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LeBron vs. Michael Jordan still a hot topic before Spurs pummel Heat in Game 3

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Updated: June 11, 2014 12:11AM



MIAMI — It’s not going away. Definitely not after the Miami Heat’s 111-92 loss Tuesday to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of the NBA Finals and likely not anytime soon.

As four-time NBA most valuable player LeBron James chases the holy grail that is a three-peat, the specter of Michael Jordan hovers over him and his legacy daily.

It didn’t matter that the Spurs came out and shot a Finals-record 75.8 percent in the first half. Kawhi Leonard’s game-high 29 points mattered only to Spurs fans and to his mom.

No, this remains all about James — about what he failed to do and about how anyone can dare to compare him to Jordan.

In an interview with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra before the game, the LeBron-MJ game was resurrected when he was asked whether he rather would have James or Jordan as a teammate.

‘‘I think players would love to play with a player as unselfish as LeBron,’’ Spoelstra said.

Was that a jab at Jordan’s me-first attitude on the court? More like a light flick.

Such talk is blasphemy in Chicago. The perception is that Jordan was a warrior in an age when leprechauns really existed in the old
Boston Garden and the ‘‘Bad Boys’’ brought shanks to the court. Jordan would have scoffed at the idea of leaving the Bulls in pursuit of a ring. Plus, he was hard — six-championship hard.

How dare James’ name be uttered in the same breath. The player who betrayed the Cleveland Cavaliers to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The player who seemingly fell short in big moments, despite the numbers saying differently. The player who cramped up in Game 1 of these Finals, unable to answer the bell in crunch time. And the player who scored only six points in the second half and committed seven turnovers Tuesday.

‘‘I have to do a better job with that,’’ James said of his turnovers. ‘‘But now there’s something else to look at with me . . . so here we go.’’

Maybe James does fall short when compared to Jordan on the court. Maybe.

Off the court, though, Jordan would have wilted if he played under the same scrutiny James continues to weather. No athlete has been as polarizing as James for the last five years, but we haven’t seen one gambling receipt, nor have we read anything about marital discord.

Jordan was lucky to play in the era he did. The media didn’t report on his off-the-court escapades, and camera phones were still science fiction. Could you imagine the field day TMZ would have had with Jordan?

Many in Chicago seem to forget 1987 to 1990, when the Detroit Pistons owned Jordan and made him look soft. The national perception was that Jordan didn’t make anyone around him better.

Then when he did climb to the top of the mountain and win three consecutive NBA titles, the murder of his
father led to him to walk away and chase a bad baseball dream.

Can you imagine the criticism James would face if he three-peated, then inexplicably darted off to explore his college-football eligibility?

Yes, comparing Jordan and James is getting old. They did play in such different eras.

Jordan should be thankful for that.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @suntimes_hoops



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