Miami Heat

Miami Heat’s LeBron James: I’m LJ, not MJ

 

LeBron James doesn’t want to be compared to Michael Jordan — but everybody is doing it.

WEB VOTE Who has been the Miami Heat's unsung hero this season?

Thursday: Heat at Thunder

When/where: 8 p.m.; Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City.

TV/radio: TNT; WAXY 790, 104.3 FM and WAQI 710 (Spanish).

Series: Thunder lead 30-19.

Outlook: Including the postseason, the Heat has won the past five meetings against the Thunder. … Most recently, Miami beat the Thunder 103-97 on Christmas Day at the AmericanAirlines Arena. … The Heat has won six in a row overall, matching the team’s longest streak of the season. … The Heat is just 12-11 on the road this season, but 19-5 against teams from the Western Conference. … LeBron James has scored more than 30 points in each of the Heat’s past six games and is shooting above 70 percent in that stretch. … Dwyane Wade has recorded at least one steal in each of his past 10 games. During that span, he is averaging 2.4 steals per game. … Tuesday night’s victory against Portland was the Heat’s 1,000th in franchise history.


abeasley@MiamiHerald.com

LJ isn’t MJ but he is excited about facing OKC.

OK?

LeBron James commandeered an entire day’s worth of programming at talk radio stations around the country Wednesday morning when he fired off a simple, five-word Twitter message:

“I’m not MJ, I’m LJ,” James wrote to his 7.3 million followers just after 7 a.m.

By midafternoon, the missive had been retweeted more than 60,000 times and was the lead item on SportsCenter for much of the day.

You don’t need to play Alphabet Soup to understand what James was getting at:

Knock off the Michael Jordan comparisons.

Now that James has done something no one else ever has — score 30 or more points while shooting 60 percent or better in six consecutive games — people have tired of putting him up against his contemporaries.

The debate has grown stale.

Short of an epic late-season collapse, James will likely win his fourth league MVP award this summer.

He’s the three-time reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Month. And with averages of 30.4 points per game 6.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists in February, he’s on track for a fourth.

But nature abhors a vacuum, as it has been said, and so the talking heads have stopped comparing James to his peers and have resumed pitting him against basketball’s true gold standard: Jordan, the six-time champion and five-time league MVP.

Jordan also happens to turn 50 on Sunday — the day of the NBA All-Star Game — and so his legacy has been the topic of much recent discussion.

Thus, the collision of icons, old and new.

“As a player, you feel like any time you’re comparing guys across generations, and comparing guys like this who never played against each other, by complimenting one guy, you’re criticizing the other,” former pro Tim Legler said on ESPN Wednesday morning.

“He doesn’t want to be part of that. Let them both be great separately.”

James essentially said the same Wednesday — just in a lot fewer words. The Heat didn’t practice the day after beating the Blazers, and so James wasn’t made available to reporters.

But Tuesday night, after setting the new standard for offensive efficiency, James again said that the game’s history, and the greats that came before him, are never far from his thoughts.

“It kind of blew my mind, not the guys that were on it, but some of the guys that weren’t on it,” James said. “You’d think Wilt [Chamberlain] would have a 40-70. You’d think MJ would have one of those records where he shot unbelievable from the field in 40-point games.

“To see how small the list was, and for me to even be part of the list to start out was like, ‘Wow,’ ” he added. “And now, for me to be the holder of the record, any good record in this league … it was an honor.”

Said Chris Bosh: “Obviously, he’s on a classic, dynamic run right now, and we want to do everything to help him continue to do that.”

When asked how he would react if someone else in the league would go on the kind of tear he’s currently on, James said he probably would take to Twitter to praise the feat.

Instead, he used the social media Wednesday to redirect the hype surrounding him — if not tamp it down.

There will be no controlling the buzz Thursday night, when the Heat visits Oklahoma City for the first time since Game 2 of last year’s NBA Finals. The nationally televised game is a showcase event headed into All-Star Weekend, and the last matchup between the teams this season.

At 39-13, the Thunder has the league’s second-best record and is poised for another Finals run. Kevin Durant’s offensive efficiency has never been better: shooting (51.9 percent), three-pointers (43.2 percent) and free throws (90.4 percent).

In most any other year, he would be the leading MVP candidate.

But James is having a season for the ages. If he goes for 30 or more points Thursday, he’ll be the first player to do so in each of the last seven games before the All-Star break since Chamberlain did it in 1962-63, per ESPN Stats and Information.

Keep playing like this, and James could earn another anagram: GOAT.

As in, Greatest Of All Time.

• The Heat recalled center Dexter Pittman from the D-League Wednesday. He has averaged 12.4 points and 8.8 rebounds in 15 games with the Sioux Falls Skyforce this year.

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