On ESPNChicago there was a post today reporting Carlos Boozer stated that he
doesn’t believe his fellow free agents will view playing in Chicago — under the shadow of Michael Jordan‘s legacy — as a negative.
Initially this post was going to be titled “Boozer Wrong To Say MJ’S Legacy Not A Negative,” but after looking at it more closely, I realized that in his actual quote he said it wouldn’t be a negative for most free agents, not all. It was ESPN, in the post’s title and the above opening line, who incorrectly turned it into a blanket statement about all free agents. Let’s look more fully at what Booze actually said before I heap anymore abuse on him than I have in the past:
“A lot of people in my era, in my age group, we watched MJ do what he did: win championships, be the face of the NBA and continue to dominate the game. [...] I think most of the free agents this summer [think it's] probably an attractive thing to have that history, where MJ played, where [Scottie] Pippen played for those six championships.
“I can remember being a kid and watching that. I think everybody, whoever it is this summer, can remember watching MJ do his thing in Chicago, so I think that will be more of a positive thing than a negative thing.”
This is definitely true for him and pretty much all the free agents because he would never directly be competing with MJ. He wouldn’t be under Jordan’s shadow, ‘cuz no one in a million years would ever think he could be like Mike, let alone anywhere near as good. For LeBron James, and possibly Dwayne Wade, the only two exceptions, that would not be the case. Particularly LeBron, at just 25, he still has a chance for his legacy to be in the same ballpark as Jordan, if not better. However, to outdo the Original #23, he’d need more than 6 rings. That’s a lot o’ jewelry. In Cleveland, New York, New Jersey or hell, pretty much anywhere except Chicago, if he gets three rings he’ll at least be The Best There Ever Was for that city.
Players do indeed love playing on teams with deep basketball tradition like the Celtics, Bulls, Lakers, and I guess maybe the Knicks (although more due to the bball rep of NYC & the Garden than specifically the Knicks). It’s wonderful being part of a rich history of greats. Boozer, like most, just wants to be part of that long line of success. However, for a few select few like LeBron, they dream of being at the front of the line. Almost anywhere else he can reach that pole position fairly handily. In Chicago, it’s a steep climb.
Boozer, rightly, doesn’t mind playing second fiddle to Deron Williams (or at least being co-stars), so of course he shouldn’t mind going somewhere he could never be King. Every player’s desires has to do with in what realm their skills lie. Steve Kerr never minded playing fifth fiddle to MJ in his prime because that was as good as life got for him. Gary Payton, only after his skills had diminished, was finally ready to rent himself out as a fifth wheel to the Lakers and the Heat. While it would be fun to see, say, LeBron join Kobe on the Lakers, wouldn’t it be disappointing to see him deferring to the Black Mamba in crunch time?
If LeBron wants to be as great as he can be, the shadow of MJ’s legacy will matter. And Boozer knows LeBron has different concerns than most other players, so he wasn’t talking about him. It’s ESPN who buried that lead.