When comparing all-time NBA greats, there are those who say LeBron James’ game is most similar to that of Magic Johnson. There are also those who wonder if James is as good – or will ever be as good – as Michael Jordan. And then there are those who argue whether James or Larry Bird is the greatest small forward of all time.
These comparisons are only natural, but the three Hall of Famers had one distinct advantage over James:
They didn’t have to contend with social media.
“Jordan, Magic and Bird didn’t go through this,” former NBA great and current Phoenix Suns analyst Eddie Johnson said on The Damon Amendolara Show. “Social networking has allowed people to voice their opinion based on who they love. (LeBron has) basically stayed out of the papers in a negative light – everything he’s done has been positive – (and so many people still don’t like him).
“If you polled players historically in the NBA – as great as Jordan was, as great as George Gervin was, as great as Kevin Durant is – I guarantee you that most players that love to score would vote for Magic and LeBron (in terms of) who they’d rather play with because they’re unselfish. Because they’re going to give it to their teammates.”
“Case in point: (James) gave it to Bosh in the Indiana series. He missed it. Guess what? He came right back to him (Sunday). I mean, that’s the beauty of his game – and for people that don’t appreciate that, it just blows me away.”
“The guy plays the game of basketball the way it should be played, and he plays it for 48 minutes. So if anybody deserves a cramp, it’s him – because not only does he run their offense and score 25-plus (points), but he also guards the best player on the other team when time is running down. It’s just amazing to me. And I think that’s why I cheer for him more (now) because I just can’t get over the fact that people can’t see past themselves and (they) want to hold someone accountable for something they said years ago.”
Speaking of cramps, Johnson tweeted before Game 2 of the NBA Finals that he thought James would have a big night. Johnson was right. James finished with 35 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals. He didn’t turn the ball over after the first quarter and finished 3-of-3 from three-point range.
Why was Johnson so confident James would go off?
“You always see it,” he said. “They’ve gone, what, 16 series and they’ve never lost two in a row? If he hasn’t proven to people that he’s one of the best clutch players in the history of the game, then I don’t know what else he can do. Anytime his back has been against the wall in a playoff situation, he’s stepped up – and it started when he was back with the Cavaliers. When they did go to the Finals, he had to go into Detroit and he scored 25 straight points to get them out of the conference finals and into the Finals.
“I think people need to go back and remind themselves that he is not a failure. He is a guy that steps up in big games, he’ll make big shots (and) he’ll make big plays. I didn’t think anything different. I felt the same way about all the great players that have graced this game. When they have a bad game, they normally come back and they redeem themselves. And I didn’t expect anything different.”