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Just Another Cheat Code

I remember playing Contra on the NES in the third grade. My friend Tim and I would play it for hours. My preferred weapon of choice was the spray gun. The moment I got the game, I quickly punched in the, “30 lives” cheat. (Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, B, A, select, start. Like you needed me to even say it.) Within a few hours, I was celebrating my victory. Tim, however, refused to use the cheat. He stuck with the three lives allotted by Konami. He failed. And failed. And failed. Days went by. Weeks. Months. And then on that fateful Friday night, he finally beat the game. He was a winner. I celebrated with him. And deep down, I was jealous.

Maybe I could have beaten the game with three lives. Maybe I had it in me. I’ve always been primarily a sports game guy, so it was rare that I’d put a lot of time into a game like Contra. After beating the game with 30 lives, I had little motivation to put in the necessary work to beat it again with only three. But I often wonder if I really could have done it.

I was the LeBron James of Nintendo.

My friend Tim was the Michael Jordan of Nintendo.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably  heard about “The Decision” on ESPN this past Thursday. Maybe the most physically talented player in the history of basketball, decided to go to Miami to play with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. For those of you playing at home, that’s “Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, B, A, select, start.”

Michael Jordan would never have left Chicago to play with Magic, Larry or Patrick. He’d rather have had them start their own all-star team together, so he could beat them all at once, rather than team up with them. He’d have preferred not winning any rings than admit that he needed to join Isaiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer in Detroit to get one.

What do Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce have in common? Their teams were mostly horrible until they joined forces to win a championship. They are fine players, but will not be remembered individually as guys who could lead a team to a championship. There’s nothing wrong with that, as there are only a few players in history that legitimately could carry a team. LeBron had that kind of talent. Yet we’ll never know if he had it in him.

LeBron may win championships in Miami. He may win three or four, but when it’s all said and done, will anyone say that he was one of those guys that absolutely refused to let his team lose? Will people talk about him the same way they talk about Michael Jordan and even Kobe Bryant? No. They’ll say he was a great player on a great team. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, but LeBron could have been special. As good as Kobe has been, it was LeBron that really had the potential to be the next Jordan. He was loved by opposing fans and had the talent to win multiple championships.

I could understand his mindset if LeBron was 30. If his skills were in decline and he knew that the only way he’d get a ring was to join another team, but the guy is 25 and possibly hasn’t even hit his prime yet. He gave up a chance to be an all-time great AND get some rings for a slightly better shot at getting rings.

I could even understand it if LeBron went to New York to make a boatload of money, improve his marketing possibilities and have a shot at taking one of the NBA’s worst, but most historical, franchises on his back to a championship. But Miami?

Don’t try to tell me that LeBron had to join the Heat to have a legit shot at a championship. The Cavs had the best record in the entire NBA the last two years. James took the Cavaliers to the 2007 NBA finals by himself. He took his team to the Eastern Conference Finals the last two years, and even had his team up 2-1 this past year. If that was Jordan, he’d work his butt off the entire off-season, fine-tuning every aspect of his game until his team got over the hump. Jordan was in the EXACT same situation LeBron was just in. He didn’t win a championship until his seventh NBA season. He was bounced from the playoffs on a regular basis. And he sure as hell wasn’t going to give up and join a few all-stars to get himself over the hump. He was way too competitive for that.

LeBron can improve as a player. We all know that. His jump shot has improved, but he can definitely become a much better shooter than he is now. He’s a great help-defender, but can become a better on-ball defender. If he became a better overall player and the Cavs continued to make roster changes, couldn’t Cleveland have won a championship?

Unfortunately for all of us, the world will never know.

  1. August 2, 2010 at 5:27 AM

    So if you start the game with 30 lives, and when you beat it, you had 27 left (this is understanding that you may have dipped below 27, got 1-ups, and got back to 27 at the end) … which NBA player does that make you?

    I asked since once in my life, I beat Contra this way.

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