whether they are gay or not, would also step forward if need be.  Ideally, they do so on day one before there is issue and firmly let everyone know there will be no issue.

For example, if Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady stood up in front of the team the first day of training camp and told everyone this is how it is going to be, zero tolerance for discrimination, or you’re out of here, I have a feeling things would be okay in the locker room.  Same thing if John Elway, Jon Fox, and Peyton Manning did so for the Denver Broncos, and so on.  They may not be first ballet hall of famers, but all teams have their leaders, here is hoping they will do the right thing if their team drafts Sam.

Given the overall positive response to Sam, I don’t see it being nearly as long for someone else to come out.  Whether it is on Sam’s team or not, he will have company soon.   I believe this X-factor can help.

A note of caution.  While people with good intention should and will be quick to defend Sam against any sexuality-based discrimination, no one should assume it when it isn’t there or without evidence.

People who don’t know about the game will hear glowing facts like defensive player of the year,  and college All-American, and cry foul over a draft projection for Sam of being in the 3rd through 5th round.  Based on the comparables, or comparisons to similar players in terms of height, speed and ability, that sounds right.  

Keep in mind, great college players don’t always make great, or even good football players.  The Heisman Trophy is awarded to the college football’s best player, and Heisman winners are often not first or second round picks, or even make it in the NFL.

It is also possible a team thinking of drafting Sam  would be concerned about cutting him if he is not one of the best 53 players in camp.  Then a team that did the right thing by disregarding his sexual orientation by drafting him, could fear accusations of discrimination.  Obviously if there was any evidence of that it would have to be followed up.  But only if there is actual evidence to support it.

Another possibility, (although my gut tells me otherwise), that Sam could fall to a lower round beyond the 5th.  Not necessarily because of his sexuality, but because his sexuality could be viewed as a distraction.  Generally your 3rd through 5th round draft pick does not get more attention than your first round pick.  Or your entire team for that matter.  Regardless of the reason, teams generally do not like distractions like that.  Whether the cause of the distraction is sexuality, religion or whatever, unless you are an upper echelon player, some teams will turn away.

Ultimately, I think it will be a team with strong leadership that drafts him.  If I was player, I would rather go in the 6th or 7th  round, as opposed to the 4th or 5th, if it meant going to an organization like New England, the New York Giants, Seattle, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, or Denver, just to name some.  Draft position falling can sometimes be a blessing in disguise.

Wherever he lands, I’ll be rooting for him to succeed (with the possible exception of if he is drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, sorry, I’m a Giants fan, lol).  It took too long, but now that an openly gay player is here, hopefully he paves the way for others, not only in the NFL, but for major league baseball, and other sports as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Correcting ESPN’s Colin Cowherd Again

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It this week’s edition of correcting ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, the subject is Los Angeles Laker coach Mike D’Antoni.  On his radio show simulcast on ESPNU, this past Monday, the Herd wanted to make the case that going forward D’Antoni was the wrong coach for Lakers.  And more specifically he’s wrong for Laker center and now free agent Dwight Howard.

This is a fair and debatable topic that I have no problem with.  I can understand both points of view.  In fact I recently wrote a blog that the Lakers, New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder might be haunted by not hiring Phil Jackson.

durantanthonyI would also take Kevin Durant over Carmelo Anthony.  Doesn’t mean Anthony isn’t a great basketball player.

Where the Herd went wrong is when he went all “shock jock” and started talking out of his rear-end slamming D’Antoni.  His over the top rant was that D’Antoni always under performed as a head coach in the playoffs.

This is absurd.  Two minutes of fact checking disproves this.  There is no reason for The Herd not to know this.

So let’s look at the facts.  Mike D’Antoni inherited a terrible team, mid-season, when he was the coach of the Phoenix Suns.  He was 20-41 in 2003/04.  He went on to coach for four full seasons.  How did the Suns do in the playoffs in those years?

