LeBron James is clearly the best basketball player in the game right now. There is no disputing that, and if anyone does, they need to get their head examined. The four-time MVP (with his most recent accolade coming this year) has made the All-NBA team nine times, the defensive team five times, has a scoring title under his belt, as well as a finals MVP to boot. And he’s only 28. In 20 years, when it comes time to discussing the best players to play the game, his name will probably get thrown around quite a bit, and rightfully so.
But can we please stop with the Michael Jordan comparisons? Can we put them off until LeBron approaches the backend end of his career? MJ is the greatest of all time, and there are still lingering issues as they relate to LeBron's game that make me especially gunshy in declaring him the G.O.A.T.
Michael Jordan is widely recognized as the greatest player of all-time. His ability to score at will, generate crucial defensive plays, as well as provide big-time leadership remain unparalleled in basketball history. Jordan’s competitive spirit and will to win separate him from his basketball peers. To be clear, I understand that this argument is qualitative in nature, and yet I can’t help but conclude that those making the case for LeBron never really appreciated that essential aspect to Jordan’s game.
I mentioned in a previous article about how basketball savvy LeBron James is, and his penchant for making the right plays, even when not readily discernable. Yet, at the same time, it’s hard not to get over how deflective LeBron can be at times. While LeBron is a great passer and sets his teammates up quite nicely, there are times, perhaps, where the team would benefit greatly from more aggression on his end.
For example, in Game 1 of the current NBA Finals against San Antonio, LeBron put up a meager 6 points in the fourth quarter, a stretch that proved to be the most critical for the Heat in a game they would go on to lose. Does anyone really think that had Jordan been placed in a similar situation, the outcome would have been the same? Does anyone really think that Jordan would have managed a paltry 6 points in the fourth quarter?
To be sure, I am totally aware of the numbers. I understand the statistical comparisons at the same “points” in their respective careers (comparisons that don’t pass muster given that they don’t take into consideration when both players actually started their careers). In-game statistics, however, can only tell you so much. I’m also aware of the larger, more relevant statistics in comparing careers; 11 total MVPs (regular season and Finals) 10 scoring titles (in 13 seasons with the Bulls), 6 championship rings, and countless clutch plays made down the stretch that presently keep LeBron at bay. If we are attempting to figure out who in fact is the greatest player of all time, career accomplishments are incredibly important, and unfortunately for LeBron lovers, these statistics carry the day at the moment.
And this is why it is important that we hold off these comparisons for now. Jordan has accomplished so much in his incredible career, and LeBron still has a ways to go. And to be honest, I’m not as optimistic about LeBron’s post-30 career as most seem to be. I’m not quite sure how LeBron fares once his athleticism begins to wane. Jordan and Kobe developed a solid, consistent mid-range game earlier on in their careers, and that was able to make up for their drop off in athletic ability well into their 30s. It will be interesting to see how LeBron adapts as a vital component of his game begins to wear off.
There is another point, however, not being discussed in these LeBron-MJ arguments, a point that clearly favors Jordan: Who else could have led the underdog 'Tunes to victory against the heavily favored gargantuan Nerdlucks?
I rest my case.