LeBron James Will Never Approach Michael Jordan's Level of Excellence
Now that LeBron James has achieved his elusive first title, there are whispers that the self-proclaimed king might ascend and surpass the greatest basketball player to ever live—Michael Jordan.
I heard that conversation on the local sports radio station in Chicago recently, and it behooves me to quash it before it gets out of control.
In his third NBA Final, LeBron finally showed up—winning the MVP. Until then, the excuse was he always had to do everything by himself.
Speaking of that, Michael Jordan, in just his second season, went up against the 1985-86 Boston Celtics—considered one of the greatest teams in the history of the league with players like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Bill Walton.
Jordan was coming off a foot injury that sidelined him for much of the season. He scored 49 points in the first game, but the Bulls fell short.
What was to come next indelibly ingrained Jordan's name into basketball lore. Jordan virtually took on the legendary Celtic team one-on-five—scoring 63 points for a playoff record that still stands.
The Bulls fell to the Celtics in double overtime 135-131, but that's not what everybody remembered.
It was the official coming out game for Jordan that brought Larry Bird to say, "I think it's just God disguised as Michael Jordan" in the NBA's Greatest Moments segment on NBA.com.
Jordan led the league in scoring an NBA record 10 times, including seven consecutive. He's the all-time scoring leader with a career average of 30.1.
But his achievements didn't stop there. He was nine-time defensive first team along with being Defensive Player of the Year in 1988.
Jordan's passing and rebounding ability may be forgotten, but there was a time in the 1988-89 season when Jordan played the point for the Bulls and had a triple-double in 10 out of 11 games from late March to early April.
In other words, Jordan could do everything on the court, and he could do it better than the "freak of nature" known as LeBron James.
The game was different when Jordan played. They had something called a hand-check that defenders could use to keep you from getting to the basket. That has since been outlawed.
Jordan's spectacular aerial act led the "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons to enact the "Jordan Rules." It was really the no lay-up rule. In other words, if you're driving to the basket, you're going to get hit and hit hard.
Today that's called a flagrant foul.
It was harder to play in Jordan's days.
Everyone thinks their era is the best and that the players keep improving, but that's not really the case.
Michael Jordan played on the "Dream Team." We're talking Bird, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, John Stockton and Chris Mullin. Every one of them is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The current Olympic team doesn't compare despite talk to the contrary, but even if we include today's best players—are they as good as the players Jordan competed against?
Both eras have other star players not mentioned here, but is there an appreciable difference in today's athlete from 20 years ago?
Jordan's time was when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. In other words, Ewing and Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Parish, Moses Malone and other behemoths patrolled the lane.
Today, outside of Howard, the NBA is devoid of great big men.
It's much easier with the rule changes and lack of talented centers for players like LeBron to drive the lane. It would be different if there were "LeBron Rules" where he would hit the hardwood whenever he attacked the basket.
He's not a great outside shooter, so if that aspect of his game was taken away, he would not be as productive.
Six times Jordan's teams went to the finals. Six times they won, and Jordan was the MVP.
LeBron is batting .333 with his first this year. That's only a good average in baseball.
He's a player maybe unlike any other to play the game with his combination of size, strength and speed, but let's quit with the hyperbole.
LeBron had to help create a super team to win his first ring. He knew he couldn't do it the old fashioned way like Jordan did.
While Jordan was known for coming up big in the clutch, LeBron's play often fell short in the most important games.
Jordan was a closer who hated to lose.
Can you imagine those words ever coming out of Jordan's mouth?
Jordan became a star of global magnitude in a world before social media and twitter.
He was the biggest star in basketball and probably the most recognized person on the planet.
Jordan was the best player to ever lace up sneakers and took marketing to a level never seen before in athletics with his Nike sponsorship. He led the way for LeBron and everyone who followed.
Jordan had a higher career FG percentage, .497 to .483 and free throw percentage .835 to .746 and trailed only in three-point shots at .327 for Jordan to .331 for James. That's taking into account Jordan's final two seasons with Washington that lowered his final figures while LeBron's are all prime years.
Jordan was known for "The Shot" against Cleveland in the 1989 playoffs, the shoulder shrug after sinking six three-pointers in the first half against Portland in the NBA Finals and the final shot against the Utah Jazz where Jordan sort of posed after sinking the game-winner.
LeBron is known for "The Decision."
He may be called "King James," but he will always bow down to Michael Jordan.
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