I’m getting pretty sick of people these days comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan. First, Scottie Pippen, Jordan’s old teammate made a statement that James could actually top MJ saying that Jordan was the greatest scorer of all time, but that James could be the best player of all time. He then showed his stupidity by backing off those statements days later.
Then one of Jordan’s best friends, Charles Barkley, added that he never thought he would ever compare a player to Michael, then promptly said he thought one day LeBron could be better. Now, Phil Jackson, Jordan’s former head coach with the Chicago Bulls came out with comparisons along the same lines. Jackson was much more careful than Pippen and Barkley and made sure to add several stipulations to this comparison. He made the following comments on ESPN’s “Waddle and Silvy Show” (via Sports Radio Interviews):
“He’s got all the physical attributes. I think we all question the prepping that went into LeBron. His defense was shaky when he was a younger player and finding his way through that direction. He is a player that can play four positions. Except for perhaps the center spot, which he hasn’t given a shot at yet, he can play those other four positions quite well. This is unique; Michael could play three and was very good at all three of those. But as a power player that LeBron can become, I think he has an opportunity to explore and advance some of the status that he has already gained.
“Winning six championships is an elusive thing out there, and they haven’t won two yet. But he’s kinda got the smell of it and even the Olympic experience this summer, he was the granted leader of that team and was the critical player when they needed something to happen in the final games. I think he’s there. I think he’s at that position. He’s got good things ahead of him, and a lot of it depends upon if he’s gonna be healthy for the remainder of his career.”
Jackson was asked whether LBJ could unseat MJ as the best player of all time.
“I have a hard time judging that best player, but I do think that Michael had more moves in the post and he had more of a, perhaps, shooting touch with his back to the basket and all these kind of things that were part of his game. LeBron has this train out of control when he gets the ball in transition that he can go coast to coast without anyone getting in his way. And if they do, he’s going to over run them. And he’s got the power with the body, and he’s developed a left hand that’s extremely good.
“There’s a lot of things that you are seeing in the development of this player that leads towards that, but the ideal and the whole reason behind this is what kind of championships are you gonna get from a player like this? Can he match what Michael has done?”
I want to add this disclaimer to my argument before I take off here, I love LeBron as a player, I have watched him since he was a sophomore in high school. I remember watching him at Cape Henlopen for a tournament and watching him just destroy the competition and wondering how a grown man with NBA talent was still in high school.
He is mesmerizing, insanely athletic and simply, great. He is not Michael Jeffrey Jordan, who is and always will be the greatest basketball player of all time. Sure, LeBron is bigger, stronger and maybe even faster. Yes, he can play four, maybe even five positions on the court, Jordan could “only” play three. Sure, he’s a better rebounder, and you know what? None of that matters.
Jordan is the best because of how he dominated, his will to win, and the fact that he changed his game completely and was still the best in the world. When Jordan came out of retirement and won three more titles with the Bulls he did it in a completely different way. He had a good turnaround before he left after the 1993 season, he was a good shooter, but that wasn’t how he dominated game in and game out. He was still the high flying, attack the rim player that gave birth to the greatest nickname is basketball history “Air Jordan”.
He came back and over one summer while filming “Space Jam” and reinvented his game. He developed the fade away jumper into an unstoppable move, refined his mid range jumper and learned to pick apart defenses in a completely different fashion. Jordan scared the players who were defending him, he made others copy his style and try to emulate him. When’s the last time you heard “The Next LeBron James?”.
These comparisons have been going on for years from Harold Minor, Jerry Stackhouse, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady and most recently Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Most have failed miserably when compared to MJ, Kobe is the closest thing, not LeBron.
But the biggest thing is this, look at history, look at every single NBA Championship team and you see one thing, an All-Star big man. Except of course when you look at the six Jordan lead Bulls teams. And don’t comeback with the Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant comments please. Grant was a nice player who pretty much sucked when he left Chicago for Orlando. Rodman was a rebounder and defender at the end of his career.
Jordan didn’t have to run to Miami to play with two other superstars the caliber of Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. He didn’t need the most dominating center of our era in his corner (Shaq) like Kobe did for half his championships (or a bunch of stars next to him for the other two). Each of the six titles Jordan won were because Jordan was well, Jordan. If LeBron would have won six titles with the Cavs, then maybe we could have this conversation, but he didn’t and he won’t so these conversations need to stop.