LeBron James Evaluation: Comparing James, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan

Tom DeRiggiContributor IIJune 8, 2011

Can LeBron show up in the final 4 games of this series?
Can LeBron show up in the final 4 games of this series?Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Why is it that every time I turn on the TV, the best basketball player in the NBA is being tarred and feathered like he's Roger Goodell and the NBA Finals is this NFL labor dispute? Why is it that we have this innate desire to destroy one of the league's crown jewels? Is it really still because of "The Decision"? Or does it stem from somewhere else?

I wanted to try and tackle this issue, but to do so, I had to find out why so many people hate LeBron James. What I found, just by asking around and talking to my loyal NBA buddies, were two reasons.

The first reason is because he left Cleveland the way he did. Understandable. I can't really argue what he did, because I don't completely agree with it either. You want to play with your buddies; you want to play with friends in South Beach; you don't wanna pay taxes on everything? I get it. But don't leave the city that embraced you as their own, down like that.

The second reason was because a lot of people are comparing him to the greatest to ever do it, Mr. Jordan. This is the point that I have a problem with, and if I could just get on ESPN's 1st and 10, I would straighten Skip Bayless out.

So why do we make the comparisons between LeBron and Jordan? Is it because they wore the same number? Is it because he does the same toss of the powder into the air? Is it because we like to scratch and claw to unearth the next "GOAT?"

United States sports fans like to cheer for two things: an underdog and the best at anything. We WANT LeBron to be Jordan. This isn't exactly fair to LeBron, in any way shape or form. So, if we are consistent fans and we want to judge LeBron on the same level that we judged Jordan and Kobe (Kobe and LeBron are the closest things we've seen to MJ), then let's do so.

Let's start with "His Airness." Michael Jordan won his first title at the age of 28. He struggled in the playoffs until 1991 against the Lakers, finally breaking through and winning the first of six championships with the Bulls. I'd say that's pretty good for a  28-year-old.

Kobe; right out of the gate, he gets to play with the most dominant man we've ever seen at any stretch in time in the NBA, Shaquille O'Neal (soon to be Dr. O'Neal). So Kobe gets three rings because he has Shaq to fall back on and the two of them dominated the league to the tune of a three-peat.

Fast-forward to Kobe at age 30. Shaq is long gone; it is now Kobe's team. This is what we want as fans, correct? We want the super-duper stars to win on their own. OK, so Kobe finally wins on his own at the age of 30. Well done.

So if I get this right, and I like to think my research is accurate, Jordan wins his first ring at age 28, Kobe at age 30.

Let's jump to LeBron James, who by the way just turned 26 in December. He is in the finals for the second time, and yes, he has a player with equal talent on his team, Mr. Wade. So if we're judging on the same scale as the other two great shooting guards, then LeBron still has two to three years left before he can win one correct?

No, because we are so quick to judge and anoint and criticize greatness for a "lack of clutch gene" or a "lack of sense for the moment."


Why can't we be patient as fans? We owe that to these athletes. I understand that I sound like the biggest LeBron homer right now, and you know what, so what? I enjoy watching LeBron play. This guy has had the biggest bull's-eye on his back since he was 16.

Why can't we let him grow up? He's still a kid! He's still a kid who wants to be as good as his idol, Michael Jordan. So when he throws the powder and he wears his number, it is not to be just like him, he just wants to do the things that his idol did.

I used to shoot free throws with the same exact dribbling sequence and routine that Jordan did. Three Dribbles, flip of the ball, shot. I still do it to this day. When I was younger, I used to stick my tongue out like I was Jordan. We do these things because we are honoring our idols. And so this kid, who's 26, can't do that because the world wants him to be something else? It just doesn't seem fair to me. But then again, life isn't fair.

Now, LeBron has disappeared in these finals, and I honestly couldn't tell you why. Is he trying to prove a point that without him they will not win? Because last night's game was painful to watch, with LeBron passing up opportunities and shots to defer to D-Wade.

There are serious psychological situations going on between Dwyane Wade and LeBron. Sure they are the best of friends, but they both know that neither one of them is going to win this finals without the help of the other.

So it's time for LeBron to step up. It's his time now. Why wait till 28? You are owned and marketed by the biggest shoe company in the world and their motto is, "Just Do It". So just do it LeBron.

There is no one in this league who can guard you for 48 minutes. When you need that possession off, defer to Wade, and he'll do the same to you. It's time for you to prove to us that you have that greatness in you. Hopefully that's what we'll see in Game 5.