  • 2004-5:   They lose in the Western Conference Finals to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs. (Who beat the defending champion Detroit Pistons.)
  • 2005-6: They lose in the Western Conference Finals to the higher seeded Dallas Mavericks.
  • 2006-7: They lose in the Western Conference Semi-Finals to the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.   This is the year where Robert Horry gave Steve Nash a cheap shot in front of Phoenix’s bench that led to some suspensions of player’s like Amar’e Stoudemire.  The Spurs also won a game in this series thanks to a Tim Duncan three-point shot sending the game into O.T.  Not exactly a failure of strategy.
  • 2007-8:  Lost in the first round to the higher seeded San Antonio Spurs.
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Robert Horry hip checks Steve Nash in the closing seconds of a playoff game where the outcome was no longer in doubt.

Saying D’Antoni always under performed because he primarily couldn’t get by Gregg Popovich and the Spurs dynasty is like saying Pat Riley under performed as head coach of the Knicks because NY couldn’t get past Phil Jackson and the Bulls.

Which series, specifically, did D’Antoni under perform Herd?  Hhmm??

Yes Colin, D’Antoni did have two-time MVP Steve Nash.  But not many would make the argument he was the best player in the game.  In fact many made the argument that Shaquille O’Neal deserved the MVP  one of those years.  But no doubt Nash was great.  You know who else is great Herd?  Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

In New York, D’Antoni inherited a team that was in massive salary cap dump mode to clear room to try to lure Lebron James as a free agent.  Between roster turnover, injury, and the lockout, it is hard to slam D’Antoni for his one first round playoff loss to the Boston Celtics while in NY.

In L.A… He is hired after the start of the season.  So no training camp.  Pau Gasol misses significant time due to injury.  Steve Nash misses time due to injury including some playoff games.  Kobe Bryant misses the playoffs.  Dwight Howard isn’t fully recovered from back surgery, and tears a labrum in his shoulder.  Metta-World-Peace has knee surgery during the season.

This is just part of the Laker’s laundry list of things that went wrong this season.  And as a seventh seed they lose to D’Antoni’s old nemesis the San Antonio Spurs.  Is this a clear example of under performing?

Whether it is Phil Jackson or anyone else Herd, if you want to make a case for a different coach make it.  But don’t slander a coach and misrepresent the record.  You might be able to make a point about a D’Antoni team under performing in a season or two but always? Not even close.

And as I have stated when talking about your assaults on Michael Jordan when deifying Lebron James, you have three hours, five days a week, so you do have time to get stories right.

The reasons he doesn’t?   The choices are:

  • He and his production team are incompetent.
  • They’re negligent.
  • He has a vendetta against D’Antoni.
  • He is a shock jock for ratings and doesn’t care whose career or reputation he might hurt.

You’re good enough without this Colin.  You should clean it up.

ESPN’s Colin Cowherd’s Rant That Could Actually Kill You

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Irresponsible journalism as it pertains to the sports world is one thing.  It can be annoying but it is basically harmless.  Irresponsible journalism when it comes to health can cause harm, and even death.

I have fun arguing against Colin Cowherd at times in my blog.  Sometimes he can be insightful, and others he is being a shock jock just trying to get attention.  Propping up Lebron James and putting down Michael Jordan may be committing sports sacrilege to many, but again, ultimately harmless.

On his ESPN radio show this morning Cowherd wanted to rant about things that get a bad reputation.  His main point was about college basketball’s, Syracuse Orangemen’s, zone defense.  On his points here I agree.

However, he set the Syracuse piece up by using salt as his first example.  He lauded all of the wonderful uses of salt.  How it enhances the flavor of food, melts the snow, and so on.  And in truth, salt is a necessary electrolyte that you could die without.  According to the US Center for Disease Control you do need about 180 mg to 500 mg per day.

But sodium and its excessive intake by many Americans is a contributing cause to heart disease and other maladies.  In his opening salvo, the Herd didn’t mention this.  He made it sound like salt was heavenly divine–all good.  Later into his Syracuse rant he did squeeze in the following, “Eat a canister of salt and your heart will explode”.  Too little too late Colin.  A canister?  A canister sounds like a lot.  Maybe enough to explode the hearts of three families of five.  Certainly a canister is a lot more than a teaspoonful.

