With a tweet almost as efficient and jaw-dropping as his play, LeBron James pretty much said it all.
"I'm not MJ, I'm LJ," he wrote Wednesday, needing only 18 of Twitter's 140-character allotment to leave his mark on this historic run of dominance.
We head into All-Star weekend in Houston in awe of James' prolific, unmatched talent and his command of this rarefied air once occupied only by Michael Jordan. We could spend hours, if not days or weeks, debating the relative strengths and weaknesses of Jordan, James, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, on and on. We could compare numbers and championships, and attempt to grade everyone on a curve across the eras to make our case for the greatest ever.
This would be a silly and ultimately unfulfilling exercise, one that will never end with a definitive answer. That's one of the beauties of sports, especially basketball, a game that has changed the most of any of the Big Four pro sports through the decades.
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James' historic run, in which he has become the only player in NBA history to score at least 30 points and shoot 60 percent from the field in six consecutive games, provides the perfect backdrop for the NBA's signature weekend. This is especially true since any conversation about James' greatness reverts by default to a comparison of his talents to those of Jordan, who as the basketball gods would have it celebrates his 50th birthday this weekend.
Jordan reportedly has rented out Houston's Museum of Fine Arts to celebrate his milestone, at a cost of $100,000.
Jordan deserves to take a bow; he's still the greatest player I've ever seen, for what that's worth. But to LeBron's point, everyone would be better off taking a step back from this incessant need to compare and contrast, to transport today's talent to another era and vice versa. It worked for him.
James stopped doing this long ago, stopped trying to emulate Jordan and live up to his legacy. The result was the freedom and single-minded focus that allowed James to leave legacies for others to discuss and instead concentrate on fulfilling his championship destiny. That championship achievement, in turn, has freed James to simply exert his unique talents and never-before-seen athleticism on the game in a way that we simply need to enjoy rather than attempt to rank or categorize.
James is shooting an astounding 73 percent (70 for 96) during this streak. The relentless frontier known as the Internet has chronicled, dissected, charted and illustrated his achievements in ways that Jordan's exploits never knew. I'll give him this: While LeBron's "I'm not MJ" tweet speaks to his liberation from such noise, he cannot escape the reality that he's very much like Jordan in one important, undeniable way: No one had ever seen anyone like Jordan before, nor have we ever seen anyone like LeBron. In that way, they're equals in their own unique form of greatness.
Let's just enjoy it and celebrate it this weekend, shall we? Oh, and happy birthday, Mike.
With All-Star weekend and the Feb. 21 trade deadline bearing down on us, on to the rest of this week's Postups:
• Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will be in Houston to lobby NBA owners not to give up on his city and to update commissioner David Stern on progress in formulating a competing bid to keep the Kings there. Johnson wants an opportunity to present an alternative plan to a joint committee appointed by Stern to evaluate the purchase agreement struck by the Maloofs and a group headed by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, who plan to relocate the team to Seattle next season.
"You just cannot tell me that when Sacramento presents a comparable, fair, competitive deal to what Seattle's done and makes good on this arena that this team is going to be plopped and relocated somewhere else," Johnson said Tuesday at his weekly City Hall address. "At the end of the day, you just can't tell me that's going to happen."
It will mark the third straight All-Star weekend with Sacramento's future as an NBA city hanging in the balance. Last year in Orlando, a last-minute deal was struck between the city and the Maloofs to build a new arena for the Kings. The Maloofs later backed out of the deal, and Johnson is down to the final page of his bold but possibly fruitless playbook to keep the team.
"2013 is kind of the final act," Johnson said. "It's Act 3. So we're going to Houston knowing what's at stake. The Seattle people would like you to believe that the deal is done. And the deal is not done in Seattle. We're going to make sure we get that message out loud and clear."
The NBA Board of Governors, comprised of ownership and management representatives from all 30 teams, is expected to vote on the Seattle sale and relocation at its spring meeting in New York on April 18-19. Relocation requires majority approval, while the sale requires a three-fourths majority.
• The future of National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter is expected to be determined in a union meeting called for Saturday in Houston. But as with most union affairs, especially now amid leadership chaos and a struggle for power, there's reason to believe things won't go smoothly.
