Add Magic Johnson to the list of former superstars who are disgusted that Lebron James and Dwyane Wade decided to team up. (Bloomberg News)
Johnson, who won five National Basketball Association championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, joins fellow hall of famer Michael Jordan in saying they would focus more on beating their rivals than joining them.
“We didn’t think about it cause that’s not what we were about,” said Johnson, whose Michigan State squad beat Bird’s Indiana State team in the 1979 National Collegiate Athletic Association championship. “From college, I was trying to figure out how to beat Larry Bird.”
It’s easy to say ”that’s not what we were about” when you were drafted onto a team that already featured Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes and would soon add James Worthy. But if Johnson had toiled for seven championship-less years and Antawn Jamison was the best player he’d ever played with, his attitude certainly might have changed.
Look, it’s admirable to stay with one team for an entire career. It really is. But Magic was drafted into an absolutely perfect situation. He never had to think about joining another star because he already played with one. And Jordan wasn’t drafted into a perfect situation but had Pippen as his running mate. And a damn solid supporting cast around the two. And they got better every year. (Don’t think Jordan’s supporting cast was that good? They won 55 games the season he was out. If Lebron’s cast wins that many next year, I’ll french kiss Rick Kamla.) Bird, too, had a great situation in Boston. There was never any need to leave. There was never any need to think about joining forces with another star.
While we’re on the subject, let’s take it to Kobe. Everyone thinks he wanted to do it on his own, that he would never join another star. But remember when things weren’t going so well in LA? Back when Kobe demanded a trade? He wasn’t asking to get traded to a mediocre team, people. He wanted to get traded somewhere he could win. Before Pau Gasol fell into his lap, even Kobe had come to the realization he couldn’t do it alone.
So say what you want about Lebron not wanting to win by himself, but just remember this: If Magic Johnson was really THAT competitive he would have asked for Kareem to be traded away. If Michael Jordan was really THAT competitive he would have had Scottie Pippen shipped off. If Larry Bird was really THAT competitive he would have wanted to beat McHale to a pulp rather than win rings with him.
It’s not Lebron’s fault his supporting cast in Cleveland wasn’t enough. (And yes, despite winning more than 60 games in the regular season, that supporting cast was weak. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; if the Cavs had won a title, Antawn Jamison would have been the worst second-fiddle to ever win a ring.) Lebron’s been the league’s best player for at least two years and now he wants to win championship rings in addition to MVPs. So criticize him for taking the easy way out if you want. But just remember, you never know what all those other stars would have done had they been in Lebron’s situation.
P.S. – Tell Charles Barkley he should never speak on this subject. Because he can say stars shouldn’t leave home until he’s blue in the face, but when push came to shove Barkley tried to hop on Hakeem’s back and get piggy-backed to a ring.