6.03.2011

MJ v. LBJ


Scottie Pippen gave fresh legs to the Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James debate when he suggested that James may be the “greatest player ever.”

LeBron is an incredible player, and is perhaps the most versatile player of all time. Most impressive of all has been the defensive improvement he has made this season, to the point where he can now shut down players like Derrick Rose and then turn around and guard power forwards.

Having said that, it’s hard to believe that anyone who’s actually watched Jordan play could think that James is the better player (which raises questions about Pippen’s motivations). A couple of random observations:

(1) For much of the time, it’s not even clear that LeBron is the best player on his team, let alone the greatest player in history. Frequently (maybe even most of the time), Dwyane Wade, not Lebron, seems to be the leader of the Heat. On the other hand, there was never any doubt that Jordan was the unquestioned leader of his team.

(2) Can you imagine Jordan letting his team collapse in the 4th quarter of an NBA finals game like the Heat did last night, and responding only by futilely firing up contested 3-pointers as the shot clock ran down?

(3) Finally, and this has been said a lot, but Jordan stayed in Chicago, let pieces accumulate around him, and built a dynasty. James couldn’t do that. Instead, he had to go out and team up with two other superstars because—it would seem—he didn’t think he was good enough to build a team around himself and win a championship that way.

I’m really not trying to take anything away from LeBron—I think he’s a special player, and already one of the best in history. But to paraphrase the words of Magic Johnson, there’s MJ, and then there’s everybody else.

4 comments:

ecarson 6/3/11, 3:32 PM  

The key issue I have with this comparison is that LeBron must first be Kolbe Bryant, then he can try to be MJ.

Jared Dockery 6/3/11, 3:38 PM  

I'm afraid you've overlooked MJ's most impressive accomplishment:

(4) He made Scottie Pippen seem like a hall of famer.

Luke 6/5/11, 5:43 PM  

Carson,

Yeah, it does seem a little strange that although LeBron hasn't even won a championship yet, from the perspective of the media, he seems to have suddenly vaulted over Kobe and is getting compared directly to Jordan.

Not sure why, other than the fact that Pippen opened the can of worms.

Luke 6/5/11, 5:43 PM  

Jared,

Haha, good point. If you look up Pippen's career statistics and watch the drop-off after Jordan's retirement in 1998, it really is remarkable.

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