It is of little coincidence that the Charlotte Bobcats are one of two Eastern Conference teams that have not defeated the Heat since LeBron James arrived in Miami.
For one, the Bobcats have been terrible for a long time, but, more to the point, James has made it a priority to never lose to the team owned by Michael Jordan. Call it a friendly rivalry between one player considered to be the best the game has ever seen and another player who might one day take away that title.
They won’t be competing on the court together in this first-round playoff series, but that will not stop James and Jordan from being compared to one another plenty. It has happened since James was 15 years old, and it’s not going to stop until … well, probably never.
James has two NBA championships. Jordan won six. James has four NBA MVPs. Jordan earned five. James is a better athlete. Jordan is a tough competitor. James likes to ride bikes in his free time. Jordan is a golfer. And it goes on from there.
Everyone has an opinion. Even the President of the United States has weighed in on the topic.
Sure, Barack Obama once said James held the world in the palm of his hand, but, given a choice, he probably would pick Jordan to strip that sphere in the open court and glide in for a tongue-wagging breakaway dunk.
“I’m a Chicago guy, and Mike will always be the guy for me,” Obama said in an interview with Charles Barkley in 2012.
Of course, Obama then added to that show of loyalty a mighty large caveat.
“LeBron has the chance to be as good as anybody,” he said.
It’s a fun debate, if nothing else, but James and Jordan have taken the comparisons personally through the years. After all, James began his career wearing No. 23 in honor of his favorite athlete. Why did James switch to No. 6 during the middle of his prime? James said it was out of respect to Jordan, but that just sounds like a spin doctor’s way of saying James wanted to step out of Jordan’s shadow in the hopes of eventually eclipsing His Airness.
“I wanted to make my own way,” James said Saturday.
And let’s be honest here. If it ever comes to it, Jordan will never be the gracious legend content with handing over his crown. Jordan is now 50 years old, but before this season started, he said in public that he could beat James in a game of one-on-one.
And Jordan wasn’t talking about in his heyday. He meant right now.
Jordan declined an interview with the Miami Herald leading up to this playoff series between his Bobcats and James’ back-to-back defending champions, but probably not because he doesn’t have anything to say.
And that’s another topic of discussion for this odd and always simmering rivalry between two of basketball’s most famous ambassadors. James has always reached out to young players in the NBA as a mentor and role model, but Jordan has apparently never spoken with James in depth or given him any advice. Jordan wouldn’t even recognize James as being the best player in the league until last year.
James is no longer a young player in the league, obviously, but that didn’t stop Jordan from lobbing a slight dig at James this season when asked in an interview with the Associated Press whether he would ever consider talking with the Heat’s superstar.
“Sure, I would be willing to talk to a bunch of the kids,” Jordan said. “And actually I do. I don’t advertise it because I don’t want it to be misconstrued, or to be viewed as tampering with other stars. I’m in a more difficult position than other owners because it can be viewed in a different way.”
For now, the communication between James and Jordan can only be expressed in one way: points on the scoreboard. At last count, James had a career-high 61 points the last time he played Jordan’s Bobcats.