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According to the Mayo Clinic a teaspoon of salt contains 2,325 milligrams of sodium.  Do you know what the maximum recommended allowance of sodium is for an adult over the age of 50?  1,500 mg.  If you’re an adult under 50 it is 2,300 mg.  So with just one teaspoonful of salt a day you exceed that.  Also, according to Mayo, the average American consumes 3,400 mg of sodium a day.

What’s the big deal you might say?  According to ABC News.com, a Harvard research team just released a study stating that 1 in 10 deaths in the U.S. is a result of high sodium intake.  Last I checked Herd, the Syracuse zone never killed anyone.

This was an irresponsible presentation by Cowherd.  One that I hope his listeners don’t suffer for.  One that I hope is brought to his attention so he can rectify it by providing his audience balanced information.

Why Michael Jordan Would Crush LeBron James In A One-On-One

***The blog below was originally posted on 2/14/13 on: http://sportsnuthub.com/   The site is no longer up so I am re-posting on my personal blog.

Michael Jordan excepting an NBA all-star MVP award.

Michael Jordan excepting an NBA all-star MVP award.

Wow, since I wrote my recent blog about ESPN’s Colin Cowherd’s insane mission to tear down Michael Jordan while building up LeBron James, (Click Here), the Herd has only become more obsessed with the subject.  Today, I heard him talk about the prospects of the two playing in a one on one.  He talked about a majority of fans saying Michael would win.  The Herd dismisses this as fans liking Michael more than LeBron.

ESPN radio and TV personality Colin Cowherd

ESPN radio and TV personality Colin Cowherd

He suggests we take the emotion out of it, and he poses this question: “what if I asked you who would win in a one on one between person “A” and person “B”?  Person A is bigger, faster, stronger, and oh by the way a better ball handler”.  (Nice sarcasm Herd.  Is sarcasm an emotion?)  Of course, person A in this fantasy example is LeBron James.

The Herd also states on many occasions LeBron is a better rebounder and passer than Michael.  (Though he still claims to think Jordan is the better player.)

Here is the problem with the Herd’s “A” and “B” scenario.  He leaves out a big part of what makes Jordan, Jordan.  Even if I cede all of the Herd’s other points, lets now say player B is more clutch, handles pressure better, and has more intangibles.  And just to be clear, player B is Jordan!

If the one on one were played in a local YMCA, with nobody watching, I would give LeBron a chance.  I’d still take Jordan, but LeBron might be able to keep it close.  If the hypothetical match-up were held in prime-time, on national TV, and on a neutral site like Madison Square Garden in New York, or the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Jordan would win easily.

From his sometimes disappearances late in playoff games, late game free throw shooting percentage (and his hesitancy to go to rim late in games because of free throws), and never hitting a walk off shot, his abilities here are far from elite.  LeBron is unquestionably awesome, but that type of pressure is not his thing.  He certainly doesn’t measure up to Jordan in this category.

Further, LeBron has never entered an NBA dunking contest in his career.

lebron_dunkThis doesn’t make sense considering his ability and desire to build a billion dollar global brand.  Something dominating a dunking contest could have helped.  I can only speculate that he weighed the risk of losing as outweighing the gain of winning.  What other stars of his caliber, ability, and name, have passed on the contest their entire career?  I don’t think he could take the pressure to win despite the fact he would have been a worthy favorite.

True, it is fair to say the book is still open on LeBron, as his career is in progress, but any inference he could take Michael in a one on one now is premature.

I’m going to end this blog with an example comic book fans might enjoy.  The Incredible Hulk and The Thing, (from The Fantastic Four), are two or Marvel Comics physically strongest characters.

Hulk_Vs_ThingThey fight a lot.  The Hulk always wins.  (At least back in my collecting days). However, there was one storyline where their minds switched bodies, and in this issue, The Thing, with the Hulk’s mind, won the fight.  The moral of the story is The Thing always had the physical tools, but lacked the mental abilities, whether it was courage, belief in himself, ability to handle pressure, or smarts, etc., to beat the Hulk.

Staring each other down in their prime, I know Michael would have the belief, down to the core of his being, he could win.  He would easily handle the pressure.  Do you think LeBron would have that same belief and be able to handle the pressure just as well?  I don’t.

