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Chasing Jordan: LeBron’s Pursuit Of The Ghost

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“My motivation is this ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago” – LeBron James

Five-time NBA MVP, Six-time NBA Champion, Six-time NBA Finals MVP, 14-time NBA All-Star, Nine-time NBA All-Defense First Team…… at this point, you should be catching on. The list of Michael Jordan’s NBA accomplishments reads like a novel.

When the name Michael Jordan is uttered in public, the public outcry is for reverence, of admiration and almost fictitious. You think of Michael Jordan; you remember the Shot, Michael Jordan defeating the laws of gravity, hanging in the air to drain the series deciding jumper over the outstretched arms of a hapless Craig Ehlo.

You think of Michael Jordan; you think of The Flu Game, Michael Jordan thwarting flu-like symptoms to shoot 13 of 27 from the field for 38 points leading the Bulls to a victory to grab a stranglehold in the 1997 NBA Finals, collapsing into the arms of teammate Scottie Pippen at the conclusion of the game, a victim of his own mortality.

You think of Michael Jordan; you recall free throw line dunk. His Airness needing at least a score of 49 to clinch the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest in front of a raucous home crowd in Chicago. Gliding through the air, stepping on an invisible staircase and wagging out his tongue, throwing it down from the free throw line for the perfect dunk to seal his second consecutive Slam Dunk contest trophy.

You think of Michael Jordan; you recollect the Shrug. Hitting his sixth first half three pointer in the 1992 NBA Finals against the Trailblazers, shrugging to an absolutely unconscious home crowd to say when you’re hot, you’re hot.

You think of Michael Jordan, you assume greatness, envision iconic sports moments and a man unfazed by any challenge. It makes it right that the only basketball athlete that can challenge this mythical figure is a 6’8’’, 250 lb. super athlete from the mean streets of Akron, Ohio.

 

“I want to be the greatest of all time and that’s my motivation. It’s that simple. It’s not that simple.” – LeBron James

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The LeBron James story reads like the hottest movie of the summer; LeBron James was born to a 16-year-old mother, Gloria James, neglected by his father from birth, LeBron and his mother moved from apartment to apartment in Akron, Ohio while his mother struggled to hold a steady job. As a child, LeBron James showed a special talent for basketball, receiving national recognition for his play at the 6th grade AAU National Championship. As a high school freshman, he averaged 18 points a game and was selected for the USA Today High School All-First Team as a sophomore becoming the first sophomore to ever earn the honor. His encore to this was being named the Gatorade High School Player of the Year as a Junior and was so good, he contemplated going pro as a junior. As a senior, he earned 31.6 points per game, helping his team clinch their third state title.

It came as no shock to anyone when LeBron James was selected as the first overall pick in 2003 to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers with his terrific athleticism, excellent passing ability and being able to defend all five positions with some warning Michael Jordan to watch the throne. LeBron James proved the scouts right as he cemented his status as one of the best players in the NBA while dragging the talent-deficient Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA final, which they lost to the San Antonio Spurs. While LeBron was singlehandedly dominating the league, it was always a point that he needed more help on his team and more championships to catch Michael Jordan and he became an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2010.

 

“Reggie Miller and I are in 100% agreement on this, if you’re the two-time NBA MVP you don’t leave anywhere. They come to you. That’s ridiculous. LeBron will never be Jordan. This clearly takes him out of the conversation. He can win as much as he wants to. There would have been something honorable about staying in Cleveland and trying to win it as The Man.” – Charles Barkley

 

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No two words will be used to described a player’s legacy quite like the Decision. Quitter, cheat, LeBron James leaving his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to form a superteam with the Miami Heat was a much maligned decision.

His phrase, “Taking my talents to South Beach” became the butt of many jokes from his numerous critics. Tears filling the city of Cleveland, LeBron James jerseys being burned and LeBron James banners being pulled down from the Quicken Loans Arena, Comic Sans text ridiculing him for his disloyalty, even Hulk Hogan would have been jealous of how LeBron changed from lovable babyface to cheap heel, the consensus was that LeBron was taking the easiest route to get rings and catch Jordan: take the path of least resistance. The 2010-2011 season saw James embracing the role of villain, winning the Most Valuable Player title but falling well short of his goal by falling to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. He won the championship the subsequent year against the Kevin Durant led Oklahoma Thunder, before splitting a pair with the San Antonio Spurs and deciding to go back and attempt to win one for the city of Cleveland.

 

“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.” – LeBron James

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In his letter announcing his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James said his mission to Cleveland goes beyond the game of basketball but helping foster businesses in Cleveland and encourage the children to contribute positively in the community. On the field, the story remained the same with LeBron lacking the prerequisite help, dropping the Finals to the Golden State Warriors losing to MVP and newly discovered fan favourite, Stephen Curry without top players, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving and while LeBron averaged a near triple double for the series, the lack of talent around him was shown as the Cavaliers lost the series in five games. This year, the Cavaliers had a rematch with the Warriors who became the greatest regular season team of all time, trumping the Jordan-led Bulls with 73 wins.

Down 3-1 in the series, LeBron James led the comeback for the Cavaliers winning the final three games including a Game 7 in Oakland with James leading the charge with a triple double, including taking Andre Iguodola’s soul with a mammoth chasedown block in the final game.

“I’m not MJ, I’m LJ” – LeBron James

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Winning his third NBA Championship against the 73-win Golden State Warriors, LeBron James is as close as ever to catching Michael Jordan as the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball. A good argument can be made as to why LeBron is better, the competition he has faced in the Finals has been stiffer than the opponents Jordan had to go up against. When LeBron left the Cavaliers, they dropped from a perennial playoff contender to a perennial lottery contender without LeBron James to make the players around him better but when Michael Jordan left basketball to try his hand at baseball, the Chicago Bulls only lost two more games without Michael. The combination of LeBron James winning three straight games to win the title while averaging a near triple double against the greatest regular season team of all time only serves to solidify his resume.

