Examining the Differing Media Climates of Michael Jordan and LeBron James
LeBron James caused a bit of a stir on his show "More Than an Athlete" on ESPN+, saying that his win over the Golden State Warriors in 2016 elevated him to GOAT status. Although the initial take ignited the internet, the entire media cycle around the story died down rather quickly and left some to wonder what exactly they should take away from LeBron's comments. Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver examined the media climate in which LeBron unleashed his take and how it differs from what Michael Jordan would have done it on this episode of the Open Floor.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Andrew Sharp: Both you and I agree that (Jordan) is the best player of all time but I was struck by kinda the difference in eras and I think that both LeBron and Jordan are executing the same blueprint but under completely different media conditions. And I think LeBron is perceptive enough to realize that he can come out and say he's the greatest player of all time now and people will appreciate his ambition and appreciate his honesty and celebrate that and he won't get crush for it.
Whereas like Jordan came from a different era where people wanted to see the greatest act humbled. And sort of take it in an understated manner. So I just think it's kinda interesting that people wanted to see Jordan dominate and people want to see LeBron kinda get triple doubles and I think there are a lot of parallels to their eras where both of them were doing everything they could to make themselves the most marketable athlete on the planet and that just manifests very differently 25 years later.
Ben Golliver: It's a fantastic point, one of the best points you've ever made in Open Floor history. We're living proof. If you go back 15 years, I bet you were trying to send an email to a link of something that you wrote, hoping that other people would put it on their site. Now we're out here begging people to follow us on Instagram so we can show off our vacation photos. It's a changed society.
Sharp: It's true!
Golliver: It's 100% a changed society. And I think, one thing on LeBron coming out and saying [that he's the GOAT] is he didn't get very much of a news cycle out of that comment. If you can consider the historical gravity of that statement, it lasted 24 hours and it came and went. So if I was him and he was like trying to test drive that idea, send that one back to the factory for modifications.
Sharp: That is how it played to me. It felt like a trial balloon from LeBron Inc. and Maverick Carter and Springhill Production. Like just slip it into this random documentary series that we're doing with ESPN and see how it plays and then we'll revisit this over the summer. I feel like this isn't the last time LeBron is going to call himself the greatest player of all time and, again, with a certain generation that plays well. And people like to celebrate his freedom to call himself the greatest player of all time. I just think, if we're talking strictly in objective terms, Jordan is just a little bit better across the board. ...
Jordan, I think everything that he said was essentially a commercial. I would just add that everything LeBron says is also a commercial, including some of the activism and stuff like that. All of it plays well to a certain generation of sports fans and media.
Golliver: The two most calculating basketball players of my lifetime and I don't even know who would be third, right? They might even be tied at one.
Sharp: They're both brilliant and are both going to be worth a billion dollars. If LeBron's not there already, he's probably pretty close.