Day 23: Jordan vs. LeBron

Today is Day 23. Gevurah sheb’netzach. Endurance/Victory that manifests in Power.

Well, if you thought the choice on Day 21 was hard, welcome to Day 23. Who you got: Michael Jordan or LeBron James? I’m not talking about the debate for G.O.A.T. I’m talking about who most embodies gevurah sheb’netzach, the power that emerges from endurance or victory. 

I won’t keep you in suspense. My choice for Day 23 is…

I hear you. Michael Jordan has more championships than LeBron (6 vs 3). If we quantify power by wealth, he wins again ($1.9b to $480m). And while LeBron James plays for an NBA team, Michael owns one (granted, it is the Charlotte Hornets).

Nobody epitomizes victory in the modern NBA, like Michael Jordan who went 6-0 in the NBA Finals and nobody has capitalized on their basketball abilities and celebrity appeal like Jordan. His Airness even embodies the aspect of gevurah (power) that is called Din, or judgment. If you need a reminder of how harshley Jordan judges others, just check out The Last Dance

So why am I choosing LeBron? Three reasons: 

  1. He’s actually won more games in his career than Jordan. 855 vs. 825 (regular season and playoffs). If LeBron plays 4 more seasons and averages 60 totals wins, he’ll be approaching 1100 wins, the fourth highest in league history (behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, and The Chief, Robert Parish)
  2. LeBron’s won all those games because he has endured, a key aspect of this week of netzach. Jordan was great, but he took two years off in his prime to play basketball, and then retired again for three years, before returning to the Washington Wizards. LeBron has been able to stay healthy and continue to play at a high level much longer than most players, all while going to eight straight NBA finals. At 35, most players are washed up, but LeBron is challenging for this season’s MVP award. 
  3. I want to celebrate LeBron’s embodiment of gevurah

Lebron and MJ both have power. Lots of it. But what LeBron has been able to do to build power for himself and others from the very beginning of his career is outstanding. He was in the national spotlight as a teenage phenom. At 17, he was labelled “The Chosen One” on the cover of Sports Illustrated. That kind of pressure and attention at such a young age would ruin most people, but LeBron has lived up to and exceeded all expectations. He’s lived his whole life in the spotlight and kept his reputation clean (please G-d, may it always be so).

The King has a unique combination of size, speed, and skill that has made him virtually unstoppable in his 16 year career. But it’s LeBron’s brain – his basketball IQ, emotional intelligence, and business savvy – that make him truly special. 

He recognized his power early on and used it to empower his friends to build their careers adjacent to him in marketing, media production, and player representation. He ushered in the player empowerment generation with his move to Miami to join up with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. (Although, The Decision remains his biggest misstep). And he used his power again to come home to Cleveland and force the Cavs to build a contender around him. 

All he did in Cleveland, was lead the Cavaliers to 4 straight NBA Finals and a historic 3-1 comeback against the team with the greatest regular season ever, the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. He also helped win Game 7 and the championship with one of his greatest blocks ever. 

But it’s the way that LeBron has spoken out to support progressive causes, like the Black Lives Matter movement that make me want to celebrate his power on Day 23. The charter school he founded in his hometown of Akron, OH has become a model for other NBA players as well. To Michael’s credit, he’s done more in recent years to throw his money and support behind social justice causes, but LeBron has been willing to do it at the height of his power and that is how I want to see netzach manifest as power in this world.

Featured picture of Lebron James from Erik Drost, derivative work: Ryanhenrich26

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