“He can’t wear number 23!” Rod Blagojevich shouted, when he was asked whether LeBron James should come to Chicago. “That’s Michael Jordan’s number!”
Of course, Blagojevich wants James to play for the Bulls. Blago
is a Chicago politician; so naturally, he’s in favor of anything that will bring attention to our city. He’d no doubt endorse bringing Macchu Picchu, Angkor Wat or the Eiffel Tower here, too. They’d make great tourist attractions. But they don’t belong in Chicago, and they’d create hard feelings in the city we snatched them from. Same with James.
Michael Jordan isn’t a Chicagoan, but he made his career here, and he changed this city’s image. He’s the most important cultural figure in the city’s history. Before Jordan started winning championships with the Bulls, the international face of Chicago was fat, bald, liver-lipped, and bore a scar on its cheek. Yes, even until the 1990s, the world associated Chicago with Al Capone, chalk-striped double-breasted suits and machine guns in violin cases. Jordan changed that. During the Bulls’ championship run, I met a French exchange student whose father had told him that Chicago was famous for bootlegging during Prohibition. The student was more interested in Jordan.
“It is my dream to meet him,” he said. “Do you think I can meet him?”
James will never be as associated with Chicago as Jordan was. He’ll always be a Clevelander at heart. Also, there’s no guarantee James will win a title. Jordan was a champion because he was a total dick. The man had to dominate and humiliate everyone in his sight, all the time. He called Will Perdue “Will Vanderbilt,” because Perdue didn’t deserve to be named after a Big Ten school. After one title, Jordan saw benchwarmer Joe Kleine with tears in his eyes.
“Why are you crying?” His Airness asked. “I’m the one who did everything.”
James, apparently, is a nice guy. He’s been compared to Julius Erving
: a player who’s more interested in wowing the crowd with dazzling moves than in beating down the opposition. An entertainer, not a killer. Word is he’s going to Miami to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh
, who won’t depend on him for leadership.
Blagojevich was excited about the Bulls signing “a combination of LeBron James and maybe get Chris Bosh of the Toronto Blue Jays (sic).” He was unaware that Bosh had already signed with Miami. That may be the key in luring James there, too. He thinks he needs to play alongside other great players to win.
As Blagojevich recognized, he’s no number 23.