Now that baseball has hit a slow spot, we are hammered over the head by the NBA and its’ incessant marketing of Lebron James. I’ve told you before in this space why I am not a fan of James. (He wears a Yankees hat and he is a lousy sport) He is not educated and I think it shows. The other night after a game against the Miami Heat, James told an interviewer that he was thinking about not wearing the number 23 anymore as a tribute to Michael Jordan. A nice sentiment, perhaps, but not very well thought out. Several years ago, Major League Baseball retired the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. It has been well-documented what type of man Robinson was and the sociological impact he had on this country. As a result, that number will never be worn again by Big Leaguers (after Mariano Rivera retires). This gesture by James gets me on many levels. First, Jordan was no pioneer. He entered the NBA in the mid 80’s after Larry Bird and Magic Johnson had rekindled interest in basketball. Jordan, although a prolific scorer, is not the leading scorer in league history. That honor is held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 with Karl Malone second at 36,978.) Jordan is third, 6095 points behind Jabbar. Jordan was nowhere near being the first African-American in the league. Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton signed a contract with the Knicks and Earl Lloyd played for Boston in 1950. I think the thing that irks me most about James and his lack of knowledge when it comes to the history of the NBA, is the number that he says he wil wear starting next season. He wants to wear the number 6. Think about the irony of this. James wants to wear the number worn by arguably the greatest winner in the history of team sports. A man who won two national championships at the University of San Francisco, a gold medal as a member of the United States Olympic team in 1956 and then went on to win 11 NBA titles in 13 years with the Celtics. Bill Russell. Russell was a 5 time MVP, a 12 time All-Star and really the first African-American to achieve superstar status in the NBA. Is this really anything more than one Nike guy pimping another? Don’t get me wrong. Jordan was incredible. I actually paid money to see him play (a big thing for a guy in the media). I certainly don’t blame Jordan because he was adored by a generation of kids who wanted to “Be Like Mike” . All I’m saying is- do your homework. A lot of kids look up to a guy like Lebron. His shameful display after being eliminated in the playoffs by Orlando last year is still fresh in my mind. He was more scarce than hair on Kevin Garnetts’ head when it was time to shake hands and congratulate the Magic. My greatest wish for Lebron James is that he takes the title of “best player to have never won a championship” away from Charles Barkley. Baseball clearly got it right when they honored Robinson. They say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Keep on truckin’ Lebron.
I wanted to take a moment and respond to Carlos who asked who I thought might be impact players in Pawtucket in 2010. My “Picks to Click” are #1 Mark Wagner. With some AAA time under his belt, Wags has all the tools to be successful in 2010. I like his defense, his ability to throw out runners and I think there will be more pop in his bat. #2 Michael Bowden. This young righthander has spent a season plus in Pawtucket and just turned 23. His poise and work ethic are unparalleled. #3 Jeff Natale. Nat is my “sleeper”. He is spending the offseason working on his conditioning and has already dropped 15 pounds. Natale is determined to show the Red Sox he is a viable Major Leaguer. The guy can flat-out hit.