The NFL Is F*cking Evil (…And We Don’t Give A Damn)

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It was Sunday. We (my fiancee and I) were at my dad’s house, watching the Heat/Bulls game. It was halftime, so I started channel surfing. We landed on the NFL combine.

Her: “What’s this?”

Me: “The closest thing you’ll ever see to a televised slave auction.”

Her: “Ha. Seriously, what is this?”

Me: “It’s the NFL combine. Where all the college players hoping to get drafted work out and get measured in front of NFL teams.”

Her: “Ok.”

***30 seconds later***

Her: “What do they measure?”

Me: “Basically everything from speed to hand size.”

Her: “Hand size?”

Me: “Yeah.”

***30 seconds later***

Her: “Yeah, this is super slave auction-ey. Feels like I’m watching 12 Years a Slave.”

Me: “We haven’t even seen that yet.”

Her: “After seeing this, I don’t think we need to.”

For the next five minutes or so, we made increasingly silly joke after increasingly silly joke comparing the combine to a slave auction. At the height of the silliness, we both adopted “overseer” accents (which probably actually sounded Jamaican) when mimicking the commentators’ vocal inflections whenever they’d mention a player’s “loose hips” or “wide wingspan” or “thigh width” or “watermelon picking nose.” But beneath the silliness was the realization that we actually weren’t that off.

The nature of football dictates and demands that a premium is placed on prospects proving themselves by performing tasks — vertical leaps, bench presses, etc — more based on physicality and athleticism than actual skill. This is unique to that sport. A great 40 yard dash time and high vertical leap alone won’t get you drafted in the NBA, the NHL, or Major League Baseball. In the NFL, though, it could make you a millionaire.

And, while the slave auction comparison was obviously hyperbolic (to my knowledge, no slaves were signing multi-million dollar contracts), when watching this group of very young and half-naked (mostly) Black men perform these tasks while being picked, prodded, and assessed by a group of much older, fully dressed, and (mostly) White men — men with the power to decide exactly where these young men are going to be employed — it’s a natural connection.

But, we kept watching.

Yesterday, I published a piece by Maya Francis that asked us to rethink Bill Cosby’s legacy in light of the multiple sexual assault allegations against him. A couple months earlier, I wrote something similar in content but much more scathing in tone about R. Kelly. In it, I made no qualms about calling current fans of the R-uh idiots.

These pieces are mere drops in the accountability/outrage ocean we now all seem to swim in. From Chris Brown to republicans to Woody Allen to Gabrielle Union to Chick-Fil-a to Robin Thicke to Papa Johns to Miley Cyrus to Kanye West to the state of Florida, recent popular American culture is filled with examples of a large number of people deciding that a popular entity’s behavior is too troublesome to continue to purchase and/or patronize their product(s).

But when it comes to the NFL, an organization whose negative headlines over just the last six months read like stories from an off-brand Law & Order franchise (“Next on Law & Order: Tampa Greyhound Station: Handsome NFL heartthrob by day. Multi-state serial rapist by night.“), this outrage seems to wane. And by “wane” I mean “not fucking exist.”

Well, maybe we say it does. Maybe we say that all the issues plaguing the league — domestic violence, murder, rape, racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying, steroids, teams named after racial slurs, bounties, permanent brain injuries, lawsuits from people with permanent brain injuries who contend the league lied to them, evidence the league is attempting to silence the lawsuits — really bother us. Maybe we say we’re turned off by the post-racial racist audaciousness of the league considering a rule prohibiting Black players from saying “nigga“, and maybe we realize it’s a smokescreen to distract us from stuff like star running backs knocking out their fiancees in casinos and dragging them out of elevators. Maybe we’re bothered by news that a multi-billion dollar industry that makes a big production every year to show how committed they are to breast cancer research only gives 8% of the proceeds from the campaign to actual research. Maybe we’re bothered by how it ties itself to patriotism and militaristicness, and maybe we see the irony in it branding itself as “America’s Game.” Maybe we care that it’s the most violent and physically demanding of the four major American team sports, but the only one not to offer its workforce fully guaranteed contracts. Maybe we care that the cost of a family actually attending a game is more than their mortgage.

