LeBron James is one of the best players to play the game since Michael Jordan officially retired in 2003. But as good as LeBron is, he will never come near Jordan’s legacy.
There are a lot of factors that separate LeBron James from Michael Jordan. LeBron is a more physically gifted player than Jordan; LeBron is also a better distributor than Jordan was. Jordan was a much better shooter and defender than LeBron is at his peak.
It is safe to say that both LeBron and Jordan are both very talented players. but LeBron does not possess the intangibles that will ever get him into a conversation with Michael Jordan.
Here are four reasons why LeBron James will never come close to Michael Jordan.
Every NBA player has his own unique demeanor both on and off the court—Jordan especially stuck out.
Every time Jordan took the court, it felt like he was playing in the Game 7 of the NBA finals. Jordan was a general on the court, like Robert E. Lee and George Washington put together, He only cared about the task at hand—winning the war.
When the chips are stacked against Jordan, he never panics—he gets into fight-or-flight mode. Jordan would give it his all at the end of games and make sure that he fought hard even if his team would inevitably lose.
Every time LeBron takes the court, it feels like a pickup game at Rucker Park mixed in with Amateur Night at the Apollo. LeBron is always putting on a great show while keeping his teammates' spirits up. LeBron might dance on the bench or take fake pictures of his teammates on the sidelines, but you know that LeBron is only doing it because his team is succeeding for that particular game.
On the contrary, when his team is losing, LeBron will show signs of nervousness and worry. LeBron will start biting his fingernails while looking confused on the court; his usually-fun demeanor completely disappears, along with his presence.
LeBron, unlike Jordan, often loses focus on what is really important: winning the game.
Losing focus on winning will naturally translate into a lower rate of success. For LeBron and Jordan, the proof is in the numbers.
Both LeBron and Jordan were always very successful in the regular season. LeBron, like Jordan, led his team to the NBA’s best record on numerous occasions.
The difference between the two arises after the regular season. Both LeBron and Jordan were not very successful in the playoffs early in their careers; however, LeBron did reach an NBA Finals very early in his career.
Jordan has gone to the NBA Finals six times in his career and has won each time. On the other hand, LeBron has reached the NBA Finals twice and has yet to win once.
LeBron did go to the Finals for the first time at a much younger age than Jordan. When LeBron went to the Finals in 2007 against the Spurs he was only 22 years old—Jordan was 28 years old when he went to his first Finals in 1991 against the Lakers.
Losing in the NBA Finals is not the major problem—most people won’t have an undefeated record in the Finals, especially if they reach the Finals six times. The greatest players of all time have all lost their own fair share of titles (with the exception of Jordan), but they usually make sure to have a winning record.
In order for LeBron to somehow match Jordan’s success, he needs to find a way to win two titles without losing another one. Though it may be possible, it will be difficult for LeBron to do, considering he hasn't won any yet.
Even if LeBron tries to erase his past and succeeds beyond expectations, his list of failures outweighs Jordan’s, and they will always be weighed against him.
With sincere respect to Reggie Miller, Michael Jordan is the greatest crunch-time player in NBA history.
Based on research from The NBA Realist at Chasing23.com, Jordan has made 9/18 game winning shots with the intent to win or tie the game with 24 seconds left in a one-possession game—LeBron has made 5/12.
The numbers are not that far apart because Jordan has a 50 percent success rate, compared to LeBron’s 41.7 percent—but LeBron has deferred more shots than Jordan, which is worse than missing.
Jordan rarely deferred when the game was on the line. The ball needed to be in Jordan’s hands for him to either take the game-winning or -tying shot, or to slash in the paint to make a game-winning or -tying layup.
LeBron seemed to defer a lot last season—especially in the NBA Finals. LeBron does have a better second option for scoring than Jordan did, but if LeBron wants to be considered the best player on his team, then he needs to try to at least put the team on his back and hit a game winning shot.
If the Bulls or Wizards were going to lose or win a game, the blame or praise would always fall on Jordan’s back. The same could not be said for LeBron James.
Getting in the mind of Jordan is as easy as getting into Harvard Law with a 2.5 G.P.A. Getting in the mind of LeBron is as difficult as getting into your local community college.
No one was ever able to play mental games on Jordan—his mental toughness is unmatched. No amount of criticism or trash talk would ever diminish Jordan’s success—it would only make his chances of success stronger.
Jordan never had his high school games broadcasted on television because he could not even make his high school basketball team. Jordan was never given a Hummer and national praise before he touched a basketball out of high school. When someone told Jordan that he couldn’t do something, he went and did it better than anyone else.
On the other hand, LeBron was given everything on a silver platter. The endorsements, the cars, the fame, LeBron was a household name before he touched a basketball—this is what I attribute to mental weakness. LeBron was rarely criticized early in his career, but when the criticisms begun, LeBron took them to heart and started to justify the criticism. When LeBron was dubbed a “choker,” he went out and proved it on national television in the NBA Finals—Jordan would never do that.
LeBron still has room for some improvement and he can find a way to prove all his doubters wrong, as he is still young and talented enough to do so.
LeBron has showed flashes of mental toughness. If he can consistently show psychological strength over his opponents and critics, then his demeanor will automatically change, he will become more successful as a player, and his crunch-time failure will be no more.
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