sunny.png
Thursday December 12th, 2019 10:46AM

Like Mike: LeBron overwhelmed after passing Jordan, his hero

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LOS ANGELES (AP) — From the very first day LeBron James picked up a basketball, he wanted to be like Mike.

James and his closest friends idolized Michael Jordan while they grew up together on Akron's competitive playgrounds and tough streets. As James grew into a tantalizing basketball prospect capable of jumping from high school to the NBA as the No. 1 draft pick, he studied, imitated and drew profound inspiration from Jordan's tongue-wagging dunks, that fadeaway jumper, his competitive fire — even the little details of the way Jordan wore his sneakers and shorts.

James proudly put No. 23 on his back as soon as he could get it as a high school sophomore.

"He was everything," James said.

Jordan has also admired James' game for years.

"I want to congratulate LeBron on achieving another great milestone during his amazing career," Jordan said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday through his spokeswoman, Estee Portnoy.

When James surpassed Jordan's career points total Wednesday night, he did it in a pair of Nikes with "Thank You M.J." written neatly on the side. That tribute doesn't begin to encompass what Jordan's radiance meant to a youngster who dreamed of finding a better life through basketball.

"M.J. was an inspiration," James said. "M.J. was the lightning in a bottle for me, because I wanted to be like him."

James has grown into a 34-year-old man with three championship rings and a redoubtable 16-year NBA career. Yet he is still in awe of Jordan, who has represented the apex of achievement for his entire life.

James moved past Jordan into fourth place on the NBA's career scoring list with a driving three-point play in the second quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' 115-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets. He bettered Jordan's 32,292 career points with another variation of the brute physical brilliance that defines his playing style — a style that was influenced by Jordan's combination of grace and aggressiveness.

James finished with 31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. His struggling Lakers rallied late, but dropped their fourth straight game in a season that appears to be lost.

Every loss eats at James, yet he fidgeted in front of his locker afterward with the anxiousness of a rookie, still buzzing over the enormity of the moment in his life.

"When you're an inner-city kid from Akron, Ohio, like myself and my guys growing up, you look for anything that can inspire you," James said. "You're always just up against the numbers of failing. The percentages of guys like myself — single-parent household, only child, underprivileged — (the chance of) making it out is not high at all. M.J. had a lot to do with me making it out, along with my mother, along with the city itself, along with the Little League coaches I had. But Mike had no idea what he was doing for a kid that was growing up a 45-minute flight away from Chicago, where he was putting in that work."

James acknowledged he missed most of the tribute video aired at Staples Center during the timeout after his milestone points. That's because he was crying into a towel on the Lakers' bench.

James is among the last active players who were old enough to witness Jordan in his prime with the Chicago Bulls. Little LeBron would buy packs of basketball cards hoping for a Jordan, and he would study every aspect of Jordan's game, down to the way he wore his calf sleeve turned slightly inside-out so that the red lining showed.

James couldn't afford Air Jordans, but he remembers walking through the mall and marveling at the pristine red-and-black shoes. They inspired him to dream of having his own shoes, a natural result of being the star he hoped to become.

"You guys have no idea what M.J. did for me and my friends growing up," James said. "Just in a sense of, some days where you just don't feel like you're going to make it to the next day where I grew up, because of everything that's going on. Like I wrote on my shoes today, I thank M.J. more than he would ever know. I've got to carry it on to the next kid. Hopefully I can inspire the next kid."

James is an inspiration to a generation now, many of whom have already reached the NBA. Several of the Nuggets spoke of idolizing James while they grew up, and his own Lakers locker room includes teammates playing alongside one of their boyhood heroes.

"I never saw Michael live," said Moritz Wagner, the Lakers' 21-year-old German rookie center. "(James) is the G.O.A.T. of our generation."

James trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points), Karl Malone (36,928) and Kobe Bryant (33,643) on the scoring chart. He seems likely to become the top scorer in NBA history if major injuries don't cloud his next three seasons with the Lakers — but those moments just might not resonate as profoundly for James.

This achievement also might be the biggest highlight of a disappointing season with the Lakers (30-35), who have fallen to the fringe of playoff contention. The struggles bother James, who has played in the last eight NBA Finals and hasn't missed the postseason since 2005.

