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.
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.
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”.
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.”
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.