Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade has scored 295 points in his first nine NBA Finals games. This is three more points, than Michael Jordan scored over the course of his first nine. An impressive feat, without exception, but it's already got way more press and media attention than it deserves. Just to put it all into perspective, Jordan scored 46 points in his tenth Finals game, which means Wade will have to score 43 in Game 4 against the Dallas Mavericks, to match Jordan.
But this is no fault of Wade's. He's been the best player on the floor during this Finals series, and he's only guilty of trying his best to win the NBA title. Kudos to Wade are in order, but having said that, it's a shame to see a player in the middle of success, meet comparisons to the game's greatest, based mostly on the media's attempt to find the next dominating force in this league.
Before Wade this series, it was teammate LeBron James that was compared to Jordan. James had begun to close out games in spectacular style, much like his former hero did for 13 seasons in Chicago. Wade and Chris Bosh would carry the load for three quarters, which James chipping in here and there, only to sit back and watch James spend an enormous amount of energy in the last 12 minutes.
Don't hate James or Miami for taking this approach, though. It worked wonders against the Bulls, and helped Miami reach the Finals, which is the ultimate goal for every team and player in the league. But as a fan, the constant reach of the media in trying to find a sole player (and this case two, who take turns) to fill the shoes of Michael Jordan, has become old, boring and to a point driven by an agenda. Writers and journalists in this day and age need big stories to stay relevant in the field, and what invites more debate than comparing ''God in sneakers'' to a player currently making noise in the NBA?
Back when Grant Hill came into the league, the story was much the same. But the sheer amount of attention the comparisons got back then, were nothing compared to now with the internet covering every quote, movement and talent in the league. Over the past ten seasons, the following players have been compared to Jordan:
- Vince Carter
- Kobe Bryant
- Dwyane Wade
- LeBron James
Carter, the weakest comparison in the bunch, was basically ruled out by 2003, ending a short and unrealistic shot at Jordan. Then there's Bryant, who has been compared on and off ever since, and to some extent still is, due to the fact that he's the closest there's been. Not due to stats or rings, just. But by moving like Jordan, like mimicing his facial expressions and defensive stance. In short, Bryant did the best job of copying Jordan while adding his own legacy and flair to the game. The last two names on the list have mostly received these comparisons this year, and they have so due to the focus that's been on the Heat. Neither is close to Jordan, nor will neither ever be in terms of looking at Jordan's personality and pure desire to overcome inconceivable odds, just to prove a point.
And yet, here we are, reading stories about what Jordan once did, and what happens now, all with a nice silent questionmark at the end of every article, slightly hinting that the present - not the future - will bring a new Jordan into the picture.
It's not wrong to compare players to other players. Not even when Michael Jordan is involved. More than likely, one day we will see a player exceed his greatness. After all, the odds of someone remaining the greatest at anything forever, are microscopic.
But what is wrong, is trying to force it. The more a subject like this is pressed, the less it's accepted. In December of 2007, running back LaDainian Tomlinson broke Walter Payton's all-time rushing touchdown list. Comparisons were made and even presented as being a ''no-brainer''. How does that comparison look now?
Making comparisons while still being in the moment, is what is slowly killing the true natural drama of today's sports, and as a result, making it even harder to understand just what the players in the past did. Teenagers back in the early to mid 90's, not only loved Jordan for his dunks and buzzer-beaters. They loved his attitude, his burning desire to win and his own personal belief that he could beat everyone. This gave them hope, it made them believe in themselves. When Jordan spoke publically, the message you received was clear as daylight; Work hard, believe in yourself and more than anything, love the game of basketball. The millions of dollars he earned, the amount of commercials he was in, none of this was important to the teenagers or his fanbase. What was important was seeing his eyes after a loss, in which he'd calmly and confidentally take control of the situation with a raised chin.
Jordan, in every sense of the word, was larger than life. What fans are seeing now, is the media trying to manipulate other players as being this, but failing miserably to be so. LeBron James has over the course of the last 12 months made enough negative comments to fully separate himself from Jordan's mentality and focus, which should end the comparisons right there. Dwyane Wade, while having also made questionable comments, has simply failed at staying relevant long enough. You never saw Jordan going five years between Finals appearances. Bryant, again, comes closest in both body and mind, but with him there's always something missing. Something that, despite the numerous attempts at it, can never quite be explained in words. When watching Bryant play, the feeling that one got from watching Jordan, just isn't present.
Patience is a virtue. The term was first used back in the 14th century, but the importance of it, has never been more significant than it is now in the NBA family of media members. Greatness will come and one day, Jordan's legacy will have to bow to an even stronger force. But that force won't come from just statistical dominance or a raw number of championships. It'll come from a player who on and off the court will dazzle you with his approach, and pure undeniable love, for the game of basketball.