In a board of player representatives meeting, reps from all 30 teams will be briefed by investigators from the Paul-Weiss law firm on their findings about Hunter in a 469-page report that was released Jan. 17. Hunter was placed on indefinite leave Feb. 1 by an interim executive committee of five players whose authority Hunter has questioned through his attorney.
In his first interview since the union's nepotism, poor handling of conflicts of interest and questionable stewardship of finances under Hunter were exposed in the report, Hunter told the New York Times he intends to fight his ouster. His attorney, Thomas Ashley of Newark, N.J., has said Hunter's contract is valid and must be paid in full, including benefits, if he is relieved of his duties. The interim executive committee, led by president Derek Fisher, has taken Paul-Weiss' position that Hunter's contract is invalid because it was not voted on by the board of player reps.
A two-thirds vote of the player reps has only been required in the past for the hiring of a new executive director, not for the renewal of an existing director's contract. Hunter's initial contract in 1996 was approved by the player reps, but his 1999 and 2005 extensions were handled in the same manner as the 2010 extension -- they were approved by the executive committee, according to a person familiar with the matter. Fisher, whose complaints about the union's business practices under Hunter led to the nine-month Paul-Weiss probe and a concurrent federal criminal investigation, signed off on Hunter's 2010 extension, worth as much as $15 million.
Hunter is expected to be on hand Saturday in Houston, though he has been banned from communicating with players and hasn't received formal clearance from the union or its law firm to attend.
However, there is a strong feeling among some involved in the process that Hunter should be given an opportunity to rebut the Paul-Weiss findings and confront player reps and a newly formed executive committee, of which seven new members also must be elected this weekend. The players' actions would fall flat without the kind of transparency that the Paul-Weiss report found was frequently absent during Hunter's 16-year tenure as head of the union.
While it's reasonable to wonder whether the union will be able to attract a quorum of at least half the player reps needed to take action, there are indications that interest among players has grown to the point where attendance will not be an impediment. But even if, as expected, the player reps and executive committee vote Hunter out, that is hardly expected to be the final word. Hunter may decide to question the appointment of the player reps voting to oust him, as well as the authority and composition of the interim executive committee that placed him on leave.
(The player rep challenge may be difficult, since Hunter was present at the team meetings when the reps were appointed.) All of this ambiguity would open the door to a possible civil lawsuit, though such efforts would be complicated by the fact that Hunter remains the target of a U.S. Attorney criminal investigation. The federal probe of Hunter's actions as executive director is ongoing.
• Suspicion over the effectiveness of the NBA's policy against performance-enhancing drugs will only deepen after news Wednesday that the Magic's Hedo Turkoglu was suspended 20 games following a positive test for a banned anabolic steroid. Turkoglu said in a statement that he unknowingly took the banned substance, methenolone, while in Turkey this past summer thinking it was medication that would hasten his recovery from a shoulder injury.
Turkoglu joins former Orlando teammate Rashard Lewis from the 2009 Eastern Conference champion Magic team among the second-tier players -- always second-tier players -- who've been suspended by the NBA for PEDs. Their stature -- both physical and in the sport -- underscores that performance-enhancers aren't only for the muscle-bound, shredded athlete. They serve all kinds of purposes to athletes who come in all shapes and sizes.
Discussion of PEDs already was in the air when commissioner David Stern made news last week in Minnesota, saying he anticipates that the league and union will agree to a testing protocol for human growth hormone in time for next season. HGH has been a problematic addition to the anti-drug policies in Major League Baseball (which will begin testing for HGH this season) and the NFL because of differing views on the validity of testing for the substance. American sports unions also have been hesitant to agree to the more invasive blood testing necessary for HGH, but given that PEDs are proving to be the sports problem of our time, there's little public support for protecting players' privacy over the purity of the competition.
The NFL's new collective bargaining agreement calls for HGH testing to be adopted once protocols are agreed to with the NFLPA, which wants more assurances of testing accuracy. Last month, a congressional committee torched the NFLPA for "remarkable recalcitrance, which has prevented meaningful progress on this issue." Stern appears to favor following the NFL's lead when it comes to HGH, which has long been banned by the NBA but has not yet been subject to its random testing program.
Does the NBA have a PED problem? Like cycling and baseball, it likely won't know until it has one. But a comprehensive testing program for all performance-enhancers, including HGH, would be a good place to start.