But, we keep watching. In record numbers. So it doesn’t really matter what we say, does it? This isn’t just us putting our heads in the sand. It’s us putting our heads in the sand, and demanding deeper, hotter, and heavier sand.

After turning the Heat/Bulls game back on, I sporadically turned back to the combine during commercial breaks. She wasn’t pleased.

Her: “This slave shit…again. Why?

Me: “The Steelers need a big receiver. I need to watch.”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

How To Be Gay As F*ck

All gay

Many faces. All gay.

As is the case with most popular news items that have absolutely no impact on our actual lives, the reactions to the NFL bullying story have become more interesting than the story itself. We’re not even two weeks in, and it has already spawned numerous national sub-conversations about masculinity, sports culture, football, hazing, and half-niggers.

Oh, and faggotry. You can’t forget about gotdamn faggotry.

One of the more popular theories bandied around social media about this story is that Jonathan Martin is gay, and this incident was either the result of a lover’s quarrel gone bad (which would make Richie Incognito gay as well) or Martin’s Dolphins’ teammates having a problem with his sexual orientation.

This may very well be true. Thing is, there is absolutely nothing in this story that would suggest that. Nothing.

But, because Martin’s demeanor and background (introverted, from an upper-middle class background, Stanford-educated, etc) don’t fit our expectations of what a Black male professional athlete should be like—and because he chose to solve his problems in a way we don’t expect Black men to—he must be gay. At least according to some people.

Anyway, although I was taught in a 4th grade biology class that there was only one way to be a homosexual man—be attracted to and/or sleep with men—life has taught me there are hundreds of thousands of things a man can do to definitely let everyone know he really, really, really, really must want to have sex with men. Here’s a few.

Not want to fight

Always want to fight

Smile too much

Be too happy

Match

Read

Sing

Sing in church

Go to church

Join the church choir

Live in Atlanta

Move to Atlanta

Visit Atlanta

Be soft-spoken

Use umbrellas

Be single past a certain age

Don’t have children

Use straws

Sleep with a lot of women

Don’t sleep with enough women

Go to the gym too much

Shower with other men in the locker room

Feel a certain way about showering with other men in the locker room

Love sports too much

Don’t love sports

Take pictures with a transgender model

Be a model

Be an actor

Be a dancer

Be HIV positive

Eat pussy

Enjoy a woman’s touch or tongue on certain parts of your body

Befriend gay people

Hate gay people

Wear skinny jeans

Be skinny

Sag your jeans and sweats

Wear jeans and sweats that actually fit

Use body wash

Take a woman’s side during a disagreement or argument

Be friends with women

Like women

Have female friends

Have no female friends

Be Chris Bosh

Own a loofa

Apply chapstick

Eat a banana, or any other phallic-shaped food, in public

Be an adult virgin

Cry (especially if it’s about some gay shit)

Recycle

Drive certain cars

Have manners

Use emoticons

Take a lot of pictures of yourself

Walk funny

Talk funny

Get molested as a kid (Or sexually assaulted as an adult)

Order certain types of drinks

Order colorful drinks

Order drinks in certain types of glasses

Hold your drink a certain way

Don’t drink

Dance too well

Be Drake

Listen to Drake

Not agree that Drake is gay

Be Kanye West

Be post-808′s Kanye West, especially

Be Kanye West today, especially especially

Enjoy anal sex

Not be sexually attracted to a certain woman

Be sexually attracted to thin women

Make too much eye contact

Don’t make any eye contact

Compliment a man’s looks

Have a man compliment your looks

Be too good-looking

Write something titled “How To Be Gay As F*ck”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

PJ and Champ Talk NFL and Bullying

For the whatever installment of this fireside chat between Champ and I, we decided to tackle (get it? Tackle?) the NFL and its latest PR problem…bullying. Allons-y.

