Jordan, Barkley And Magic--Get Off LeBron's Back

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The fact that LeBron took his future in his own hands seems to bother some people. Perhaps Jordan, Barkley and Magic should try putting themselves in LeBron’s shoes. They might find that given the same situation, a little help from their friends may have been a good thing.

[On Sports]

Jordan, Barkley and Magic; you don’t have to be a basketball or sports fan to know these names.

They transcend the game. All three played a large role in converting professional basketball from the unpopular, drug-plagued league of the 1970’s that Madison Avenue wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole into the wildly popular, heavily marketed, star-driven NBA that we now enjoy.

These are my contemporaries, my heroes, my foils--my guys.

While Michael Jordan is now a team owner and limits his interviews, we can see Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson throughout the season providing pre- and post-game commentary. However, all three made their voices heard during this off season when they were asked their opinions on LeBron James’ decision to join his friends Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

Jordan was playing in a pro-am golf tournament when he was asked about LeBron’s decision.

“There's no way, with hindsight, I would've ever called up Larry, called up Magic and said, 'Hey, look, let's get together and play on one team. But that's--things are different. 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."

Barkley opined during a radio interview that: "There would have been something honorable about staying in Cleveland and trying to win it as 'The Man' LeBron, if he would've in Cleveland, and if he could've got a championship there, it would have been over the top for his legacy, just one in Cleveland. No matter how many he wins in Miami, it clearly is Dwayne Wade's team."

When interviewed, Magic’s response was: "We didn't think about it 'cause that's not what we were about.” Johnson's Michigan State squad beat Bird's Indiana State team in the 1979 NCAA title game. "From college, I was trying to figure out how to beat Larry Bird,” he added.

Right. Maybe Magic has conveniently forgotten that the Lakers team he joined already had perhaps the greatest player to ever play the game in Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Magic never won a championship without Kareem.

Magic also played with all-stars Jamaal Wilkes, Norm Nixon and Spencer Haywood during his rookie season. That team went on to win the NBA championship in 1980. Magic also played on Lakers teams that included Hall of Famers James Worthy and Bob McAdoo. I haven’t even mentioned Michael Cooper, Byron Scott or Kurt Rambis.

My point is that as great as Magic was as a player and ambassador for the NBA, I don’t believe for one minute that he wouldn’t have demanded a trade if he had been drafted by Cleveland instead of Los Angeles. If Magic’s desire to beat Larry Bird was as strong as he says it was, he would have never stayed with a team that did not position him to beat Bird. Magic would have done whatever was necessary to put himself in a position to be competitive against Larry Bird.

Some folks may recall when Magic asked to be traded because he “wasn’t having fun." He didn’t like Paul Westhead’s offense. Westhead was fired and Magic started “having fun” again under Pat Riley. Magic may not have tried to join Bird, but he would have joined forces with a better team to beat him.

Barkley also seems to forget that he demanded a trade after his 8th season with Philadelphia because he didn’t think he had a team that could compete. He went on to have four excellent seasons with Phoenix, before ending his career with the Houston Rockets.

Barkley’s stint with Houston may have been the precursor for the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat’s current strategy of forming a team around a core group of superstar free agents. Barkley joined with Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwan to create a team that was supposed to contend for a championship. Should we believe that Sir Charles didn’t speak with Pippen, Drexler and Olajuwan about their potential for winning a championship?

Lastly, Michael Jordan toiled in Chicago for seven years before the Bull’s unpopular GM, Jerry Krause, hired Phil Jackson and brought in players to complement Jordan’s talents.

The best testimony to the talent Jordan played with came in 1993 when the Bulls posted a 55-27 record while Jordan was trying his luck at baseball. The combination of talent and Jackson implementing Tex Winter’s triangle offense helped catapult Jordan from the best individual player in the league to one of the sport’s most dominant figures. Would Jordan have been satisfied to continue dunking on folks with no chance at winning a championship? I don’t think so.

LeBron gave Cleveland 7 years to do for him what Chicago did for Jordan. LeBron more that held up his end of the deal, leading Cleveland to the playoffs in 5 of his 7 seasons. Moreover, the Cavaliers were relevant for the first time in years. LeBron gave Cleveland an opportunity to build a winning team around him when he re-signed with them after the 2005-2006 season. Unlike the Bulls in Chicago, Cleveland never found talented players to compliment LeBron’s game. Anyone that thinks the LeBron-less Cavaliers have a chance to make the playoffs is looney.

I believe Jordan, Barkley and Magic when they say that they wouldn’t have called their competition about playing together--they would have had their agents do it.

The fact that LeBron took his future in his own hands seems to bother some people. Perhaps Jordan, Barkley and Magic should try putting themselves in LeBron’s shoes. They might find that given the same situation, a little help from their friends may have been a good thing.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."


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