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Update:  Here is who Magic Johnson thinks would win between Michael and LeBron.  (Hint, the Herd might not want to read) Click here.

 

The Super Bowl In The Northeast? It’s A No-Brainer

***The blog below was originally posted on 2/13/13 on: http://sportsnuthub.com/   The site is no longer up so I am re-posting on my personal blog.

metlifestadiumJust as instant replay was long overdue by the time the NFL adopted it, so too is it overdue to play the super bowl in the big bad northeast and other cold climates.  Still a year away, the sports world is abuzz with the 2014 big game being scheduled at MetLife stadium in New Jersey.

I’m excited about it.  And so should fans of cold weather teams who don’t play in domes.  Why?  Because for the first time since the SB’s inception these fans can dream about the possibility of their team playing at home in the big game.

The two main reasons being offered as to why the super bowl should not be held in cold weather include:

  • You don’t want the game decided by bad weather and the elements.
  • The super bowl is not just a game it is an event and the weather could wreak havoc for travelers and the events leading up to the game.
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Lambeau Field’s nickname “The Frozen Tundra” was spawned by the Ice Bowl between the Packers & the Cowboys, played on December 31, 1967. Source: http://tinyurl.com/bkjgwj6

If the first reason were true then football should never be played in cold weather, and all cold weather cities should be required to have a dome stadium.  Not going to happen, nor should it.  Football’s history is rich in cold weather tradition.  Does the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field ring any bells?

 

 

In essence, changing the rules or standards of play for the final game is ridiculous and unfair.  If it is okay for the 1981 San Diego Chargers to lose a conference championship game in –59 degrees with wind-chill, its okay for the super bowl to possibly be played with some snowflakes and cold.

Oftentimes, teams will build their franchise around: their stadium, the climate, or team strengths.  As a fan of northeast football growing up the saying was: passing is fine in September but to win in December and January you have to be able to run the ball.  By denying the cold locations its fair turn in the SB, you’re manipulating the game’s outcome.

Imagine if this year’s MVP, Adrian Peterson, and comeback player of the year, Peyton Manning, were to square off in next year’s super bowl.  If the game is in Miami, clear advantage to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.  Since the game is in New Jersey with cold and windy conditions?  That tips the scale to Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings.

Till now, the passing teams have always had the unearned advantage in the super bowl and that is not fair.  Now the door is open for each team to have a lottery ticket with regards to the surface, and the conditions, playing to their advantage in the year they make it to the SB.

Another question I have is when did this collision sport, football, become so pristine?

Baseball doesn’t put the World Series in a dome so wind blowing in or out of the stadium doesn’t cause or rob home runs– thus having an effect on the game’s outcome.

Tennis, “a gentleman’s game”, determines two of its four major championships, Wimbledon and The French Open, on clay and grass.  Two surfaces that can give uneven bounces and can be inconsistent.  But tennis doesn’t switch to a hard court for the finals to get a truer bounce and prevent a bad bounce from determining anything.

As for the SB being an “event” not suited for cold weather, I have two words for you:  Winter Olympics.  Somehow people manage to go where the games are and rough the elements.

I suppose we could hold the Winter Olympics in June or in California but then it wouldn’t be the Winter Olympics!  What it boils down to is football a warm or cold weather sport?

The truth is, it is a great game in both and there is no reason to ignore the cold weather dome-less cities.  It will bring a new exciting buildup to the game, and lord knows the talking heads need some new angles to talk about.

Besides, with this year’s power outage in New Orleans, the possibility of earthquakes in California, (see the 1989 world series) and the fact that more storms hit Florida than any other state, there are no guarantees no matter where you play the game.  To avoid the cold out of fear is UN-NFL like, and UN-American.

An actual trivial third reason I heard ESPN’s Colin Cowherd talking about on the radio is:  what about the halftime show and the notion you can’t do it in cold weather.  The halftime show?  Really??  Too Cowherd’s credit, he nailed the response here when he commented that the show doesn’t have to be at the stadium.  Cut to Radio City, cut to the planet Mars, just don’t let halftime show considerations get in the way of what is right.

