"There’s no way, with hindsight, (that) I would have ever called up Larry (Bird), called up Magic (Johnson) and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team.’ "
— Michael Jordan talking about LeBron James teaming with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to NBC’s Mark Rolfing.
It was Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert who spewed a veritable Lake Erie of vituperation, but if you are LeBron James, it was the few, pointed words of Michael Jordan that had to pound like a tsunami.
Gilbert’s diatribe after "The Decision" was of the sticks-and-stones-may-break-my-bones variety. The rant was over the top, but not all that unexpected from the jilted owner of a franchise that has seen the bottom fall out.
Gilbert calculatingly said what he had to, giving fans in Cleveland what they wanted to hear and himself an out.
But Jordan had little in the way of an ax to grind or seething customers to soothe. So, what the Charlotte Bobcats’ president said the other day resonated with a depth, reason and perspective other salvos have lacked. And, as such, it had to strike with a force that Gilbert’s rant couldn’t match.
Especially for James, who grew up a self-described fan of Jordan’s. For all the slings and arrows launched James’ way, here was a piercing rebuke delivered by his boyhood hero that couldn’t be sloughed off.
Jordan effectively questioned James’ competitiveness, leadership and legacy all in one three-punch combo. In doing so, Jordan made a very cogent point about a star making his own way and the competitive fires it takes to be the best in the game.
"But … things are different," Jordan said. "I can’t say that’s a bad thing. It’s an opportunity these kids have today. In all honesty, I was trying to beat those guys."
Imagine, for example, if Jordan, Bird and Magic had gotten together at the 1992 Olympics and forged a pact. How many great showdowns and how much drama would we have missed if they had decided to pass off to one another rather than push each other?
With them together, it might have been like, well, the original "Dream Team." Only instead of whipping up on poor Angola, it would have been half the NBA taking the dirty 36-point lickings and feeling good about it.
The prospect of which in Barcelona moved Charles Barkley to the memorable quote, "I don’t know anything about Angola, but I know they’re in trouble."
And, speaking of Barkley, he was in step with Jordan on this one, telling the Arizona Republic on Sunday, "It’s disappointing from a competition standpoint. You want to beat these guys. Sports are all about competition, and you want to beat the best. You want to beat Kobe (Bryant). You want to beat Dwyane Wade. You want to beat the Celtics, who beat you last year. That’s what competition is about."
Unless you are in Miami these days, then, apparently, it is enough to be around some of the best.