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i7HArKtO3nVsPanama Jackson: The latest news out of the NFL is that the state of Florida is having the worst year ever. Tampa Bay sucks ass. Jacksonville is such a sh*tty place to be an NFL team I hear that Des Moines is in the running for the new location for the team (I just made that up). Then comes the Miami Dolphins and a fellow who represents a sport where the manliest of men do battle weekly basically took a leave of absence because he was allegedly being bullied. By a man named Richie Incognito no less.

For those not in the know, 2nd year player Jonathon Martin’s feelings were hurt by Incognito’s rampant use of bad words and voicemails where he was referred to by the nword and other words that aren’t very nice. You know, it sounds like I’m making light of Martin’s feelings here. And to be fair, to qoute Quincy from Love and Basketball “Some things should never f*cking happen…” but they do. And a lot. Football players “bullying” one another is kind of part of the gig. Just like in any organization. There’s levels to this sh*t. Some of which involves being berated. And it’s not right, but its okay, we’re going to make it anyway.

I think bullying is wrong. I also think that you try to handle things in house. He really went to tell on him. Or something. Champ, break it down for me and tell me whats really hood with the situation here? How do you feel about the story that’s come out?

Champ: Florida is having the worst NFL year ever. It’s also having its best college football year in over a decade, and the NBA champs reside there. I guess this would be a paradox.

So, the fact that this Jonathan Martin story is a story is crazy. Not crazy in that it shouldn’t have been a story. But crazy in that it hasn’t been a story more often. Because, while football is, for lack of a better term, “unique” (more on that later), this type of stuff happens with competitive sports more often than we want to admit. Does it happen in every locker room? No. But is the Dolphins’ locker room the only place where stuff like this is happening? Hell no.

If you happen to see or go through it while you’re playing though, it doesn’t feel like a big deal. For all of its benefits, sports does have a way of making you normalize inconspicuously abnormal behavior.

For instance, I was called a “scared shitless cunt” by a coach once. At halftime of a game we were winning by 25. I was 12. I also helped stuff a kid into a ball rack, lock it, and pour 10 bags of ice on him. I was 17. He might have been 13. His offense? I was working a basketball camp, he was a kid at the camp, he was being a smart-aleck, and we (the rest of my teammates) thought this would be an appropriate punishment. I felt kinda bad when he started crying, but not bad enough to stop us from rolling him around in one of the locker rooms so the rest of the kids could laugh at him.

None of this—the scared shitless cunt, the kid in the ball rack—seemed like a big deal when it was happening.

Anyway, I’m bringing this all up because I do think there’s a ton of hypocrisy and self-righteous outrage going on right now in response to this bullying story. I totally get why people who aren’t football fans are appalled by some of this stuff. I’m a football fan and I’m appalled.

But—for people who are fans of the sport—what the fuck do you think is going to happen when you put a bunch of hyper-aggressive and hyper-athletic young men together and pay them millions of dollars to knock each others heads off for 16 straight weeks?

If anything, this story just provides another example of the cognitive dissonance you need to exhibit to be an NFL fan. I mean, do you really have a right to be outraged about the bullying and the brain injuries and the domestic violence and the suicides and the murder-suicides and everything else if you’re still happily supporting the product every Sunday?

PJ: I honestly never knew what the term cognitive dissonance was until I started hearing about it because of the NFL. But you’re right. These cats are super aggressive guys whose entire livelihood involves being de facto crash test dummies. I think that’s why I’m so amazed at a man being in his feelings in the locker room about something like this. I’ve definitely been called worse. And that happened at a summer camp where the camp counselor made a bunch of us eat ants. I’m pretty sure that’s child abuse today.