Final thought on the 2014 super bowl being played in the home of the New York Football Giants: to quote, Bart Scott,  “Can’t Wait”.

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About the Author:

Jeff Schubert

Formally the host/executive producer of the live web show Filmnut, http://thestream.tv/filmnut, Jeff Schubert now turns his research and writing abilities to sports. In the last couple of years, Schubert started a sports blog on Yahoo and WordPress.  Schubert grew up in New York City where he became a fan of the empire (N.Y Yankees) at an early age. The New York Football Giants would soon become his favorite team lead by his favorite athlete, Phil Simms. His favorite sports are Pro football, baseball, basketball, and tennis. As a blogger, Schubert is no homer. Nor does he just stick to writing about players and teams. Like many other fan of sports, the arrogance the blowhards on TV and radio display gets on his nerves. They think they know more then they really do and they need to be held accountable… And then God said let there be a blogosphere!

Why does ESPN’s Colin Cowherd hate Michael Jordan?

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ESPN radio and talk show host Colin Cowherd has his pet issues that he has made his mission to influence his audience with.  For instance: telling us Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo is better than we think, and that N.Y. Jet QB Mark Sanchez is as good as the N.Y. Giant’s Eli Manning at the same juncture of their careers.

Annoying as those are, they pale in comparison to what must keep the Herd up at night, and that is that we should all worship Lebron James (LBJ).  He won’t say it but he thinks King James is better than Michael Jordan.  But that is not enough, he finds it necessary to tear down Jordan every time he builds up Lebron.  It would be as if a sportscaster couldn’t say something good about Albert Pujols without trying to diminish Babe Ruth.

Oh he’ll preface any foray into this area by saying he doesn’t hate Jordan and that Michael is the best ever… before he proceeds to diminish Jordan’s career and prop up his fave, LBJ.  This is kind of like Jeff Daniels’ character on the HBO show, The Newsroom, he claims to be a registered republican and then proceeds to bash republicans and agree with democrats the entire time.  Yes Mr. Sorkin, some of us do catch that.

I observed Cowherd’s love affair with Lebron since “the decision” and his never-ending defense of James and his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers.  To listen to Colin, James’ teammates had the skill level of mentally challenged teenage girls, while Jordan played with eleven hall of famers.

Granted this isn’t world news, but the Herd’s reporting here is irresponsible.  The fact that he repeats it so often is troubling because I do not think he, nor his staff are incompetent.  If not incompetence than it is intentional.

Here is an example:  In defending James for leaving Cleveland to pursue his first championship in Miami, the Herd says he had too.  He didn’t have the team there.  Jordan didn’t start winning until he got Pippen, (Scottie) one of the 50 greatest players, Rodman, (Dennis) the best rebounder, Kerr, (Steve) the best three-point shooter, Toni Kukoc, the best European player and so on… That’s fascinating because I could have sworn that Dennis Rodman played on the two time defending champion Detroit Pistons that Jordan beat on the way to his first championship.  Steve Kerr was playing in Cleveland that year and Toni Kukoc was not in the NBA.  Rodman, Kukoc and Kerr were part of Jordan’s 2nd threepeat team.

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Chicago Bulls point guard, John Paxson

Since Colin says the numbers don’t lie, let’s look at the first championship team and compare that to Lebron’s Cavaliers in his final season with them.  Jordan had John Paxson at the point.  Paxson’s career stats are: 7.2 ppg, 3.6 apg, 1.2 rpg and a .355% from 3’s.  No all-star game appearances.  Lebron had Mo Williams at the point.  His career stats are: 13.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.9 rpg and.386% from 3’s.  Williams did make an All- Star team in the 2008-2009 season, the second to last for James in Cleveland.

Now lets look at the power forward position.  Not Dennis Rodman Colin, but Horace Grant was the PF for Jordan’s 1st through 3rd championship.  His career stat line is: 11.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, (3 offensive pg).  In the year they won their first title, Grant averaged 12.2 ppg and 8.4 rpg.  He had one All-Star game appearance, after they won their first championship.  Lebron’s PF was Anderson Varejao.  His stats:  7.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg (2.6 offensive pg).  In Lebron’s last year in Cleveland, Varejao averaged 8.6 ppg and 7.6 rpg.  No All-Star appearances.

