And here we were thinking LeBron James was about to face his current rival.
Instead, another of his competitors has resurfaced with James in the midst of perhaps his greatest stretch of basketball. It comes at a time when he is set to meet Oklahoma City standout Kevin Durant on Thursday in their final matchup of the regular season.
Yet it's MJ -- and not KD -- who it seems James is lining up against.
As the case with most superstars who enter the NBA after Michael Jordan began his dominance, James has repeatedly drawn comparisons. He's done everything throughout his career to elude them, even taking to Twitter Wednesday morning with hopes of squashing the debate.
"I'm not MJ, I'm LJ."
That was the message James tweeted to his more than seven million Twitter followers. Although it was retweeted 31,000 times within an hour, this was hardly groundbreaking news. James has always been uncomfortable being compared to other players, especially Jordan. It made for an interesting storyline this week with Jordan celebrating his 50th birthday Sunday.
"I think everyone has always been trying to find who is the next MJ," James said recently. "That's just how it's been since MJ stopped playing. Since his really, really dominant years, everyone is trying to find who was the next MJ. The comparison is great. I love it. But I'm who I am. Hopefully, the comparison will start, 'Who is the next LJ?' And not MJ."
It's James' way of looking toward the future instead of the past. He no longer wants to discuss how he compares to Magic Johnson or Oscar Robertson. He's moved on to thinking of how the next generation of stars will rank against him.
"I don't compare to MJ," James said. "I don't compare to Oscar Robertson, just like those guys don't compare to nobody else. But you guys (media) need to compare me to someone so I'll let y'all figure it out."
James has given all the reason for the recent comparisons to Jordan despite trailing by five NBA titles and two most valuable player awards. He scored 30 points on 11 of 15 shooting in the Heat's 117-104 victory Tuesday against the Portland Trail Blazers. James became the only player in league history to score at least 30 points while shooting 60 percent in six straight games.
He is shooting 71 percent (66 of 92) during the stretch. His teammates have run out of words to describe the run. When asked about his play, coach Erik Spoelstra simply said, "He played a very good basketball game."
As Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts pointed out, "people down here are getting used to seeing" James' dominance. It's still somewhat of a surprise to visiting teams.
"We're just human," Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum told reporters after the game. "He's not."
The opportunity for James to further separate himself from the rest comes against Durant and the Thunder. They are widely considered the league's top two players, with James leading the Heat past Oklahoma City in last year's NBA Finals.
James led Miami to a 103-97 victory Dec. 25, and a sweep of the series would potentially move him closer to a fourth regular-season MVP trophy.
"It's with all due respect to everybody else, but we're first in the East," said center Chris Bosh, making his case for James. "We weren't first in the East last year or before that. Our coach is in the All-Star (Game). He's going on a tear, breaking records. I know it might be a bore to everybody but he's doing it."
Even with James on such a run, the Heat are more focused on another streak. They have won six straight games three times this season, with this being arguably the most impressive. A win against the Thunder, who have won four or five, would allow them to enter the All-Star Break with momentum.
"Sometimes as a coach you would be worrying about whether your team is going to be engaged and ready or thinking about the [All-Star] Break," Spoelstra said. "Our guys will not be thinking about the break, and I don't think they (Oklahoma City) will be either."
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