OK, it's a given that Michael Jordan is considered the greatest to ever play the game. He thrived in what could easily be considered the golden age of basketball, where greats like Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and Larry Bird still roamed the courts. But what made him stand out among all these Hall of Fame talents?
Was it his skill?
Jordan was certainly gifted with an abundance of talent. He was as quick as lightning and could soar through the air like he was filled with helium. Later in his career, when the air started to go out in game, he turned into a sharpshooter that could gun down the hopes and dreams of an entire fan base in a single shot. But for all his talent, that wasn't what set him apart from his contemporaries.
No, what set him apart and made him recognized as the best was his enormous will to win. This guy had a competitive fire within him that could stop the ice age. He willed himself to take every ounce of talent and abuse other teams with it on a nightly basis and god forbid if there was a flaw in his game because he would attack it as relentlessly as he would the rim until he conquered it. It was his will, which was bigger than his impressive talent, that made him the greatest ever.
It's also that same question of will that will ultimately keep LeBron James from being the best ever because frankly, he doesn't have much of it.
I'm not hating here, honestly (not this time), because the 'proof is in the pudding' and you don't have to go any farther than the Heats game 4 loss to Dallas as exhibit A (or more accurately, about exhibit S at this point). James threw up one of his worst performances in ANY game on Tuesday night, putting up 8 points in the Heats 86-83 loss.
The worst part about this performance isn't even the amount of points because, let's face it, everyone has an off night. No, what puts this in one of the most epic failures of James career category is that he frankly looked like he wanted to be anywhere but on the court.
James only shot the ball 1 time in the final 12 minutes and was as hesitant and uninvolved as I've ever seen him (and remember, I 'witnessed' his game 5 performance last season against Boston). He was slack jawed and glassy-eyed as his team fought to take a 3-1 lead in the Finals and if you can't muster one spark of resolve in the NBA Finals, then I guess you can put that greatest ever debate to rest.
And that is what it all comes down to. James is the most talented player to ever bounce of ball but he has about as much will to win as a dandelion. Without will, talent means nothing. Sure, you'll look good over an entire season but when it's crunch time, with your supposed goal within grasp, playing a premier team, you need more than talent to get it done.
You need will, you need fire, and James needs both.
Photo Courtesy of: ASSOCIATED PRESS