Enter Bill Simmons:
Jordan was a ruthless motherfucker. Jordan was a killer. Jordan didn't care if his teammates despised him. Jordan never, ever, not in a million years, would have allowed his team to quit in the final two minutes of Thursday night's game the way LeBron did. His teammates feared him, loathed him, revered him and played accordingly. Bird had that same quality. In the second half of his career, so did Magic. Winning meant so much to those guys that their teammates almost didn't have a choice; they had to follow suit. Or else.
Partly, LeBron has never had a good coach.
To illustrate what he could have, Simmons relays this story of Pat Riley, coach of the Miami Heat, who in Game 6 of the 2006 NBA Finals, at halftime threw away the playbook and the X's and O's and took a different tack:
He screamed at his guys like a boxing trainer. You're tougher than them! YOU'RE TOUGHER THAN THEM! Don't let up! They are ready to quit! They are ready to fold! Keep attacking them! Keep getting to the rim! Keep knocking their asses down! No layups! No dunks! Stay together! YOU ARE TOUGHER THAN THEM! YOU ARE TOUGHER THAN THEM! That's what he did for the entire second half. Eventually, his players believed him.
Here's my post on the components of killer instinct. See Chris Yeh's comment about most great men and women of history being bastards. Here's Brad Feld's 45 second advice video to a portfolio company.
Some years ago I watched LeBron play as a high school athlete at the Adidas Big Time tournament in Las Vegas. The gym was full of NBA scouts and media. LeBron was playing for the Oakland Soldiers (he played on two AAU teams then — the Soldiers and his Cleveland club). After watching LeBron play no defense, score almost no points, and seem oddly detached from the game, I remember telling someone there that he would go down as "severely overrated."
It remains my greatest mis-assessment of talent ever.