Breaking Down Why LeBron Is Already Better Than Kobe and Jordan

Justin Hussong@@HeatChecksHussContributor IIIFebruary 18, 2013

The comparison is just America struggling to let go of the past. There is a new king, and he is here to stay.
The comparison is just America struggling to let go of the past. There is a new king, and he is here to stay.

On the dawn of the great Michael Jordan's 50th birthday, the constant bantering yet again has graced the covers of our favorite sports websites.

Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant. LeBron James.

The three are constantly compared to one another with fans, media and NBA legends alike arguing which superstar is the greatest.

It is time for the argument to end. The average ignorant fan would point to the ring count and be too blinded by the real facts. Stop. LeBron James is a better NBA player than Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant.

Yes, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have six and five rings, respectively. Michael Jordan won his first ring at age 28. Kobe Bryant won his first in his fourth season at age 22 playing second fiddle to Shaquille O'Neal. That season, the 1999-2000 season, Shaq put up 38 points and 16.7 rebounds a game in the finals against Indiana. Kobe averaged 15.6 points on 36.7 percent shooting that series.

LeBron is simply held to a higher standard than Jordan or Kobe ever have been. Anytime Kobe or Jordan fail, the blame is placed elsewhere. If LeBron fails, he is victimized to the point where his jersey gets burned on national television.

If the Heat were in 10th place in the East right now like the Lakers are, the amount of criticism LeBron would receive could not even be fathomed. Kobe, on the other hand, remains scrap free. The Lakers' demise has been placed on Mike Brown, Dwight Howard and injuries.

In his fourth season, he dragged a team comprised of such superstars like Drew Gooden, Daniel Gibson, Eric Snow and Sasha Pavlovic to the Finals. LeBron averaged 25-8-8 in the postseason. To put all the burden of not winning on him is absurd.

No player has ever won a title by himself. Basketball is a team sport despite the prominence of such superstars. Michael Jordan never would have won without Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman or Steve Kerr. Kobe has had the pleasure of playing with Shaq, Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Ron Artest in his career. Just the same, LeBron would not have won without Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh.

The three are different players. LeBron's scoring numbers have been slightly less than Kobe and Jordan's, although LeBron has taken far fewer shots. His assists and rebounds have been better than both of them. Comparing Kobe to Jordan has always been a more direct comparison, as their skill-sets are very similar. LeBron is unlike anything this league has ever seen.

In historical terms, the argument could be presented that Jordan was "greater" than Kobe and LeBron. That conversation is unfair to LeBron, who has much of his script still to write. To compare LeBron's ring total to Jordan's is discounting too many other factors.

The overall athleticism and talent level of NBA players today is monumentally more incredible than it was 20 years ago.  

The fact that LeBron is still improving is insane. This year, he has upped his efficiency tremendously. His 8.2 rebounds a game are a career high. His turnovers have decreased each of the last three seasons. Additionally, his field-goal percentage has increased seven consecutive years to a ridiculous 56.5 percent this season, a number Kobe and Jordan never sniffed in their careers.

Get this: Michael Jordan retired prior to the 1993-94 season, the Chicago Bulls went 55-27. When LeBron left the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that won 61 games won 19 games without him the next season. The Lakers were 53-29 the year before they drafted Kobe, already having a stacked team.

LeBron James has never lost in the first round of the playoffs, even with a less-than-stellar supporting cast. Jordan lost three consecutive years in the first round before breaking through.

It is indisputable that Jordan and Kobe inherited squads that were infinitely more talented than LeBron's with Cleveland. The fact that he even reached the Finals with those teams is unbelievable.

We all saw what the Lakers did without Shaq. Kobe started putting up career numbers, scoring as much as 35.4 points per game in 2005-06.

Where did the Lakers end up? Over three seasons, they had two first-round exits and a missed playoff appearance...until Pau came along and Andrew Bynum developed into a star. Then all was well once again.

The facts are too much. It is too programmed into our heads that Jordan is the best player this league has ever seen. With the Heat, LeBron has two finals appearances and one title in two seasons, his first years with a real supportive cast.

After his obliteration of the Celtics in the conference finals last year, and successive beat-down of Kevin Durant's Thunder team, all the LeBron naysayers just shifted their argument to the fact that LeBron only has one ring instead of zero. To them, he will be irrelevant until he reaches five or six.

All the man needs is time. When it is all said and done, LeBron will undoubtedly be "greater" than Kobe and Jordan. He will have his handful of rings, as well as the collection of personal accolades that are in a stratosphere all their own. 

For the time being, LeBron is simply a marvel. His powerful yet finessed game is nothing short of legendary. He is hands-down the most outstanding player to ever step foot in this league, bar none. Like it or not, he is still just getting started.

He does things on the basketball court that Kobe and Jordan simply could not do, and when it is all said and done, he will be the new barometer that the media compares all the new superstars to.


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