What I find the most interesting, and you’ve alluded to this, is how many sports commentators are making it seem like they truly think this is outrageous. These cats have been in locker rooms and likely participated in the activities and now want to be outraged? Or at least pretend to be outraged? I just don’t know if we can call anything bullying that happens in a sport that involves full contact at very high rates of speed…on purpose. Sure, your wife sleeping with your best man or quarterback is cause for being in your feelings. But another football player basically calling you a p*ssy daily seems a bit extra. Again, I’m not him. Maybe he’s just a gentle soul – akin to Ricky Williams – whose physical gifts and talents (pause) have landed him where he is, but this also can’t be the first time somebody dug in at him.

You bring up another good point. How do we watch the product given all these issues? Well, we realize nothing’s going to change. And there’s so much money involved it doesn’t seem real anyway. We feel like these guys are being paid insane amounts of money to do something we’d all give our right nuts to do while we’re all making peanuts just to get by. I knwo bullying is a big issue in America. Kids are being affected by it daily in ways that are causing real serious consequences. Football players being bullied seems like small potatoes when little kids are hanging themselves because of Facebook messages. Here’s a question, who does one come back from this? You can’t seriously walk back into any locker room as Jonathon Martin and think anybody is f*ckign with you, can you?

Champ: Yeah, Jonathan Martin may have committed career suicide. Which, again, is crazy. Because he didn’t do the wrong thing here. It’s ironic (and telling) that some people are calling him a coward for going this route, when what he’s doing actually took waaaaaaaaaay more courage than just punching someone in the face. This isn’t a kid tattling because someone took his milk. This is an educated man (a Stanford grad, if I’m not mistaken) who is likely fully aware of the ramifications of going outside of the locker room with this. He basically put himself against NFL culture. Is he going to “win?” Well, that depends on how you define winning.

(And for the people who swear that this wouldn’t have happened to them, that they would have “handled it like a man” or whatever the fuck else, I don’t believe you. You need more people.)

Also interesting is the fact that, despite Incognito being quoted as calling Jonathan Martin a nigger, some of the Black Dolphins players are supporting him. For the record, Mike Wallace (one of the quoted supporters) is a known idiot—so perhaps just the dumb Black players are supporting him—but this does speak to that whole issue about how certain types of Black people aren’t considered to be “authentically Black.” Basically, the Stanford-educated Martin isn’t Black enough for some of his Black teammates to side with him instead of the thug hick who called him a “half-nigger.”

What would you do if someone called you a half-nigger?

PJ: I’d go cry in the car. But I wouldn’t go tell either. And if I was genuinely offended (jury’s out on whether I would be), and I was the size of Jonathan Martin, I’d mollywop the sh*t out of Incognito or at least try. My guess is, my man Martin has some other issues. Which is why…he went to cry in the car.

Wouldn’t you go cry in the car??

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Things go better with PJ and Champ…what are your thoughts on the NFL and its latest bullying problem? Happy Friday people. Happy Friday.

Why I Love NBA Basketball

Kyrie Irving, Avery Bradley

As I type this, the remnants of a fried egg and bacon sandwich sits on a plate to my left. What was once a towering piece of sandwich art has been reduced to a dozen or so desolate crumbs and two lone strands of grated Parmesan cheese. If you squint, it looks like a map of Rhode Island.

I live within a two mile radius of a supermarket and (at least) 20 different restaurants, and my refrigerator is (surprisingly) stocked. My food options are limitless. (Well, relatively limitless. I’d have to leave the radius for shark steak and, strangely, Frosted Flakes.) I chose to create and devour this sandwich because I had a very specific craving for the very specific combination of ingredients.

I did not eat my fried egg and bacon sandwich and wish it were a Big Mac. Or a pizza. Or leftover roast beef. Or even a fried egg and sausage sandwich. I also did not attempt to make my fried egg and bacon sandwich taste more like a Big Mac, a pizza, leftover roast beef, or a fried egg and sausage sandwich. If I wanted any of those things, I would have eaten them.

But I didn’t. So I didn’t. And now I’m full. And happy.