At the center position, we have two past their prime players in Bill Cartright for the Bulls and all-time great, Shaquille O’Neal, for Cleveland.  Career stats really aren’t fair here so let’s look at their stats and their backups for the one season.  Shaq’s numbers: 12 ppg, 6.7 rpg  and 1.2 bpg.  His backup, Zydrunas Ilgauskas: 7.4 ppg 5.4 rpg and .8 bpg.  Bill cartright: 9.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, .2 bpg.  His backup, Will Purdue: 4.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and .8 bpg.

Of course Scottie Pippen will get a big edge over whoever we compare him to for Cleveland.  But here are the numbers, Pippen averaged 17.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 6.2 assists per game.  And he was an all-world defender.  During Lebron’s last season with Cleveland they did acquire two-time all-star Antawn Jamison and in 23 games he averaged 15.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg and just 1.3 apg.  Who knows what chemistry LBJ would have developed with Jamison had they played together a whole season the next year, given how the Herd is always trumpeting how much better Lebron makes other players.

I won’t bore you with bench stats but suffice it to say neither had a 6th man of the year riding the pines.  Leaving out MJ and Lebron, if I could complete a starting five from both teams I would take, Pippen, Shaquille, Mo Williams and Horace Grant.  Ultimately the Bulls get the edge because of Pippen, (and of course Jordan) but the disparity isn’t the gaping chasm the Herd speaks of.  Jordan could have won building with that Cavalier team, and if James was as good as the Herd says, he could have too.

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There were two schools of thought about how the Cavaliers series went against the Boston Celtics, who they lost to, in James’ last season.  One, that he was hurt and two that he quit on his own team either out of resignation or that he was disgruntled with a teammate.  Either way, it ends the conversation for me comparing him with MJ but that’s another story.  The point is, the Cav’s took a championship Celtic team that wound up losing a very tight seven game finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, to six games.  So whether James quit on his team or was hurt, they were close and could have continued to build.  A full season with Jamison, another key acquisition, the right role player, etc…

Before Jordan’s Bulls won, they had lost to the Isiah Thomas led Detroit Pistons twice; Pippen had a soft label that he suffered migraines in big moments.  There were no other all-stars or players of note on the team.  Phil Jackson wasn’t a proven commodity when hired as the head coach.  Jackson had asked Jordan to embrace a more team oriented, less shots for him, offense.  Of little notoriety at the time, MJ embraced the triangle offense.   Embracing Jackson, the offense, standing by Pippen, and the Bulls, in retrospect they seem like givens.  They weren’t.  In today’s NBA they certainly are not.  (Props to Kevin Durant for kicking it old school)

Hypothetically, MJ could have pulled a Lebron and looked to get out.  (If not by free agency then by trade.) The 80’s and 90’s mentality was to fight your way through your roadblock or die trying. Not go around it.  In fact it is not difficult for me to imagine if Lebron and Jordan had switched career places and Lebron was a free agent on that Bulls team, after losing to the Pistons for a second time?  I can see him taking off to Boston, LA or one of the other teams in front of them…History would be changed.  There would be no Bulls dynasty.  No “Zen Master” in Phil Jackson.  Scottie Pippen goes down as a borderline hall of famer at best, but not a fifty greatest, and the vaunted triangle offense remains anonymous.

Lebron quitting and abdicating his throne doesn’t make him a bad person (the classless way he left wasn’t a good look), and of course the choice was his.  It doesn’t mean he isn’t a great player.  However, it is one reason why he loses in comparison to MJ and some other greats.

Let’s look at more Herd statements:

“Jordan is the best player ever… but we undervalue the importance of making other players better.  Lebron makes other players better.  Jordan makes himself better”.

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Michael Jordan congratulating Steve Kerr and Kerr hits game winning shot in the NBA Finals. (The pass came from, ahem, MJ)

 

“Shooters will always want to play with Lebron… You play with Jordan you lost shots, you play with Lebron you gain shots”.

