Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James could use “The Last Dance” documentary about the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan as motivation.
No matter what LeBron James does, he won’t escape comparisons to Michael Jordan, so the Los Angeles Lakers superstar should embrace his place in the G.O.A.T. debates.
On April 19, ESPN aired the first two episodes of “The Last Dance,” a 10-part documentary on the Chicago Bulls, focusing on the 1997-98 team that won a championship—Jordan’s sixth successful title run.
Earlier that day, LeBron James made it clear he had other plans with a tweet:
LeBron James is an executive producer for The Wall. Regardless, the timing seems to line up perfectly with the Bulls’ documentary, and of course, everyone reminded him in his Twitter mentions.
James has heard the comparisons and looks to Jordan’s legacy for inspiration. In a Sports Illustrated interview with Lee Jenkins, he acknowledged that factor in his drive to be best.
“My motivation,” James said, “is this ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago.”
James made that comment after he led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first title and claimed his third championship. Wearing No. 23, at the top of the current NBA hierarchy, he knows his resume will go side-by-side with Jordan.
In the basketball community, Jordan is widely considered the greatest of all time. Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone shared his perspective on the G.O.A.T. debate and experience with an NBA legend and the league’s biggest star in 2020, per USA Today‘s Mark Medina.
“It’s always an ongoing argument about who is the GOAT. Michael obviously is up there and is the greatest of all time. There are not many Michael Jordans out there. I coached LeBron James for five years and have a great relationship with him. LeBron did not have the same mindset or killer mentality that Michael Jordan is supposed to have had. But LeBron James is arguably the greatest of all time as well.”
Malone emphasized Jordan’s frame of mind to separate him from James, though we’ve seen the fiery look in the latter’s eye when he’s on a mission.
James shouldn’t change who he is on the court—his approach has worked out well. Although his NBA Finals record (3-6) isn’t flawless like Jordan’s, we should acknowledge the 35-year old’s nine championship appearances, which included eight consecutive trips without a season off.
In March, James passed Jordan on the all-time scoring list and paid homage to the player who’s inspired him to play at a high level.
Still, in this age of social media discussions, basketball fans from different generations with varying viewpoints want to know who’s the guy? When you’re compared to the best, does it really matter?
James has been the best player in the league for a long stretch. Even in his 17th season, the three-time champion reached new peaks, averaging a league-best 10.6 assists per game before the regular season came to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fans may not look at James’ elite ball distribution as another claim to G.O.A.T status, but he’s performed at a level most won’t reach even in their prime years. The Lakers star is on a completely different level in that aspect. Keep in mind, Jordan played 15 seasons and retired twice along the way, but no one questions his drive.
James’ career isn’t set in stone yet, either. He’s at the tail end of an incomplete story in his Lakers chapter. If the 16-time All-Star wins another championship or two—with a third organization—critics and supporters would have to give his legacy a significant bump. Even if James never hoists another Larry O’Brien Trophy, he’s still one of the best to play the game.
While the debates go on and ESPN continues to air Jordan’s career ups and downs for the world to see, the camera is still on record for LeBron James.
If “the ghost” that played in Chicago motivates him—he could use the G.O.A.T debate as a stepping stone toward a fantastic finish to an accomplished career. The Wall on NBC won’t provide the same motivation.