The 2013-2014 NBA season starts today. I am very happy about this. Basketball isn’t just my favorite sport. It is my favorite non-essential thing on Earth, and I enjoy watching NBA basketball more than I enjoy consuming any other type of media.

I am not unique in my interest in NBA basketball. I am, though, (somewhat) unique in my love for and acceptance of its current form. NBA basketball is my fried egg and bacon sandwich. I do not want it to be a Big Mac.

I realize this food analogy is ridiculous. But to understand the NBA’s strange place in our cultural zeitgeist, ridiculousness seems appropriate. Necessary, even. To wit, by every conceivable metric (TV ratings, star quality, estimated sale price of teams, quality of play, transcendent beards, etc), the National Basketball Association is thriving. Yet, a very large percentage of people interested in the league’s success and/or demise remain convinced there are cavernous, fundamental wrongs at the base of it’s foundation. Basically, the league is fucked up and needs to be fixed.

This in itself isn’t ridiculous, or even unwelcome. If everyone felt the exact same way about the exact same things, we’d all work at Trader Joe’s. What is ridiculous is that its perceived wrongs are only wrongs because it’s being compared to three completely separate and completely ridiculous entities.

1. An idealized version of an NBA past that never actually existed.

2. A decidedly worse version of NBA basketball. (NCAA basketball)

3. Walmart. (And, by “Walmart” I mean “America,” and by “America” I mean “The NFL”)

Basically, for those who believe the NBA has big problems, the NBA’s biggest problems are 1. it’s not something it never has been, 2. it’s not a worse version of itself, and 3. it’s not something it never will be.

And this is why I love it.

Thorough explanations of why the idealized past never actually existed and why college basketball is inferior would venture into basketball wonk territory, and I’ll spare you from that. Today.

Instead, lets focus on Walmart.

The NFL has parity. Well, at least the perception of parity. I’m not even sure if Kansas City fielded a team last season. I think they used their football stadium for monster truck rallies and Civil War reenactments every Sunday. They now have the best record in the NFL. They will not win the Super Bowl. But, their fans legitimately believe they have a chance. This is great. For the NFL.

The NBA does not have the same type of parity. The season hasn’t begun yet, but those who follow the sport already know there are exactly five teams with a realistic shot of winning the NBA championship this year. Naturally, any conversation that brings up the NBA’s place in the sports universe will cite the NFL’s any-given-Sunday-ness as the reason for its popularity, implying that the NBA would be wise to try to emulate them. And, this is wrong.

The unique nature of basketball means that a dominant player will have more opportunity to provide an impact on the outcome of the game. (As good as Peyton Manning is, he doesn’t play defense, so he’s only able to have an effect on half of the game. Lebron, on the other hand, can conceivably play every minute.) This makes it inherently less random, and the length of the NBA’s schedule and the playoffs series format make it even less random. These dynamics combine to make the NBA the sports world’s truest meritocracy—which I love—and asking it to be more random and more like the NFL is asking a fried egg and bacon sandwich to be a Big Mac.

There’s also the argument that there are too many games. And this also is an argument that compares the NBA season to the NFL season. And this is also a ridiculous argument.

While the common point of the argument—less games means that each game matters more—seems to make sense, it also states that people who love football love it because there’s less of it. Which implies that people who love football don’t actually love football. If you love something specifically because there isn’t much of it, you don’t really love it that much. You love waiting for it, looking forward to it, and craving it, but you don’t love it itself. And, because I love watching NBA basketball so much, it doesn’t matter much to me that the season is long and every game doesn’t have the mythical import that a 16 game season might have.

I realize the title is (somewhat) misleading. It outright says that the post will explain my love for NBA basketball, but the bulk of the post is devoted to one of the reasons why people who don’t love it don’t love it. This would seem to be a very insecure expression of love.

But all explanations of love eventually sound insecure. Not because the person in love is trying to convince themselves, but because any attempt to articulate and deconstruct love is going to fall short.