Is this true?  First off, Jordan made his teammates better by stepping on the court.  He was much more than a scorer.  Among his many accomplishments, MJ was the first player to record 200 steals and 100 blocked shots in season.  While being a scorer first, his career assist average is 5.3 compared to James’ 6.9.  You would think Jordan would have a negative apg average listening to the Herd.  But let’s look at his specific charge about gaining and losing shots.

Colin refers to Steve Kerr as the best shooter.  Kerr’s shot per game numbers in his seasons with the Bulls were: 7, 6, 5.9, 5.7, and 6.  Before he got to the Bulls his numbers were: 2.4, 2 and 2.3.  After he left the Bulls, and went to play with the big fundamentalist, Tim Duncan, in San Antonio, his SPG were: 4, 2.3 and 2.9.  These numbers don’t include three-point attempts per game, but guess what Colin?  His three highest total three-point shots per game numbers came with Michael and the Bulls.  For the sake of brevity I won’t list the numbers for John Paxson and B.J. Armstrong but they weren’t losing shots.  You can fact check at Basketball Reference.com, click here.

What about shots playing with Lebron?  Well let’s look at the aforementioned Antawn Jamison brought in to help James.  With Washington that the first part of the 09-10 season he took 17.1 shots per game, and with Cleveland, 13.4.  I’m sure Lebron was able to help an aging Shaq get more shots right?  Nope.  He took 11.2 per game in Phoenix the year before he took 8.7 with Cleveland.  Mo Williams?  12.4 with LBJ and 12.6 the year after he left.

And when it comes to creating a shot for your sharp shooting teammates when the game is on the line, Jordan is who I want with the ball.  Why?  Because he is not afraid to go the rim and take foul shots if he gets fouled.  Thus he is more likely to get double or triple teamed and be in a position to pass out.  As opposed to Lebron, who tends to avoid the rim in these situations because he is not a clutch foul shooter.

The Herd goes on, “when Jordan was drafted by the Bulls that was bad news for Orlando Woolridge and Quintin Daily”… Really?  The year before MJ, Woolridge averaged 19.3 points per game taking 14.5 shots.  MJ’s first year, Woolridge averaged 22.9 points on 15.9 shots.  How is that math working out for you Herd?  Daily took a slight drop.  His average went from 18.2 to 16 points per.

“What Lebron did with what he had was more remarkable than what Jordan did… The Cavs had bigger drop off after Lebron left than when Jordan left the Bulls”…

Fact, but not really.  When Jordan left the Bulls the first time they only lost two more games than they did the season before and the Cavs did fall off the map after James left.

But wait, again, the Herd referred to Steve Kerr as “the best shooter”.  Well when was his first season with the Bulls?  That would be the year after MJ left.  Didn’t the Herd refer to Tony Kukoc as the world’s best European player?  Sure did, and you guessed it, his first season with the Bulls was the year MJ was gone.  Oh and Rodman still wasn’t a Bull though the Herd says he was.  Google!  Herd you might want to try it sometime.

What about Cleveland?  In addition to the defection by James, they lost Shaquille, Zydrunas Ilgauskas the starter pre-Shaq also left as a free agent, Anderson Varajo played in only 31 games due to injury, Baron Davis, an acquisition that was suppose to help offset the loss of James played 15 games due to injury, and Mo Williams was traded after 36 games.  There’s more but you get the point.  Not exactly an apples to apples comparison, eh Herd?

The Herd would have you believe the teams were exactly the same but for MJ and LBJ.

Further coach Phil Jackson has said that in Jordan’s last year prior to his first retirement, they had repeated as champions and maybe underachieved during his last regular season.  And with something to prove maybe they overachieved the year he was gone.

“Michael played with better players his first three years”.  “After winning and NCAA title as a freshman he went seven or eight years without winning.”

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Apparently the Herd doesn’t think much of winning an Olympic gold medal.  Oh, we know about the dream team in 1992.  However, prior to that, the USA, past it’s dominance, didn’t play in 1980 due to our country’s boycott of the games, and lost in 1988, but won gold with MJ in 1984.  Michael led the all-amateur team with 17.1 points per game.

