Thursday, June 08, 2017

Why did LeBron James leave Miami? Think about that question in the context of James' since-stated mission in "chasing a ghost, the ghost used to play in Chicago." When he came to Miami it was with the stated aim to win multiple championships. Jordan won six. James won two in four years in Miami. When he left Miami his stated reason was to bring "one" to Cleveland.

It looks very much like James' goals changed. If James' goal had continued to be to exceed Jordan's trophy haul, as it appeared to be at his introduction in Miami, he would not have gone back to Cleveland, he would have had a better shot at besting Jordan in Miami; he would not have WRITTEN that he was going back to Cleveland to win "one," which gives him three, only halfway to the Ghost's mark, and at age 32, a young 32 to be sure, but if he plays eight more years, until he's 40, he'd have to do in eight older years what has taken him 14 much younger years to do (And the next few of those ain't lookin' too good.)

I thought James had seen the writing on the wall in Miami and realized he wasn't going to catch Jordan and recalibrated his goal to doing something Jordan had not: win titles with two different teams. But that is not what James said last summer. At a youth camp he made his statement that he was chasing a ghost who used to play in Chicago. Cleveland was nearer Chicago, where the ghost played, than was Miami, he was getting are cheaper...Why did he leave Miami for Cleveland? Comic sans asshole Dan Gilbert...

Always struck me as a weird formulation for establishing one's goal, chasing a ghost. Something that doesn't exist. Something that even in man's mythologizing cannot be "caught"...Actually, he didn't say that! Never said his goal was catching or surpassing the ghost, his goal was "chasing." Maybe like the "pursuit" of happiness? :o That would be the most philosophical phucking thing I ever heard an athlete say.

Query me this: why Jordan's ghost? Michael Jordan isn't CLOSE to holding the record for most championships won by a player (11, Bill Russell), Jordan is not close to the runner-up (Sam Jones, 10); James would not be the first player to win championships with two teams, thirty-three players have won with two teams; two have won titles with three teams (James did not say it was Jordan he was chasing, he said the object of his pursuit "played in Chicago." John Salley? No.) James is an ardent student of basketball history, he knows this history. So why Jordan?

James is a basketball genius and tenured professor but in history, not in philosophy; his is not "the wisdom is reaching," his is in the catching. In the same Sports Illustrated article where he was ghost-chasing he gave his prey some flesh and blood: "I think it's cool to put myself in position to be one of those great players, but if I can ever put myself in position to be the greatest player, that would be something extraordinary."

He considers Michael Jordan to be the greatest player ever. He wants to be the greatest ever. By what measure? James has abandoned championships won, he is too intelligent, too much a student of the game's history, too knowledgeable about the salary cap rules of the game ("My career is totally different than Michael Jordan's. What I've gone through is totally different than what he went through."). Hell, Steph Curry's got a much better chance of surpassing Jordan's six than does James. "Greatest ever" is more substantial than "ghost" but pretty damn ethereal still! What is his measure, then? Hardware--titles trophies, MVP trophies--"bottom line" numbers like total career points, scoring average, triple doubles, whatever--James understands that all of that bling gestures powerfully toward "greatest ever" but that it remains mythical, it is dependent upon the opinion of the men and women of the basketball cognoscenti of this generation, his generation, one that lived Jordan's career and is living his. Size matters, hardware, matters, numbers matter, but size isn't all, if it was Wilt Chamberlain would be the gold standard (in more ways...). Chamberlain and Russell and Cousy and Baylor, and before them, Mikan: there is virtually no cognoscenti today who was cognizant then.

Titles are contested and awarded by the living; our myths, like our history, are written by us. Our collective imprimatur: that is what James is after. It as substantial as the ghost gets.