The Los Angeles Lakers, despite having LeBron James who is playing some of the best basketball of his career this season, have not been able to play to the level that was expected of them. The Lakers were considered to be championship favorites at the start of the season, but they have been playing very poorly. Some have even compared LeBron and the Lakers to Michael Jordan's Washington Wizards.
But Skip Bayless actually believes that those comparisons are an insult to Michael Jordan. Bayless noted that Jordan and the Wizards were a much better team than the Lakers, and there were no expectations on Jordan, as he had come out of retirement for the second time in his career, and his stint with the Wizards was nothing more than a ceremonial retirement lap, something he hadn't had in the past.
“This article is actually an insult to Michael Jeffrey Jordan, whose team was better than LeBron’s team is right now. Whose team back in 2001-02 when he was 39 and 40 years of age. They had the 12 best odds to start the ’01 season and the 14th best odds to start the ’02 season. Nobody expected nothing of those Jordan teams. It was ceremonial. He had taken 3 years off on principal to back up his coach who was pushed out the back door by Jerry Reinsdorf in Chicago. That was the last of the real Michael Jordan… He ran the whole franchise for 2 years, he didn’t run it great. He was definitely a shell of himself at age 39. I don’t think he was taking care of himself the way he did in 1997 and 1998… We look at expectations, nobody expected those teams to compete for a championship."
"This team was picked to win it all. This team is now 13 games under 500, those two Washington teams finished 8 games under 500. This team is on pace finish 18 games under 500… Jordan just stopped, he did not play anymore, he did it for fun. He did it more to be the coach and the GM than to be a player. He was respectable, he averaged 20 and 6 both those years, but it was clear going in that those teams weren’t going to be very good. It was not very clear this year because… The shock value here is LeBron James, to me, realized coming out of the All-Star break ‘I got no shot here. We are not good enough as a team to even make the playoffs’. I think he knows himself so well, pure basketball genius, he knows he is a shell of himself as far as being a team carrier. He just can’t do that. I’m talking about lifting a team the way he did the first around in Cleveland, he can’t do that.”
Skip is not entirely wrong here. The Wizards were never expected to make a championship run like the Lakers were. And Jordan at the time was only coming back to end his career on his terms and help set up the Washington Wizards franchise, as he was going to be taking a front-office role as soon as he stopped playing for them. That never happened, as the Wizards owner fired MJ because the players asked for it.
Bayless is notorious for being LeBron James' harshest critic. But in fairness to him, he makes a lot of great points, and few of them are being made at the expense of LeBron James. He points to LeBron's diminishing ability as a player who can carry a team through the playoffs, noting that James shouldn't be expected at his age to carry any team, let alone a team as bad as the Lakers.