As for his first three seasons, he was competing against dynasties and much tougher competition.  The Celtics, Lakers, Pistons, 76ers, and more.  The Herd and others have commented on how the talent in the league is watered down today due to expansion.  The rules are much easier and favor offensive players today.  LBJ doesn’t have to take near the beating MJ takes.  I think it was NBA analyst Tim Legler who mentioned that to the Herd but he didn’t seem too interested in hearing it, and certainly didn’t repeat it like he does his pro LBJ comments ad nausea.  Psychologically I don’t think LBJ could have survived the pounding “the bad boy” Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks gave Jordan.

Another semi important factoid the Herd (and others forget or ignore) is that in MJ’s second season he only started seven games.  Why?  Because he broke his foot missing 64 games.  He came back with just a handful of games left against the advice of doctors and heroically led the Bulls into the playoffs.  In Boston, he scored a still unbroken record of 63 points against the eventual Larry Bird led Celtic champions.  A team in the discussion for best ever.

In MJ’s rookie season, only he and Orlando Woolridge started more than 55 games, so it was a team in flux.

“Jordan got a huge gift with a push-off against Utah.  He struggled in that series…  Lebron and the Heat dominated Oklahoma City and won a title with no center, little bench and Dwyane Wade playing the same position.”

Okay, a foul could have been called on MJ on that play against Bryon Russell in the finals against Utah.  However the offensive player usually gets the benefit of the doubt and I think he makes the shot anyway with or without the push.

What you don’t hear Colin repeatedly pontificate about is LBJ as a defensive player getting away with clearly fouling Kevin Durant at the end of game two of their finals. This could have put the game into overtime.  If Miami, who was never trailing in that game, goes on to choke it away, not an impossibility for an LBJ team to that point, the whole series is different with OKC now up 2-0.

Oh and let’s not forget the phantom fourth foul called on Durant in-game three that OKC was taking over in the third quarter that sent Durant to the bench and turned the game around. Click here.  OKC could have been up 3-0 but the Herd emphatically says they were dominated!

As for the Heat’s talent?  How about Shane Battier and Mike Miller combining to make 72 three pointers in the playoffs?  Oh and that is what they do… before they ever teamed with Lebron, so don’t even go there Herd.  How about Udonis Haslem who won a ring with D. Wade and the Heat in 2006?  His return from injury was also key in their run.  And after Koby Bryant, Wade is considered the game’s next best closer.  Not exactly a strength of James’.  Chris Bosh, another all-star and probable future hall of famer, came up big.  Exactly how much talent is James suppose to have around him before he is suppose to win?

Since the Herd likes to paint MJ as a selfish player and not a good teammate, I’ll add that Jordan was the first and perhaps only player to insist that his teammates be in the post championship “I’m going to Disney World” commercial.

With MJ the Herd likes to mention that: Jordan punched a teammate, his gambling, and his less than well received hall of fame speech.

With LBJ the Herd makes like his departure from Cleveland was no biggy, minimizing his quitting on his team, doesn’t mention how he refused to shake hands after a playoff loss, nor apologize for it upon further reflection.  How he and or Nike tried to cover up a video of a high school kid blocking his shot.

None of these events are earthshaking but it’s like if you were a publicist who would you guess the Herd is being paid to make look good and bad?

The Herd refers to MJ’s hall of fame speech as petty, but within the first minute he is praising Pippen commenting on how he couldn’t do it without him.

Herd, I’m an unpaid blogger trying to survive on peanut butter and Matzos… Dude, you have a THREE HOUR ESPN radio show five days a week!  I’m assuming someone(s) helping you with research, and you rant about this topic repeatedly, how about filling in some details, and facts, and balance?!  Do some homework and or come out of the closet and admit you think Lebron is better than Michael.

You want to convince me you don’t hate Jordan and that you think he is the best ever, than mix in an opening rant where you spend as much time talking up MJ as you do LBJ.

You know, the guy who you say is the better rebounder, passer, defender, that he is bigger, faster, stronger, makes his teammates better.

Right, you think Jordan is better than him…And for the record, I don’t hate LBJ.