It's true, though, I don't really like the idea of comparing athletes to the ones that came before them, particularly the great ones. When you're among the best to play your game, it means almost by definition that you're different from everyone else. This certainly holds true for LeBron. He's not MJ, he's not Magic or Oscar Robertson or anyone else. He's LeBron, he plays a different style from the rest of the greats. We shouldn't try to evaluate how great he is by how similar he is to Jordan. It's entirely possible that he will eventually be as good as or better than Jordan by playing a different style and acting a different way.
I was talking to a friend earlier about how Danny Ferry should try to assemble the Cavs like the 1996 Chicago Bulls, the team that went 72-10 and won the championship. I said they still needed a Ron Harper, a Steve Kerr, a Dennis Rodman, and so on. It occurred to me that I was doing the same thing Skip did. If LeBron can be great without being like Jordan, couldn't the Cavs be great without being like the Bulls?
So, presuming the Cavs don't get by the Pistons, or the Nets/Heat, or the Spurs/Mavericks (yeah, I'm counting you out, Clippers and Suns), how should the Cavs go about building a better team? I didn't know. The answer was found in a surprising location: a Scoop Jackson piece on Page 2. Well, actually, Scoop just gave me the inspiration, talking about LeBron:
. . . he holds on to things internally to make himself stronger.This reminded me of a quote from The Godfather (the novel): "It was part of the Don's greatness that he profited from everything." Basically, what made Vito Corleone great was not just that he ran his family better than the rest, or that he planned and executed strategies better than the other families, but that he learned from everything, both his successes and failures. So, if LeBron's gonna operate in a similar fashion, why not build his team like Don Corleone built his family?
He remixes Nietzsche.
Every negative experience, every downfall, he turns into a life lesson. Which turns into his personal pursuit. Which turns into his application to basketball. Which leads him to fascinate us in ways we've never seen someone so young be able to do.
Godfather: LeBron James
LeBron James (artist's rendering)
So, we know we'll put LeBron at the heart of the team. He, like Don Corleone, is the foundation of it all, upon which the rest of the team will be built on. Who's next? Well, the Don's second-in-command was the consigliere, his most trusted advisor. The consigliere was someone who was always loyal and reliable, never wanted glory, and knew that he would be successful as long as he helped the Don achieve his goals. In LeBron's case, we're talking about a point guard. LeBron needs a guy who can distribute the ball and make an open three, but a guy who will defer to the big guns on the team, a guy who won't seek the limelight. Guards like this are in short supply in the NBA, but as Ohio State basketball fans, you and I (along with Brent Musberger) know of such a player, one of the most underrated point guards in college basketball: Jamar Butler. He was a solid shooter on a team that shot a lot of threes, and his assist-to-turnover ratio was excellent. So we'll pencil him in:
Consigliere: Jamar Butler
Tom Hagen: Not a shoot-first guard
Vito Corleone organized his family into regimes, headed by two capos, or underbosses. The Don kept one of them, Pete Clemenza, under pretty tight control, because while he was reliable, he wasn't quite good enough to be given free rein. The other one, Sal Tessio, was left to do things pretty much as he pleased, to the point where he was thought for a time to be running a separate family (this all's from the book more so than the movie). In this Cosa Nostra I'm assmbling, the role of Clemenza will be played by Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a good but not great center, while Tessio will be Larry Hughes, the only other guy on the team that could be considered a #1 guy on a team. But if Larry doesn't start playing like he did with the Wizards, things could end poorly for him with the team, though not as poorly as they ended for Tessio.
"Sean, can you get me off the hook? For old times' sake?"
"Can't do it, Larry."
Caporegimes: Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Larry Hughes
The last piece of the puzzle is an enforcer. Don Corleone had Luca Brasi, one of the most feared men in the Mafia. LeBron current has. . . Drew Gooden? That won't do. Luca was the guy the Don would call on when something absolutely had to be done well, and done quietly. You can't count on Drew Gooden to put together a decent game in the playoffs when he's playing for big money in his next contract. LeBron needs someone who's reliable, angry, effective, and a little crazy. I think you know where I'm going with this:
Rasheed pledges his ever-ending loyalty.
Rasheed would do well in this role. He's the second-craziest man in the NBA, and the double teams LeBron would draw off of 'Sheed's screens would free him up for a bunch of mid-range jumpers. Of course, there's no way Rasheed would end up playing for the Cavs, but I can't think of any other really scary power forwards in the NBA, so he gets the spot anyway:
Enforcer: Rasheed Wallace
So there you have it. What's everyone think? Any better ideas, any players or characters I missed? Don't hesitate to let me know.