a great interview with LeBron Jamesin the newest ESPN The Magazine.
He talks a lot about Michael Jordan. At one point, ESPN’s Chris Broussard asks him about the popular notion that he doesn’t have a Jordan-like “killer instinct.”
The consensus among some NBA fans is that MJ was one of the most maniacally competitive people ever, whereas LeBron is a weaker personality.
LeBron’s response to that is absolutely brilliant and self-aware. He makes an analogy to wild predatory animals — saying there’s more than one way to kill.
There are different ways to hunt. I watch the Discovery Channel all the time, and you look at all these animals in the wild. And they all hunt a different way to feed their families. They all kill a different way. Lions do it strategically — two females will lead, and then everybody else will come in. Hyenas will just go for it. There are different ways to kill, and I don’t think people understand that. Everybody wants everybody to kill the same way. Everybody wants everybody to kill like MJ or kill like Kobe. Magic didn’t kill the way they killed. Does that mean he didn’t have a killer instinct? Kareem didn’t either. But does that mean Kareem didn’t have a killer instinct? The same with Bird. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a killer instinct. Tim Duncan don’t kill like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, but I’ve played against Tim Duncan twice in the Finals and I know for sure he’s got a killer instinct. So there are different ways to kill. MJ had a killer instinct for sure. But if people really think that MJ didn’t talk to nobody and didn’t smile on the court, they’re crazy. They’re crazy. I’ve seen him. I was watching a clip the other day of him blocking Charles Barkley, and they’re laughing about the play — on the floor. Right now, if I block Kevin Durant on the floor, or I block Carmelo Anthony and we laugh about it? Ahh, I’m going to get killed [laughing]. I’m telling you. But there are different ways of killing.
This is a great quote for so many reasons.
The way we think about “greatness” in the NBA is largely defined by Michael Jordan. He is the baseline for how every other player, including LeBron, is judged.
That’s why LeBron still gets criticised for not “taking over” (i.e., shooting low-percentage shots like Jordan did) late in games.
LeBron is the first great wing player in the post-Jordan era to be anti-Jordan in some important ways. Kobe is one of the best players ever, but he’s great in all the same ways Jordan was great.
LeBron is different. He’s not a pure scorer. He’s not a trash-talker. He’s not Jordan.
And as this “killer instinct” quote shows, he’s completely comfortable being different.
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