The first round of the NBA playoffs has been nothing short of exhilarating and exciting, leaving all of us at the edge of our seats. Title contending teams have been battle-tested to the max as the pressure and the stakes have risen. The Eastern Conference’s one-seeded Milwaukee Bucks have fallen behind 3-0 to the deep Miami Heat. Despite MVP frontrunner Giannis Antetokounmpo superb play, the Bucks have struggled in the half-court vs the Heat’s defensive wall. In the wake of the Bucks’ loss in Game 2 ESPN analyst and former NBA champion, Richard Jefferson took to Twitter to give his take on the Greek Freak. Jefferson stated “Giannis might be a Pippen …. there I said it! He needs his Jordan”. Fellow ESPN analyst Jay Williams also chimed in on Jefferson’s claim quoting the tweet saying “So LeBron was a Pippen with D Wade once. Nothing wrong with that until you get over the hump.” The statements sent Twitter into a frenzy as people chimed in from all over giving their stance on the comparisons. Shockingly, out of the blue, LeBron James took the time to defend his name replying to Williams. “Explain to me what the fux I gotta do with this subject matter! I’m over here minding my damn business preparing for Houston. And by the way, I ain’t never been nobody but my damn self! 👑 Shit! Jay Williams made a great point about the LeBron James/Dwayne Wade partnership at one point but did not do a good job of clarifying his stance in an intricate fashion
A lot of people have this animosity and envy towards LeBron James ever since “The Decision” where he took destiny into his own hands and decided to team up with All-Stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. All of this energy aimed at James formed this hatred that swept the world and portrayed James as sports’ number one villain. From 2009-2011 both LeBron and Wade finished in the top 5 of MVP voting including both making first-team All-NBA and being selected to All-Defensive teams. At this point in Dwayne Wade’s career, he had already proven himself with his first ring from 2006. Wade was in the midst of dealing with the burden of carrying his team night in and night out, which may be part of the reason his body deteriorated later on his career, as he didn’t part take in more than 50 games each of the previous two seasons. During this period of time, LeBron was enjoying his athletic prime as he was the face of the league as well as the most talented, taking home back to back MVPs. Despite being two of the top three players in the league at the time, both LeBron and Wade were unable to have much postseason success those couple of years leading up to the Decision.
Whenever people bring up the Jordan-LeBron comparisons they bring up how LeBron James constantly shrunk in the 4th quarter of the 2011 NBA finals and how Jordan would never do that on such a stage. It’s true that throughout the series LeBron was playing very passive-aggressive and non-assertive and it showed in his play. Two things that are never brought up though are that LeBron has had to do everything for his team up until this point in his career especially with his pass-first style, You know he was just trying to defer to his All-Star teammates. He had put up all the numbers in the world stuffing the stat sheet from left to right. But the narrative had always been he could never get it done on the biggest stage even though he had taken out the former champion juggernaut Detroit Pistons. The second thing was that this wasn’t just one of LeBron’s teammates but this was LeBron’s best friend, as we all know. How easy could it be for LeBron to come into Miami, Wade’s city, and team, and from the jump just assert his dominance as the number one guy? Wade already had his ring from 2006 and was familiar with the stage and the stakes at hand. Throw Chris Bosh into the mix and the difficult process of the three stars trying to figure out who’s role was whose and that was what you got in the 2011 finals; a weird loss to the Mavericks.
Clearly there was no star structure or hierarchy amongst the Heatles and you can tell from their statistics in that series. In that 2011 NBA Finals vs the Dallas Mavericks, LeBron averaged 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.8 assists. Dwayne Wade averaged 26.5 points, 7 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. Chris Bosh averaged 18.5 points and 7.3 rebounds. LeBron chose to be the glue guy and defer that series for the benefit of the team because as the floor general of that team he definitely hesitated to step on Wade’s toes. This was what analyst Jay Williams was trying to get at in first place with his whole “Pippen” comparison. You can’t simply just imagine peak LeBron James who went on a stretch to average 27, 31, 27, 30 a night after his rookie year would struggle to score against JJ Barea and the Mavericks. LeBron opting to take a back seat as the alpha for the betterment of the team is just as similar to Magic Johnson during his years of running the Lake Show alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The difference here is that for the Heat to have had reached their ceiling with that particular roster, Lebron had to ultimately score first and be assertive at all times.