Matthew Kitchen, NBC Olympics
Congratulations to Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala, and James Harden for being named to Team USA this weekend. You’re all talented additions, but, and this is just a heads up, this team is led by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Act accordingly.
We’re not fans of putting anyone in the same conversation with Michael Jordan, mostly because it’s offensive to our childhood, basketball, and the universe as a whole, but LeBron has a chance to match Jordan’s incredible summer of 1992 when he earned an MVP, championship, Finals MVP, and gold medal. They’d be the only pair to pull it off, with Kobe a Game 7 away in 2008.
Those accomplishments are a vast improvement over LeBron’s last couple summers, including the time he surrounded himself with children to distract from him being a terrible human during “The (Awful PR) Decision.” And the time he inexplicably lost to a less talented Mavericks team in the 2011 Finals because he wasn’t willing to usurp Dwyane Wade as leader.
We’d like to think LeBron is finally putting all together at the ripe old age of 27, which makes the power struggle between him and the ancient Bryant, all of 33, one of the most interesting story lines of these Summer Olympics.
Bryant put the team on his back during the gold medal game against Spain in ’08, and won’t happily relinquish his role as team leader in London. History shows that James has always been willing to default to others in big spots, seemingly scared to take over when the moment presents itself. We’ll see if this summer’s championship run changed his attitude toward his own dominance.
The setting was similar in ’92, when a newly retired Magic Johnson wanted everyone to know that he was still top dog on the Dream Team despite his ailment. Jordan disagreed, which led to some now well documented scrimmages where both players were at each other’s throats. Both men were right in different ways, and it led to beating Angola by 68 points in the opening game.
We’ll see if LeBron shrinks back to his old self in London, or if he finally stands up to Kobe and takes over Team USA during what might be the most important summer of his legacy. Either way, it’s going to be one hell of a summer on the court. Act accordingly.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.