Awkward photo of the day: LeBron James poses with the NBA Championship, Regular Season NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP Trophy and the Olympic Gold medal. That’s a lot of hardware so we’ll excuse the awkwardness.
It’s the quote that spread like wildfire in Blackwater Bay. And a day after Kobe Bryant’s somewhat careless analysis of the original Dream Team there are already two Dream Teamers on record with their response.
The first was Charles Barkley who said he laughed at the comparison. Then today Michael Jordan told The Associated Press who caught up with him at a golf tournament in Charlotte that he “absolutely laughed.”
But before we get to more of MJ’s response a little context:
Nobody took Gatorade’s “Like Mike” jingle to heart as closely as the second greatest shooting guard in NBA history Kobe Bryant, and why not? Pattern your game after the player considered to be the best in the history of the sport seems like sound judgment, but that comparison extends beyond just the basketball court.
Throughout his playing career Kobe has matured greatly into a player willing to harness his ambition to fit the needs of his team. He is a callous leader and that is meant with complete respect. His maturity came at a crossroads in his career and his life after the fallout of his rape trial when Kobe stopped caring about how many people liked him. The “black mamba” could be like Mike but he could never be liked as much as Mike was liked. (Dwight take notes)
Still there was a time in Kobe’s maturing years when Jordan was his only mirror. He talked like MJ, he walked like MJ, he even celebrated like MJ. “And doggone it people like me.” There’s that mirror again.
Restless Kobe was a thing of the past and Kobe always seemed restless: whether it was with Shaq, or his own father, or his nightmare rape trial. You could perceive that restlessness to be born out of insecurity. Call it a “Jordan complex,” as if Jordan doesn’t have enough of that his own self.
I still remember Kobe in interviews telling those who would listen that his childhood idol was pass first point guard Magic Johnson. It’s quite possible that answer was out of sheer loyalty for the jersey. Or it may have been *gasp* a genuine answer. We’re all such cynics. But in the end his answer never really mattered. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Something that the player most closely tied to Jordan could appreciate:
“I think he reminds a lot of people of Michael because he molded his game after him. He seems to have a lot of Michael’s charisma, and it comes across in the way he walks, the way he talks, and especially the way he plays.”
—Scottie Pippen on Kobe Bean
Which brings us full circle to today’s quote from Jordan about the imaginary Dream Teams matchup. To my knowledge Jordan has never talked publicly about the imitative comparison in style between himself and Kobe. Point of fact he did not address it today either. But I like to read into things because it’s fun and it’s summer. So pay attention to this quote from Jordan. In particular the last two sentences:
“For him (Kobe) to make comparisons, it’s one of those things where it creates conversation. I guess we’ll never know. I’d like to think that we had 11 Hall of Famers on that team and whenever they get 11 Hall of Famers you call and ask me who had the better Dream Team. Remember now, they learned from us. We didn’t learn from them.”
MJ had more to say about the two teams comparative athleticism, age, and skill. All of his remarks seemed to have been said in a jocular nature befitting a retired jock. But it was that last sentence… “They learned from us. We didn’t learn from them.”
The words used were they, us, we, and them but lets face it. It may as well have been he, me, I, and him.
I just started laughing. How old is Kobe Bryant? He’s 34? And he’s calling us old? At the time, we were only like 28, 29. Michael Jordan and me were the same age. We were both 29. Other than Kobe, LeBron and Kevin Durant, I don’t think anybody else on that team makes our team.
Barkley makes a good point. The Dream Team only had two players past their prime in Bird and Magic. And Magic looked to have a lot left in the tank according to the recent documentary. Meanwhile everybody else on that team was in or entering their prime.
What people lose sight of is that, unlike with todays game where college players are 1 and done, an NBA player’s prime years used to be his late 20’s-early 30s. Grown men doing grown up stuff. Because of early eligibility todays player reaches his apex, well… earlier. Usually his mid-to-late 20’s (LeBron, Wade, Bosh). In other words, the guys on the Dream Team were not old. They were masters.
So who do you think would win this dream matchup: Dream Team or Redeem Team II? And remember,