Anthony Edwards Isn't the Only One Writing His Own History

The Michael Jordan comparisons don't really add up, but perhaps that's a good thing for the Wolves star.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Edwards gets compared to Michael Jordan because he plays like Michael Jordan. No one can sit in front of a microphone or red light and suggest with a straight face that he's on the same planet and no one should feel confident that he'll account for half as many NBA titles. The 22-year-old's star is growing at an exponential level this postseason as he and the Minnesota Timberwolves march deeper into spring and toward summer ahead of even the most optimistic schedule. It's an incredibly compelling storyline and it feels like he can assume the unofficial Face of the League mantle with eight more victories. And so the comparisons will continue until elimination or be impossible to avoid if this young, hungry team eats its fill at the ultimate table of success.

But last night's improbable comeback to stun the defending champion Denver Nuggets in hostile Game 7 territory felt like a visage of another classic game of the past featuring someone who also can also stake claim to GOAT status. It had the oh-gosh-they're-really-going-to-do-this hues of the Cleveland Cavaliers stealing Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2007—known colloquially as LeBron James' first true coming-out party on the strength of 25 consecutive points in a stunning road overtime victory. Which is another reminder about how trivial all of this legacy stuff—and who emerges as champions—can actually be.

Whereas the then-23-year-old James put a lackluster supporting cast on his back and moved heaven and earth in his direction, Edwards is still playing because his teammates stepped up. Because Jaden McDaniels and Karl-Anthony Towns came to play. Perhaps mostly because Naz Reid played like the best player on the court in the most crucial moments. Or Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley hit off-balance desperation heaves.

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This, of course, is not a knock on Edwards. But 6-for-24 shooting generally doesn't cut it. The great part is that no one is going to remember those numbers if the electric guard provides high-voltage highlights over the next two rounds and reaches the pinnacle at a younger age than Jordan and James and almost any superstar the NBA has ever seen.

Yet again, these timelines are dependent on the flapping of so many butterflies' wings. Jordan's first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1989 saw the Chicago Bulls take a 2-1 series lead over the Detroit Pistons. Then the Bad Boys beat him to a pulp in Games 4 and 5, forcing him to do a majority of his scoring one point at a time. Over those two games the 26-year-old went 9-for-23 from the field combined and his team dropped both. In the first, Doug Collins's bench failed to register a single point. In the second, the duo of Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant could only manage 11 points. Play around with the What If machine for a few seconds and it makes a person wonder if Jordan could have won his first crown two years' earlier if one or two role players had played better.

James' Cavs were thoroughly outclassed upon meeting the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals back in 2007. His first stint in Cleveland ended without a Larry O'Brien and he'd wait until 2012 and have to move to South Beach in order to finally break through. But in 2009, at age 24, he averaged an insane 38.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 8.0 against the Orlando Magic in the ECF but could not get any assistance from teammates. That narrative and reality had been established by that point and amazingly has continued to have new chapters in the 15 years that have followed.

So what's the point of all of this? To point out that comparing apples to oranges to bananas helps fill 24 hours of sports coverage. And hey, it can be very fun. Admittedly it'd be quite a disconnect to have one panelist saying Ant is the next MJ and the other launch into a dissertation about the infinite variables that have to be considered if earnestly exploring the subject.

Then again a few minutes from Naz Reid can potentially alter the career of an all time great.

Maybe this is all specious and arbitrary and more of an abstract painting than anything with well-defined lines. Believing that doesn't make the art anything less. It makes it more complicated and open to interpretation. More than anything it hammers home the unpredictability, which is why so many truly love it.


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Kyle K

KYLE KOSTER