It was Christmas eve night at LeBron James house. And nothing was stirring, not even a mouse. Until he was awoken by a ghost from the past. The ghost of Michael Jordan, with a question to ask. Click on the article to read more, a fantastical journey, it is for sure.
Let’s open this dusty, leather-bound tome and read the Holiday classic.
It is Christmastime in Los Angeles, California.
The lights are up and twinkling, the… OK, that might be the only real visual cue.
We soar overhead taking it all in. We zoom over to Beverly Hills and swoop down into LeBron James’ newest estate. The sound of Christmas carols fade away as we move through the hall.
One room is labeled “Cryochamber.”
Inside this room, snow is actually falling. LeBron James sits on a frozen bench watching basketball tape on an iPad. Sitting nearby on another bench is Alex Caruso. He has his own iPad. Their breath swirls in wreaths around their heads.
LeBron speaks without looking up, “Are you watching Dallas’ pick and roll rotations?”
“I want your thoughts by 7.”
“But it is Christmas Eve, Mr. James.”
“Bah Humbug. We have a game tomorrow.”
“I was hoping I could have tonight off to be with my family.”
LeBron looks over at him now.
“Right, of course. We can look at it in the morning.”
An intercom buzzes and a garbled voice blares, “LeBron, the folks from More than A Vote are Here—”
LeBron laughs and answers, “Yes, thank you. Tell them to go away. We’ll have doubled the funding by the time the midterms roll around. If we haven’t, I will pay it myself. They can count on that.”
“Mr. James, sir,” Caruso shivers and stands. “I was kind of thinking maybe we could raise the temperate a degree or so? Otherwise I may—”
“Raise the temperature?” LeBron interrupts. Do you want your body to break down by the All-Star break? Do you want to still be able to throw down vicious Alley Oops in your 18th season? No? Yes? We should lower the temperature!”
Alex Caruso returns to his seat.
We dissolve to the kitchen. It’s hours later. LeBron is dressed in his sleeping attire and standing at the counter. He gobbles down a handful of horse pill sized supplements and washes it down with the remainder of his red wine. He walks past the screening room, the patio and pool, the game room, and up the stairs to the master bedroom. He pulls on a stocking cap and settles down in his King James sized bed. Sleep takes him quickly…
The jangling of chains wakes LeBron with a start.
“Wha? Who’s there? J.R., is that you again?”
A terrifying waaaaiiiil rockets LeBron up. A form appears at the foot of his bed. He’s bald and wearing baggy, flowing jeans. A heavy chain is draped around his neck. LeBron rubs his eyes.
“Michael? Michael Jordan, is that you? But…you’re not dead?”
“No shit. But I invested in an astral projection tech firm in 1999. May as well use it, right? OooooooOOOOOOoooOoo!” Jordan wails. Then the ghost of Michael Jordan lights up a ghost cigar. The chain clangs around his neck. The links are made of oversized championship rings.
“Are you here to warn me that I’m working too hard? That I demand too much from my teammates and I need to change my ways before it’s too late?”
“Hell no! I forged this chain around my neck link-by-link by being brutally demanding. Your chain had the chance to be twice my length, but you squandered it. I am here to tell you that you will never be as good as me. And to prove it, you will be visited by three spirits tonight!”
“But I have a game tomorrow and if I don’t get my 14 hours, I am a wreck!”
“OOOOOooooooooo” MJ wails. Then, just like his famous post-move, fades away.
LeBron sits quietly for a while. Then, seeing no other ghosts settles back down to sleep.
A loud banging on the wall startles LeBron from slumber once again. He gets up and walks into the next room. Tim Duncan, wearing an oversized silver Spurs jersey, is practicing bank shots on a nerf hoop in a child’s bedroom.
“Timmy?” LeBron folds his arms over his chest.
Tim Duncan spins on his heel. His voice is as monotone as ever.
“I am the ghost of championships past. I have come to show you something, take my hand.”
He grabs LeBron’s wrist and they are magically transported to American Airlines Arena, where a basketball game is underway between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat. LeBron gasps.
“I know this place! Why…this is the 2011 NBA Finals! Look Dwyane is here. And Mike Bibby. God, I forgot about that. And there I am. Look at all my hair!”
Duncan grunts. “Your first season on a new team and you were already in the finals. This could have been a crowning achievement for you.”
LeBron realizes what is about to play out in front of him. His younger self has the ball at the elbow. Guarding him is not a Christmas elf, but an actual 5’ 11” JJ Barea. Young LeBron makes a move like he is going to back him down. Yet he doesn’t. He turns and shoots an awkward jumper over him. It misses.
Duncan continues, “This will forever impact your legacy. Michael Jordan would have eaten him alive. You averaged 17.5 points and led the Heat in turnover percentage despite being third in usage rate. Team Jordan will always have this. Not to mention the fact that I myself, in my corporeal body beat yours in 2007 and 2014. You have won 4 out of 10 finals appearances. The ten is a very impressive number, but that is not a good percentage when MJ is 6 for 6.”
“OK, fair, but I basically had a team of Mr. Potato Head dolls in ‘07.” LeBron retorts.
