CLEVELAND — LeBron James has often avoided talking about trying to match Michael Jordan's accomplishments. Now he's chasing "the ghost" of arguably the greatest player in NBA history.
Fresh off leading the Cavaliers to an NBA championship and bringing Cleveland its first title since 1964, James, in a story posted online by Sports Illustrated , recently told young players at a camp in Los Angeles that his motivation "is this ghost I'm chasing. The ghost played in Chicago."
The ghost, of course, is Jordan, who led the Bulls to six titles. James has admired Jordan since he was a kid and reveres him to this day. James has typically sidestepped questions about being in Jordan's elite company, and the 31-year-old tells SI he's hoping to build on his sterling resume.
"My career is totally different than Michael Jordan's," James tells SI's Lee Jenkins. "What I've gone through is totally different than what he went through. What he did was unbelievable, and I watched it unfold. I looked up to him so much. I think it's cool to put myself in position to be one of those great players, but if I can ever put myself in position to be the greatest player, that would be something extraordinary."
While James is only halfway to matching Jordan's number of titles, ending Cleveland's drought in historic fashion — the Cavs overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat Golden State — will always separate him from other players.
"This was bigger for me than the first and the second," James tells SI, "because of everything it represents."
James chose not to play on a fourth U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer and his spent his off-season in L.A., where he owns a home and has numerous business connections.
In the SI piece, James discusses his drive to bring a championship to his home state and how he sent his teammates a text message following their loss to the Warriors in Game 4. He wrote: "Let it go, play hard, be focused, follow my lead, and I'll make sure you get home for a Game 6."