But James still seems relatively content with his move to Hollywood, where he is closer to his burgeoning career as an entertainment mogul. He has spoken repeatedly of patience with the young Lakers while the club attempts to land a second superstar to turn James' next team into a title contender.

Even if this season is a failure, James will never forget the night when he made a historic connection with his childhood hero.

"It's crazy," James said. "My high school best friends, they text me and they can't believe it. I can't believe it either. We remember walking up and down those Akron streets with a basketball, just singing, 'I wanna be, I wanna be, I wanna be like Mike.'"

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Basketball, AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Sports - NBA
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
China's Huawei sues to challenge US security law
Huawei launches US court challenge to law that labels company a security risk and would reduce access to American market
4:07AM ( 4 minutes ago )
Like Mike: LeBron overwhelmed after passing Jordan, his hero
When LeBron James surpassed Michael Jordan's career points total, he did it in a pair of Nikes with "Thank You M.J." written neatly on the side
3:53AM ( 17 minutes ago )
Japan stunned by Ghosn's release, critics hope for change
Japan stunned by former Nissan chairman Ghosn's release, as critics hope for change in justice system
3:45AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Nuggets top Lakers 115-99 as LeBron passes Jordan
Will Barton scored 23 points, Gary Harris added 19 and the Denver Nuggets snapped their three-game losing streak with a 115-99 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers despite LeBron James' move into fourth place on the NBA's career scoring list
2:08AM ( 2 hours ago )
Hayward's game-winner lifts Celtics over Kings 111-109
Gordon Hayward made up for a costly foul by hitting a tiebreaking shot with 2 seconds to play that helped the Boston Celtics overcome the absence of injured star Kyrie Irving in a 111-109 victory over the Sacramento Kings
1:34AM ( 2 hours ago )
LeBron passes Jordan, but Nuggets beat Lakers 115-99
Will Barton scored 23 points, Gary Harris added 19 and the Denver Nuggets snapped their three-game losing streak with a 115-99 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers despite LeBron James' move into fourth place on the NBA's career scoring list
1:06AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Sports
Seton Hall beats No. 16 Marquette, closing with 18-0 run
Myles Powell scored 34 points and Seton Hall beat No. 16 Marquette 73-64, closing with an 18-0 run to revive its NCAA Tournament hopes
10:12PM ( 5 hours ago )
Kansas' streak of 14 straight Big 12 titles ends with thud
One of the most remarkable streaks in college basketball ended Tuesday night when Kansas, the Big 12 champion the last 14 years, was eliminated from title contention
7:09PM ( 9 hours ago )
Manfred says Harper can't recruit Trout (for now)
Major League Baseball is investigating whether new Philadelphia slugger Bryce Harper committed a tampering violation when he lobbied for Mike Trout to join the Phillies
5:16PM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Online Basketball
Warriors draft first woman player into NBA 2K esports league
Chiquita Evans has become the first woman drafted into the NBA 2K League
9:46PM ( 1 day ago )
Gallinari gets 23, Clips hold off slumping Lakers 113-105
Danilo Gallinari scored 23 points, Lou Williams added 21 and the Clippers dealt another blow to the Lakers' fading playoff hopes with a 113-105 victory
2:30AM ( 2 days ago )
Oubre, Booker help Suns stun Bucks
Kelly Oubre Jr. had 27 points and 13 rebounds, and the Phoenix Suns rallied from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks 114-105
1:05AM ( 2 days ago )
AP Sports - NBA
China's Huawei sues to challenge US security law
Huawei launches US court challenge to law that labels company a security risk and would reduce access to American market
4:07AM ( 4 minutes ago )
Japan stunned by Ghosn's release, critics hope for change
Japan stunned by former Nissan chairman Ghosn's release, as critics hope for change in justice system
3:45AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Dealing with 23 dead challenges tiny Alabama community
Dealing with the dead became a huge task in a rural Alabama community where nearly two dozen people died in a tornado outbreak
3:41AM ( 30 minutes ago )
China says Canadian canola will face stricter assessments
China's customs agency says imported canola, a Canadian oilseed crop, will now undergo more thorough assessments during its quarantine period
3:13AM ( 57 minutes ago )
Sanders' 2016 backers in New Hampshire holding back for now
Days after Bernie Sanders announced his second run for president, prominent New Hampshire supporters of the democratic socialist's first campaign said they have not decided if they will support him again.
3:11AM ( 1 hour ago )