The Michael Jordan vs LeBron James conversation has almost turned into a microcosm of life with millennials living in the moment believing LeBron might have the upper hand and Generation Xers believing Jordan is better as a result of his killer instinct and more titles.

This year, LeBron has the greatest challenge of his career with superstar Kevin Durant joining the 73 win Warriors and if LeBron James can get past this obstacle, don’t be surprised if the wide consensus is that LeBron has surpassed the proverbial ghost.

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Steph Curry Talks LeBron James Trash Talking During Game 1 of NBA Finals

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Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry is gearing up, along with his team, to defend their 2018 NBA Championship, their 2nd in a row and 3rd in 4 years, when the 2018-2019 regular season kicks off this fall, but he is still discussing the 2018 NBA Finals.

Curry specifically is discussing his shock as the trash talk from then Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, which threw Curry off.

Curry and James’ relationship is seemingly in an odd place. James was “like a mentor” to Curry when curry was in college playing at Davidson, but things seem a bit icy now as Curry’s Warriors and James’ Cavaliers (James is now on the Los Angeles Lakers) met in some heated battles in the NBA Finals over the past couple of years.

Despite the shift in their relationship, Curry was still caught of guard by James’ approach, particularly in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals.

“It was never going to spill over to that” Curry said, during an appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area’s Drew Shiller).

“But it was an interesting moment …I was hot because I was trying to finish out a possession, I think it was less than a minute left, I didn’t see him coming over from the weak side so I tried to do a little soft scoop layup and he pinned it. Then he stared me down and he said something to me.

“And I was like, ‘That’s what we’re really on right now? We’re about to win and you’re worried about mean-blocking my shot and talking trash?’ And then the whole Tristan and Draymond thing happened and I went back up to him and I was like, ‘Yo, what’s up? Is this really what we’re about right now?’

“And he was like, ‘I gotta do that to make sure my teammates know I’m a mentor’ and it’s a part of his leadership and that type of deal. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb for your leadership.’ (laughter). Come on man, that’s messed up.”

The rift goes a bit deeper than that, and a book from The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson, entitled ‘Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry’, it is elaborated, highlighting a 2016 Halloween Party thrown by James that featured a dummy of Steph Curry that was on the floor, forcing guests to step over it.

Now that the two are in the same division, thanks to James’ signing with the Lakers, betting websites will have a field day this season when the two teams take the court, and James continues his mission to topple the juggernaut Warriors.

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Cavs’ Tristan Thompson Allegedly Punched Warriors’ Draymond Green at Night Club

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Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and Golden State Warriors’ forward Draymond Green apparently took their on-court beef off the court as the two allegedly had an altercation at a Los Angeles night club.

According to online gossip site Bossip, Green had approached Thompson to apologize for what happened after Game 4 of the NBA Finals, but Thompson wasn’t interested.

When Green persisted, Thompson punched Green.

Green and Thompson got into it numerous times throughout the Finals, with Green even insulting Thompson as Thompson attempted to shake his hand following the infamous Game 4.

Here is more from The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre:

 

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Kevin Love Signs Extension With the Cavs

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Kevin Love surprised the Twitter GMs and signed a 4 year, $120 million extension to stay in Cleveland. The full value of the deal will wash out to 5 years and about $145 million, around $10 million below his max for an extension. This clearly signals that Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers want to remain competitive in the wake of LeBron James’ exodus.

The initial reaction across the NBA landscape was that Cleveland would look to tear the roster down to the studs and start over. The Cavs owe their 2019 first round pick to Atlanta if it falls outside of the top 10, so trading Kevin Love would’ve not only helped clear their books, but also almost guaranteed that they keep their pick. Bringing him back into the fold makes that much more precarious. The roster now contains a mixed bag of inconsistent youth and holdovers from the most recent LeBron era that won’t take kindly to a middling team not in the championship conversation. The Cavs seem to be split between two paths.

But that’s not forever. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, “Cleveland is still projecting to have close to $70M in cap space during the summer of 2020 to reshape the roster.” The Cavs can get off of George Hill, JR Smith and Kyle Korver for less than $10 million after this season. That leaves only Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson as expiring contracts in the following season to free the Cavs of all their (current) bad money. Cleveland is never going to be a free agent destination without LeBron, but keeping Kevin Love makes them a much more attractive option for free agents, and they’ll have plenty of money to play with.

If that doesn’t pan out, Cleveland can still trade Love in the future. This extension makes him a cost-controlled asset, giving other teams more certainty. Yes, it’s more years and more money but Kevin Love is still an All-Star. Making him the focal point of the offense should allow him to put up big numbers and recoup some of the market value he’s lost while playing a diminished role alongside LeBron. In the coming years, all the ghastly cap-spike deals will be coming off teams’ books, opening lots of cap space around the league. There are only so many stars available and some teams will inevitably strike out. Combine that with some pressure from ownership to win now and Kevin Love can be a very desirable option.

Even with the extension the Cavs are far from a playoff lock. Their second best player may very well be a rookie. So perhaps an injury or a few strategically placed DNPs could allow them to keep their pick. Either way, Love wanted to stay in Cleveland. That’s a nice change for a city that doesn’t have a lot of experience with that. The goalposts for success have changed, but after years of watching this team trudge through the doldrums of the regular season, this young, talented team could be a lot of fun for fans to watch night in and night out.

 

 

 

Follow David on Twitter @dmcgowan24

 

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