A young LeBron James
(left) met Michael Jordan after a Wizards
game in 2003. (David Liam Kyle/Getty Images)
Fresh off of a season in which he won his second title, captured his fourth MVP award and secured his second Finals MVP award, LeBron James is allowing himself to dare to dream about his place in history.
Speaking at the Heat's Media Day on Monday, James indicated that he believes he is within reach of Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and the rest of the game's most-decorated legends.
"I want to be the greatest of all time," James said, according to ESPN.com. "It's that simple, I'm far away from it, but I see the light."
This isn't the first time that James has declared this specific goal, but it does seem to be his most optimistic self-assessment.
During 2013 All-Star Weekend in Houston, James referred to Jordan as his childhood hero and explained that his pursuit of the "greatest of all time" recognition was a self-motivating tool.
“I want to be the greatest of all time,” James said, adding: “As my talent continued to grow, as I continued to know about the game, appreciate the game, continued to get better, I felt like I had the drive, first of all, the passion, the commitment to the game to place myself as the greatest of all time, the best of all time, however you want to categorize it. I don’t do it to say I’m better than this guy or that guy. I do it for my own inspiration. I inspire myself. When I go out on the floor, I want to be the best of all time. That’s how I help myself each and every night.”
The presence of Jordan has followed James everywhere lately. After the Heat defeated the Spurs in seven games to capture the 2013 title, James opened up to Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins, comparing his late jumper in Game 7 to Jordan's Game 6 dagger against the Utah Jazz in the 1998 Finals.
“I know it wasn’t the magnitude of MJ hitting that shot in ’98, but I definitely thought about him,” James said. “It was an MJ moment.” He paused as a turn of phrase came to mind. “It was an LJ moment.”
James and the Heat enter the 2013-14 season with the goal of winning their third straight title, something Jordan's Bulls accomplished twice in the 1990s. What's more, James is the odds-on favorite to take home the 2014 MVP award, which would be his third straight, something Jordan never accomplished.
The ever-present comparisons between MJ and LJ, in other words, are only going to intensify.
“That’s the life,” James said in February. “I understand it. That’s the life I live in. The comparisons are going to come. I’d rather be compared to Michael Jordan than somebody who wasn’t in the league very long. It’s very humbling. I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given. Mike is in his own lane and I try to create my own.”
One key milepost on James' journey towards "the light": passing Lakers star Kobe Bryant in Jordan's eyes.
“If you had to pick between the two, that would be a tough choice," Jordan told Yahoo! Sports earlier this year
. "But five [titles] beats one every time I look at it, and not that he [James] won’t get five, he may get more than that, but five is bigger than one.”