Basically, I love NBA basketball because it’s NBA basketball and not anything else. Which doesn’t say anything. But actually says everything.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Why The 2012-2013 NBA Season Might Be The Best NBA Season You’ve Ever Seen

The first NBA game I remember watching was a Sixers game in the spring of 1986. I forgot exactly who they were playing, but I recall (well, I think I recall) Dr. J hitting a buzzer beater to win. I also recall getting a spanking (my last ever, btw) that day for peeing in the front yard. It was a memorable day, I guess.

In the 26 years since, I’ve watched thousands of NBA games. If you include the playoffs, that number is probably somewhere between 2000 and 2500. Basically, I’ve been a diehard NBA fan longer than many of you reading this have been alive.

I’m bringing this up to provide background and credibleness (I know I could have used “credibility” there, but credibleness just felt better) to make my (eventual) point.

We enter the 2012-2013 NBA season with each of the following things being true:

—More than any other recent season, 2012-2013 should serve as an example of why the competitive dynamics unique to basketball in general and the NBA in particular work.

Due to the length of the season, the amount of possession in each game, the series format of the playoffs, and (most importantly) the fact that it’s the only major sport where your best player can affect the entire game for the entire gameeach things that increase the probability that the best team will eventually win — the NBA is a true meritocracy. It’s not that the best players are usually on the best teams. The best teams are the best teams because they just happen to have one (or more) of the best players. This means that you have a general idea in November of who will be the four or five best teams in May. Actually, “general idea” isn’t strong enough. You just f*cking know who is going to be good and who won’t. Because of this, it does not have the “any-given-Sunday-ness” of the NFL or the perceived anarchy of the NCAA tournament.

As you’ve probably guessed, I love the fact that it’s split into clearly defined tiers of “legitimate shot,” “competitive, but no legitimate shot this year,” and “no f*cking chance.” Thing is…you love it too. Yes, you do. Stop trying to deny it.

As much as (some) people gripe about the NBA having no parity, more people are interested in it when there are “super” teams with narratives and superstars with story arcs. Aside from diehard fans (read: people like me) no one is interested in the NBA when it has an NFL-esque competitive balance.

How do I know this? Well, in the few seasons when you did have legitimate parity (ie; 2005 when the Spurs beat the Pistons in the Finals or the entire 70′s — 10 years, 9 different champions), nobody f*cking watched or cared! Nobody! But, when you have teams like Jordan’s Bulls or Magic’s Lakers or Bird’s Celtics or even Shaq’s Lakers, you motherf*ckers watch. And, in a year where you have four “super” teams with a legitimate shot at a title (Heat, Lakers, Thunder, and Celtics), you’re going to see another interest/ratings boon.

—There’s a fifth team (Spurs) that was the best team in the league last season until the last three weeks of the playoffs. They’re returning their entire team, btw.

—Aside from the six teams already mentioned, there are at least 15 others that could either be considered “legitimately good” or “legitimately interesting.” The Knicks are neither, and that’s a legitimately interesting fact in itself.

—Speaking of the Knicks, they enter the season as the oldest team in NBA history, a fact that’s almost as interesting as the fact that the Timberwolves enter the season as the Whitest NBA team in 30 years. I think this matters.

—There is a NBA basketball team in Brooklyn. A basketball team that might actually not be not good. I think this matters too.

—Between Lebron, Wade, Bosh, Ray Allen, Kobe, Nash, Dwight Howard, Metta, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Kevin Garnett, Rondo, Paul Pierce, Durant, Westbrook, James Harden, Derrick Rose, Dirk, Melo, Jason Kidd, Duncan, Tony Parker, and Jeremy Lin, the season begins with more “name” players (in this sense, a “name” player is someone who can appear in a commercial without the commercial’s script needing to say “Hey, professional basketball player Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, what are you doing in my car?“) than every other major sports league combined.

