LeBron James: Why Comparisons to Michael Jordan Must Stop for Good
With a ring on his hand as the alpha dog of a championship squad, the overlords of the sweeping generalization can no longer speak about James squandering his talent and becoming the Charles Barkley of his time.
And as someone who has long been confused about why one act of arrogance could create such a monsoon of visceral hatred toward a man, I found myself feeling joy for LeBron. No more crunch-time criticisms or abstract phrases about him not "wanting it enough."
Now, all that's left for James is opening the Pandora's Box for his senseless player comparisons.
I love when people compare teams of players from different eras. The concept is utterly insane, yet almost no subject ignites more passionate debate from the masses.
Older generations scoff at the prowess of the youngsters in favor of the "golden" standard of their forefathers, while the youth battle an inferiority complex and defend their generation's players with equal fervor.
Even something as innocent as Kobe Bryant's offhanded assertion that the 2012 U.S. team could beat the 1992 Dream team elicited extreme reactions from fans, NBA analysts and even a few prominent members of the Dream Team (via Associated Press).
Every generational debate is inarguably affected by the prism with which you watched a particular team or player, and that's fine. But where these generational debates get into trouble is when they compare two entities that should never be compared.
The most frustrating (but comprehensible) example of this is the media's incessant comparisons of LeBron James to Michael Jordan.
The comparisons began a little over 11 years ago when Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl spent time shadowing James for a feature for the Feb. 18, 2002 issue. The article uses the word "Jordan" 17 times and set the stage for this inane conversation in its final paragraph:
He's almost there, but not yet. Only one more year—with no injuries, no complications—and he'll make it. Then he can worry about the next step. Above the television in the James' modest west Akron apartment, LeBron keeps an ersatz SI cover featuring his photograph and the cover line IS HE THE NEXT MICHAEL JORDAN? It's preposterously too early to answer, of course, yet judging from young LeBron's unprecedented rise, it's a question that is at least worth asking.
In 2002, this was understandable. The Jordan conversation simply served as hype for James, the most hyped prospect in prep hoops history. But once James came into the NBA, the comparisons have only grown and became more asinine every year.
Strictly speaking, there is no perfect comparison for LeBron because he's the first of his kind. LeBron is the evolutionary Oscar Robinson, a 6'8" Brahma bull with Karl Malone's body, Dr. J's athleticism and Magic Johnson's court vision.
LeBron is not a naturally gifted scorer. He gets points because he is so overpowering and skilled that it's impossible for him not to. James is at his best when he is harnessing his all-time great drive-and-decide skills.
On the other hand, Jordan is a prototypical 6'6" shooting guard who was never a committed creator for others, but remains the most skilled scorer in NBA history. He could get his shot off from anywhere at any degree of difficulty and make it look easy.
Comparing LeBron and Jordan's game is ludicrous because they couldn't be more different.
LeBron has never been and will probably never be a better player than Jordan. That's not a detriment to James, as he is a three-time MVP at the age of 27 and is one of the five most talented players in NBA history.
But Michael Jordan is the biggest singular force in sports history. We all know the résumé by now, but the most awe-inspiring Jordan stat for me is his eight seasons with a win share over 17. Magic and Larry Bird have zero of those seasons, while James has two under his belt so far.
Having completely different styles and statistical outputs hasn't stopped the overarching narrative of King James' post-championship reign from being "Can he catch Jordan?" What people should focus on is the individual rungs of the ladder James will need to climb to even get into conversation with Jordan.
The fact is, LBJ and MJ are two transcendent talents whose main similarity is that they're best known for putting an orange ball in a hoop. It's time to shelve that conversation and appreciate LeBron as he creates his own legacy aside from Jordan's.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?