LeBron James vs. Larry Bird: Is King James More Complete Than Larry Legend?
Every fan has some sort of fetish where they must compare players both past and present. It doesn't matter if one guy played in the '70s and the other in present day.
Why? Because it's fun.
I hate comparing two players within team sports. There are so many variables, so much circumstantial evidence. It truly is an impossible feat.
However, I am going to take a leap and attempt to compare one facet of an NBA player. Versatility.
Larry Bird of the '80s against LeBron James. Who is the more versatile player?
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I love passing. I admire the unselfish mantra behind it and truly respect those with the skill.
To me, if you're going to be mentioned as one of the all-time greats, you need to be a great passer regardless of what position you're labeled.
This is one of my biggest qualms against Kobe Bryant. Great scorer. But passer? Not so much. I'm not sure that word is in his vocabulary.
Bird's passing awareness was one of his greatest skills. He had an uncanny ability to see a play well before it happened.
The same can be said for LeBron today. He is without question the best passer among non point guards. It's not even close.
He could absolutely be a full time point guard.
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Rebounding is a skill any player can develop. Obviously it helps to have height and leaping ability, but both are not necessities. Just look at Kevin Love, who leads the league in rebounding this season at 15.6 a game.
LeBron (7.1 career rebound average) is an exceptional rebounder as was old-school Larry (10.0 career rebound average). But there is one major difference in how they got to those numbers.
LeBron relies on pure athleticism while Larry relied on smarts, positioning, and heart.
I've watched the Miami Heat intently this season and can tell you James doesn't always display great rebounding technique and often gets his hands on the rock because he's a freak of nature physically.
On several occasions I've seen LeBron's man beat him to the glass from the weak side. Truly great rebounders never lose sight or feel for where their man is on the court and rarely give up offensive boards.
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Bird was successful on defense because of smarts. He knew where his opponent wanted to get to and gave his best effort to deter him. However he was never a lock-down, on-the-ball defender because he simply didn't have the foot speed.
LeBron possesses unparalleled lateral quickness and agility for a 270 pound specimen. He can defend both the post and perimeter, essentially any position on the floor.
Just wait until playoff time when he likely gets thrown on Rajon Rondo for stretches during the Eastern Conference finals. He will prove his ultimate defensive worth.
He's also a fierce shot blocker, especially in transition where he comes from behind. LeBron has all of the skills necessary to be one of the greatest on the defensive end. He's almost there.
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Nobody in league history goes from 0 to 60 like LeBron, especially nobody close to his size.
The man is a steamroller. This one was easy.
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Bird was one of the purest, most efficient shooters of all time.
He has career numbers of 50 percent from the field, 38 percent from three, and 89 percent from the line.
LeBron has some work to do.
He has career numbers of 48 percent from the field, 33 percent from three, and 74 percent from the line.
Obviously James has time to improve his shooting from the outside and has been having a career year this season from the perimeter shooting 36 percent from thus far.
However, all we have is Bird's entire slate against LeBron's first half.
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There is nobody in league history who has possessed LeBron's combination of strength, speed, acceleration and explosion.
He is a force off the dribble and can get inside the paint at will. He is also one of the best finishers in the game.
Larry obviously didn't have the same natural ability, but he found crafty ways to beat more athletic, quicker players off the dribble. Still, this one is a no-contest.
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Whatever Boston needed, Bird provided.
Whether it was a clutch defensive stop or a game-clinching jumper, he fulfilled it.
He also was a true leader at all times and made everyone around him better.
Many of those intangibles can be found within LeBron's game. However, at times he still tries to do too much and force the issue.
Bird always seemed to operate with whatever was best for the team at that particular moment. LeBron is still finding his way, although has gotten a lot better.
He could settle less for the outside jumper, especially when he's having an off night.
It's hard to rate LeBron in this category because his career is far from complete. He's absolutely a monster in crunch time, but hasn't yet proven it on the championship stage.
Bird has, and for that we have to reward him. He also has three rings. It also doesn't help that LeBron deferred to his sub-par teammates when his team needed him most in last year's Cavs-Celtics series.
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Court Vision: Even
Dribble Drive: LeBron
Killer Instinct: Bird
Technically Bird takes the cake 5-4 in this one. However, have we even seen the best of LeBron James at this point?
He will improve in areas like free-throw shooting, three-point shooting, and knowing when to go into takeover mode.
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