Why Phil Jackson Is Right About LeBron James' Potential to Equal Michael Jordan

Joshua CarrollCorrespondent IIOctober 23, 2012

Why Phil Jackson Is Right About LeBron James' Potential to Equal Michael Jordan

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    We as basketball fans are always tempted to compare and contrast the greatest players to ever play the game.

    LeBron James has been deemed the next Michael Jordan since he came into the league.

    That's what happens when you are the highest touted star ever coming straight out of high school, choose to wear number 23, and are nicknamed the "Chosen One."

    Well, LeBron has not disappointed thus far and is now arguably the best player in the league.

    But as we reach what is likely the halfway point of LeBron's career, more people than ever are questioning how he compares to Michael Jordan.

    One of the greatest coaches of all time (in any sport), Phil Jackson, decided to weigh in on the topic recently and I'm here to tell you why he was dead right about LeBron's potential to equal Jordan.

Physical Ability

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    You can't teach height. 

    You also can't teach LeBron's unique combination of size, speed, strength and overall athleticism.

    Jackson believes that LeBron's power and ability to play every position on the floor gives him the advantage when comparing him and Jordan.

    Let's keep in mind that not many people know Jordan's game better than the Zen Master himself.

    Jackson said, "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."

    He believes that if James can stay healthy that he has all the physical tools to have just as good, if not a better career than Jordan. And I can't say I disagree.

    The league has never seen a player like King James, who can seemingly do it all. One could argue that James possesses the most unique skill set that any sport has ever seen.

    That is a bold statement, but I challenge you to look up some of LeBron's highlights and tell me you disagree.

Rings

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    Surely you've heard this before, but if not, let me run this by you once more.

    LeBron has captured his first title a year younger than when Jordan won his first championship under Jackson.

    James is just getting started (and if we're going to be real here), he should have two more rings.

    He almost single-handedly took the Cavaliers to the 2007 NBA Finals before getting swept by the Spurs, and there's no reason the Heat should have not defeated the Mavericks in 2010.

    Nevertheless, I'm not here to play the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" game. As for now, he has one ring.

    Jackson weighed in on this topic as well, stating, "Winning six championships is an elusive thing out there, and [the Heat] haven't won two yet," and then added, "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."

    Rings do indeed define your career, but LeBron does not need to win six titles in order to be considered the greatest. However, it's safe to say he needs to win three or more. 

    The time is now or never, but I don't think the situation could look any better for King James at this point.

Aging Gracefully

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    If you look at some of the greatest players in NBA history, particularly Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, they age gracefully.

    They develop more moves in the post. They depend on their athleticism less while relying more on their basketball IQ and efficiency.

    James has already started to make these adjustments, while still in his prime. That alone should scare every other player in the league. This guy is still improving.

    "I have a hard time judging the 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," said Jackson.

    If LeBron can continue on this path of going away each summer and coming back with something new in his arsenal, he will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Once You Get One, It Doesn't Get Any Easier

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    Jackson made it clear that winning multiple championships is no walk in the park.

    "There is never really an easier path. You know the direction, you know what it takes, you know the length of the season and how to pace yourselves," he said.

    Although James may claim he knows this, there's no better teacher than experience.

    Where Miami has the advantage is that other teams have been gunning for them since the Heat came together in 2010.

    The bottom line is this—there's no question that James has enough talent to surpass Jordan as the greatest to ever play the game. But there are more questions to be answered before we get to this point.

    Does James have the mental toughness? Can he stay healthy? Can Pat Riley continue to place such great talent around him? 

    I think you get the point.

    But the fact that Jackson believes there is indeed a chance that LeBron will go down as the best ever should give you some indication that James is the real deal.

    Even in his interview, talking aloud, Jackson asked, "Can he match what Michael has done?"

    Only time will tell.