Tim Duncan just stares at him. He takes James’s arm and they dissolve.
LeBron is back in his own bed. He tries to stay awake, yet he drifts off.
LeBron wakes again with a jolt.
Jimmy Butler, wearing a holly wreath, is sitting on James’ bed, watching him.
“Uh. Hi, Jimmy.” LeBron sits up.
“I had you,” Jimmy growls. “I had you.”
“You got lucky.”
“Anthony Davis is still scoring on your squad as we speak. He just goes through his daily chores while scoring on the Miami Heat.”
Jimmy Butler grabs LeBron’s wrist and they are transported to the Orlando Basketball Bubble in the early fall of 2020. Players from various teams wander from the Players Lounge to the Barber Shop. The Denver Nuggets are having a pool party. LeBron James looks at Butler.
“I won this championship. Why are you showing me this?”
Ghost Jimmy Butler motions around him. Players are swiping wristbands to get into hotels. COVID test signs are everywhere.
“This is not a normal title. People will always wonder if this was harder or easier than a normal year. You didn’t have to travel, but you were away from your family for a long time. You couldn’t go anywhere, but you also had no distractions. Who knows what to make of it. My team, the Heat, we’re not the favorite in the east. Were we a product of the bubble and therefore not a worthy foe? Many people feel like the whole thing was flukey. I obviously will kill anyone that says that to my face, but people will wonder. There was no Durant, no Curry, and you didn’t even have to play Kawhi because they blew it.”
“But we were dominant.” Responds James.
“Man, our three best players all had some level of injury and two of our starters are Backstreet Boys. You still had to fight.”
LeBron wags a finger.
“A title is still a title. I don’t buy all that.”
“Not when you’re comparing yourself to Jordan. This isn’t going to be the title that puts you over the top, is all I’m saying. It’s good you got to 4. But this one doesn’t make you the GOAT. Sorry, Bro. Now pay me $20 so I can take you home.”
LeBron pulls out his empty pajama pockets. Ticked off, Jimmy still grabs him.
LeBron James is sitting up in his bed. He speaks aloud to himself.
“Oh, what a horrible night. What more can—”
Another wail interrupts him. Another ghostly figure floats into the room, drifting back and forth like a euro step. This figure wears a black robe with the hood pulled all the way up.
“Dammit, man, I need my sleep. What more can there be to show me?” James wonders.
The figure just extends a bony hand.
“Speak spirit!” LeBron demands. “What are you here to show me?”
The voice of the spirit is raspy. It has an accent, but it is not easily placed. Is it Greek? Is it Slovenian? Is it some weird voice Kyrie is doing?
“I am the ghost of championships yet to come. Take my hand.”
LeBron stands and does so. They swirl into nothingness and then reconstitute in a press room in the Staples Center. Reporters, all wearing facemasks, mingle around. The table on the stage sits empty. LeBron moves among the reporters, listening to them talk amongst themselves.
“I can’t believe the day has finally come. He’s actually retiring.”
“He held on one season too long anyway.”
“He’s the second-best player ever in my book.”
“He could be number one all-time; until you start thinking about if Jordan had played in today’s NBA with all the advantages…”
“The longevity is incredible. Does that mean for one game, for all the marbles, he’s the best? I don’t know.”
LeBron returns to the spirit.
“Tell me, spirit, do we at least win another title? Do I get to 5?”
The spirit extends his hand again and LeBron grabs it.
They appear on the empty court of the Staples Center. The lights are dimmed. LeBron looks up at the rafters. All of the banners are rolled up. One by one the championship banners unfurl. 2020 flutters open. A last banner drops. It has writing on it that is illegible as if seen through a fog. James looks from the banner to the spirit.
“What does this mean? What is the name on this banner? Do I get a fifth championship? Tell me, spirit!”
The spirit just points at LeBron.
“I can do it, spirit. I will get to 5. I’ll add another star if I have to! I will do it. If that banner says we won again then I will have done it. Everyone will have to agree that I am the best of all-time. A twenty-year career. All the records. I was an automatic Finals appearance. I will show them. I will show them all! ”
LeBron and the ghost are already fading from sight.
This time, when LeBron awakens, the only thing greeting him is sunshine. Christmas morning has come! LeBron leaps out of bed. He hits the remote that throws open his window. Alex Caruso is mowing the lawn. LeBron shouts down to him.
“Alex, my boy. Take this morning off to prepare for the game! Oh, and go to the shop. Fetch yourself the finest Christmas goose they have for your family!”
Alex looks up. “Um, OK.” And walks away.
LeBron dances into his walk-in closet. It begins to dress him like Tony Stark putting on his Iron Man suit. He speaks to no one.
“I will win the title this year. If that is what it takes for people to realize that I am better than MJ, that is what I will do. I am a better passer, a better rebounder, a better teammate, I have held up far longer, and I’m a better GM. I got AD and all he ever got was Gordon Hayward. But if that chain of rings around my neck is the way we measure players, then I will add one more link. Thank god I got AD.”
Dressed and ready, LeBron walks outside into the blinding sunshine. His voice echoes out,