Some have ignored it, while others have attempted to discredit it, but there's no way around this reality now—LeBron James has officially entered Michael Jordan territory.
Though James has arguably always been as physically gifted as Jordan, there has been a strong case against a warranted comparison between the two.
Is this to say James is better than Jordan, or that he'll leave a greater legacy than His Airness?
Of course not. But he has accomplished enough, proven enough and navigated enough to permit a comparison.
James is now an undeniable part of the Greatest of All Time conversation; he has officially entered the same territory that was once charted by Jordan himself.
LeBron James' cause owes a lot to 2012.
Lockout and all, James closed out his campaign with an NBA title, league MVP award and Olympic gold medal.
Who's the only other player in the history of the game to do the same?
That's right, you guessed it—Michael Jordan.
His Airness accomplished the same, seemingly improbable feat in 1992, and James' ability to match it, exhibits his penchant for pushing the boundaries history typically sets for us.
Jordan was a one-of-a-kind player who set marks, broke records and built a lavish legacy on achieving inconceivable accolades. Now, James has begun to do the same.
James' 2012 has put him in Jordan's company, and no one else's. This isn't a piece of history that is shared by the few—just by two.
James and Jordan.
LeBron James is dominating the statistical side of basketball the same way Jordan did at his peak.
No, the Chosen One isn't averaging over 30 points per game, but he's leading the charge in every aspect, on both ends of the floor, in the same manner that Jordan used to.
This past season, James led the Heat in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game; he's become the type of leader that leads not only by his words, but by example as well.
Though Jordan was best known for his scoring prowess, he impacted the game in so many other ways. His Airness was named to nine All-Defensive first teams and even had a Defensive Player of the Year notch on his belt.
After a fourth All-Defensive first team honor and becoming a part of the Defensive Player of the Year conversation, James has officially entered such territory as well; he's exuding the type of two-way impact that Jordan did in his prime.
From a third straight season with a field-goal percentage above 50 percent to the first triple-double in U.S. Olympics history, James is throwing his weight around and seemingly appears unstoppable, the way Jordan did for so many years.
We could argue that Jordan was a better scorer, and we could also argue that James is a better rebounder, but it makes much more sense to accept and acknowledge the reality that Jordan lit up—and James is lighting up—the stat lines in ways we have seen few, if any, players do before.
Simply put, there's two-way prowess, and there's two-way dominance. And then there's James and Jordan.
Michael Jordan was no stranger to the NBA MVP award, and neither is LeBron James.
Through the first nine seasons of his career, James has taken home three league MVP awards, the same as Jordan through his first nine.
Much like the previously noted piece of history these two athletes share, this is no easy accomplishment.
While such attainment clearly speaks to the statistical prowess of both men, it goes beyond numbers and into the realm of intangibles.
James' MVP awards validate his importance as a teammate, as a franchise backbone and as a leader; none of Jordan's teams could have gotten where they were without him, and the same can now be said for James.
Prior to this season, despite owning two league MVPs, James' ability to distinguish himself in Miami was questioned. He may have been the seldom-disputed crowning NBA athlete, but how valuable could he possibly be to a team that boasted the likes of All-Stars Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade as well?
It turns out very.
In Cleveland, James' MVP campaigns were impressive, but his latest recognition was more Jordan-esque than his other two. No, Jordan was never part of as polarizing a triumvirate as James, but his supporting cast was prolific in its own right.
For James, being deemed the league MVP while playing alongside Bosh and Wade speaks a whole lot more to his value than when it came next to Mo Williams or Shaquille O'Neal.
Distinguishing oneself against the best is difficult, but distinguishing oneself alongside some of the best is even more so. But Jordan did it, and now James has too.
Unless it involves going nose-to-nose to with Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra, Dwyane Wade isn't one to rock the boat.
That's why we must not take Wade's recent sentiments about James in an interview with South Florida's Sun Sentinel with a grain of salt, but instead, a dose of truth:
He's on that level, but he has a lot more to do to get there. I think he understands he has an unbelievable opportunity to be one of the greatest to play this game. But that's when he gets done playing, he can say that.
Right now, he has so much more to cover in his career. He's just getting started at the same time when Michael kind of just got started. We'll see how it all shakes out. I hope it shakes out the same way. I'll be a very happy man.
No, Wade wasn't calling LeBron James the second coming of Michael Jordan, but he acknowledged his teammate was on "that level" and heading down that path.
We could chalk this up to the special bond the two stars undoubtedly share, yet this wasn't a definitive statement; it was an admittance that James is charting the same territory Jordan once did, starting to historically separate himself the way No. 23 did.
Teammate or not, having one of the greatest players currently in the NBA—who knows the gravity of the situation and perpetual comparison—back your Jordan-fueled cause means something.
A whole lot, in fact.
Michael Jordan finished his career with six championships—three in his first nine seasons. Thus far, after nine years, LeBron James has one.
But it's less about the number and more about the attainment.
Six rings will be difficult, if not nearly impossible, for James to match. But the monkey is off his back, the ring is on his finger and there's no questioning he now has—and knows—what it takes to win a title.
The one accolade preventing James from entering the next level of the Jordan conversation, from entering the next stretch of Jordan-owned territory, was an NBA title.
The basis for comparison would have had no legs to stand on without it; great players, of Jordan's caliber, close out championship causes, not just lead the case for contention.
James has now done that. He has thrust himself into the land of Jordan with a title and NBA Finals MVP; he has now begun to build a legacy of his own, in addition to trailing that of Jordan's.
After all, a large part of what made Jordan so special was he didn't spend his days merely chasing the reputations, but also creating an innovative one all his own.
With his first ring, James has finally embarked on the latter.
Now, how far he travels in Jordan's territory, and how deep he pushes a newly established bill that is all his own, is solely up to him.
That's pretty Jordan.