***This list doesn’t even include fringe name people (Amare, Gasol, etc), perennial all-stars who lack the status/charisma to ever be a name person (Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, etc), average NBA players who are fringe name people in pop culture circles because of women they’ve f*cked (Matt Barnes, Kris Humphries, Daniel Gibson, etc), soon-to-be name people (Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Anthony Davis, etc), and people who everyone assumed would be a name person by now (John Wall, John Wall, John Wall, etc)***

—Speaking of “soon-to-be name” people, this season will give me the chance to continue to gloat about the fact that I purchased, assembled, and manned the wheel of the “Kyrie Irving will be a superstar” bandwagon two years ago. (No, I will never tire of reminding everyone that I called that shit was he was still in high school. Thanks for asking, though.)

—One top 10 all-time player (Kobe) has a chance — if everything goes the way it could potentially go for him — to move into the “Best career of all-time” conversation, while another top 15 all-time player (Lebron) has a chance — if everything goes the way it could potentially go for him — to continue his path towards being included in the “Best player of all-time” conversation.

(The difference between the “Best career” and “Best player” conversations? If you look at his total career — rings, records, longevity, etc — Kobe is already one of the four or five most accomplished NBA players of all-time, and will continue to climb up that chart. But, I’ve seen Magic, Bird, Jordan, Hakeem, Shaq, Duncan, and Lebron at their absolute apexes. And, a peak/prime Kobe just wasn’t better than any of those guys. This is not an insult, btw. There are worst things in the world than being the 7th or 8th best basketball player the Earth has seen in the last 30 years. If you disagree, fine. But, just know that you’re wrong. )

—Lastly, this season will allow me to continue to develop my theory about the main difference between a peak Lebron James and a peak Michael Jordan. (Not interested in making a career comparison between these two. Jordan is unquestionably the greatest player of all-time, and in order for Lebron to be in that conversation, he needs to accomplish much, much more. Just interested in comparing these two at their absolute best and figuring out whose best was/is better and why. For Jordan, this was around 1992/1993. For Lebron, this is now.)

Anyway, Michael Jordan was as close to a perfect basketball player as we’ll ever see. He had the perfect body, build, and temperament. Was extremely fundamentally sound while also being a perfect basketball athlete. He even had close to perfect form and follow through on his jumpshot. From a basketball standpoint, he was basically flawless.

Yet, despite the fact that he was a “perfect” basketball player, he did not play perfect basketball. There were times when you’d watch Jordan play and you’d think to yourself “Hmmm. I know he just dunked on like seven guys, but he probably should have passed it there.” Obviously, the result would still be favorable, but just because a decision turned out well doesn’t mean that it was the right one.

Lebron, on the other hand, is not a perfect basketball player. He is extremely skilled, but he has some conspicuous flaws. His jumpshot — although improved — remains erratic, and his footwork — although also improved — will never be as fluid as someone like Jordan or even Kobe. Also, from an aesthetic standpoint, there are parts of his game that will always leave some fans dry. He doesn’t trick or shake people as much as he overpowers or “outdecisions” them.

But, like Magic and Bird before him, he’s capable of playing perfect basketball. There were entire games in last year’s playoffs where he made the right decision every single time he had the ball. And, while Magic and Bird each had athletic limitations, Lebron has none, allowing him to control the entire game in a way that, really, no one has ever done.

Michael Jordan is still the best basketball player I’ve ever seen, but I’ve never seen anyone play better basketball than what Lebron did last summer. Basically, choosing between who you think is better at their best depends on whether you prefer a perfect basketball player or someone who plays consistently perfect basketball. All things considered, I’d choose Lebron, and I’m looking forward to this season helping to show why.

When you take all of this into account, I have to say that this has the potential to be the single best NBA season I’ve ever seen. And, if you’re my age or younger, it may be the best season you’ve ever seen, too. It’s ok to disagree with me, btw. I won’t hold it against you. Some people seem to enjoy being wrong.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)