MJ or LeBron? The King or His Airness?

Randy LutzCorrespondent IMay 15, 2009

Many comparisons have been drawn between Lebron James and Michael Jordan, or James and Magic Johnson.

Many more comparisons have been drawn between Jordan and a great deal of other players since he's left the league, and even some that played with him.

We all remember how players like Harold Miner, Ron Harper, Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Jerry Stackhouse, and Tracy McGrady had been slated to fill the shoes of His Airness, don't we? 

And we all know how that worked out for them, only two of those players have a lifetime scoring average of more than 20 points per game (Stackhouse at 20.8 and Hill at 20.4).

Though that is a respectable career for most players, it simply isn't Jordanesque.

Now we have a new young player, one who seems to fit the bill.

He's athletic, he can dominate a game, he has this great down-to-Earth attitude about himself, and the media loves him!

Is this the guy? He sure is the guy who creates the most arguments on blogging Web sites. 

My question is  hardly something quite so simple as is James great enough to draw comparisons to Jordan—or to be considered the next Jordan? 

No, my question is this.

Who would you take to start and build a team around, a young Jordan or a young Lebron? I suppose you would want to think about this and pretend you don't know about the time you'd lose with Jordan playing baseball, as that would influence a lot of manager's and coach's decisions, I'm sure. 

Well, I've given it a lot of thought and my choice is...drumroll please.

LeBron James.

After comparing the two and really thinking about it a great deal, I have to choose King James. 

Now bear in mind that I'm not saying that at this point in his career that James is better than Jordan. And if he blows out a knee or develops a drug problem next year, it would have proven a terrible choice by me, but that's the way it goes sometimes. 

My point is I think Lebron has a lot more potential, particularly if the situation was that you would draft one and another would go to a competitor.

I think Lebron in his prime would have dominated MJ in his prime easily. Now, here's my reasoning before you jump down my throat:

Michael Jordan began playing in a league 20 years ago dominated by unathletic white guys who focused primarily on the fundamentals of the game and executing them perfectly vs. what they could do one-on-one. 

Jordan wasn't the only player with a similar game to have wild success in the old days, but they were few and far between.

When you think about it, every player with similar athletic ability had incredibly successful careers back then.  Domonique Wilkins, Oscar Robertson, the list goes on.

But back then anyone over seven feet tall, or with a 40-inch vertical absolutely ruled the court. Jordan was the best and experienced the most success, sure, but ultimately he was in a class by himself due to the superior physical gifts bestowed upon him.

Here's the thing: while Jordan was playing this way in the 80s and 90s, the players of the NBA today were watching him and imitating him. 

Those of us who played when we were young pretended to be him, practicing for hours and hours, and spent time in the gym practicing our verticals, lifting, and trying to get in shape. 

In addition to that, those growing up now are able to devote themselves entirely to the game while years back it wasn't quite the same.

As we all know, 40 or 50 years ago many professional players had other jobs to keep a roof over their heads. The point is: An entire generation of players grew up watching Jordan and Magic, imitating them, and forming their games after them.

And that is the league we have today, a league full of super athletes.

Think about how many players can dunk from the foul line now—I mean really.

When Jordan did it, it was amazing. Now when people do it, the first thing I think is: "So what, Brent Barry can do that!"

It's much more common in the NBA nowadays for a player to have a 40 inch vertical.

And few of the old-school mold: a big, old, white guy who is immobile and has a mastery of the fundamentals that makes him valuable to the game—Vlade Divac...Rik Smits..Shawn Bradley...Kevin McHale...any of these names ringing a bell?

Now sure, these guys were great in their own right, and I'm not saying they weren't.

I'm just saying they weren't much of a challenge for the type of game that Jordan introduced to the NBA. But now, that type of game is running rampant throughout the league, primarily due to Jordan's success. 

Lebron dominates that kind of game and is a player unlike any Jordan ever came across. Sure, he resembles Magic in terms of height, but Magic never had the near-perfect physique Lebron does.

Lebron is able to annihilate most in his path seemingly without effort, and is able to contort his body in ways that would make Gumby cringe.

He's a one-of-a-kind player, and I think one day he will be undeniably the best this league has ever seen.

So. If they were both in their prime and headed into the same league, I'd take James.  Something tells me at the very least I'd look a lot better than the guy who chose Sam Bowie.


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