Some may have thought that LeBron James would be lacking for his motivation after winning the title this past June or that he had accomplished the biggest task left on his resume. That, apparently, isn’t the case.
In a story by Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins, James says that he’s chasing a ghost and that that ghost played basketball for the Chicago Bulls. That ghost, of course, is none other that Michael Jordan. Jordan is considered to be the best ever and while LeBron matches up with him well in a number of ways, Jordan won six titles and LeBron only has three. Catching Jordan is James’ new motivation.
For the past decade, dramatic story lines have followed him, some of his own making, others contrived and distracting. Can he make the big shot? Can he win the big game? Can he win the big game in Cleveland? All that has melted away, into a puddle of Moët on the Oracle Arena hardwood, and finally he is left alone with the only subplot that ever really interested him. He has pondered it forever, but could not voice it, not with one title or even two. But now he has three, and the weight of this latest trophy tips scales the others did not. The guy in the second row waits for an honest answer.
“My motivation,” James says, “is this ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago.”
Here’s another quote from the story:
"My career is totally different than Michael Jordan's," James said. "What I've gone through is totally different than what he went through. What he did was unbelievable, and I watched it unfold. I looked up to him so much. I think it's cool to put myself in position to be one of those great players, but if I can ever put myself in position to be the greatest player, that would be something extraordinary."
This is perhaps the first time that James has directly referenced Jordan in reference to his career goals. LeBron is famously cryptic and even this quote doesn’t mention Jordan by name. But the ghost in Chicago has to the Jordan and the six rings he won with the Bulls.
At this point in his career - with the three titles, his title win in Cleveland, the MVPs, etc. - James’ legacy is already secure and he’s certainly in the discussion for the best player ever. But for some - and with James, it seems - matching or surpassing Jordan’s six rings would be the way to 100 percent cement his legacy and leave no room for debate about his status amongst the best to ever play basketball.