This week we take on a whole new monster in the form of the most dynamic player in the game today, LeBron James. Now before I get into the debate and constant back and forths one thing needs to be said.
There will never be another LeBron James, just as there will never be another Michael Jordan. It’s hard to knock the man because he is still adding to his resume and looks like he could play for another 4-5 years, but let’s try to anyways.
James has been a dominant force ever since he entered the league in the highly respected 2003 NBA draft. In his rookie season, he was given the keys to the kingdom when he was chosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and was even labeled “The Chosen One” coming out of high school.
That’s one thing that LeBron has had going for him ever since entering the league, he’s always been the man. Jordan on the other hand had a long road to gain the respect of his fellow colleagues, despite his game winning shot for the University of North Carolina.
Even upon entering the league, Bird and Magic were still at the peak of the NBA totem pole, and dared anyone to take them down.
It’s not a strong first argument, but it still is a valid one. LeBron James was expected to do this. Throughout his entire career the dominant small forward has averaged over 20-5-5, a feat that has only been accomplished by four other players in history. He didn’t fall flat like the following pick, Darko Milicic, who was a highly valued prospect until they got into the big show.
Jordan was expected to be good coming into the league, but nobody anticipated that he would be great. With the 3rd overall pick, the Chicago Bulls took the shooting guard knowing what a great defensive talent he would translate into.
They didn’t expect that the 21-year old would average 28 points per contest, while also tallying almost 2.5 steals through the season. Jordan is the foundation of what it means to be a two-way player, offensive dominance while smothering on defense.
It’s the model that many players today such as Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler have worked so hard to achieve.
Now we can’t talk about LeBron James without mentioning……. “The Decision”. An overblown television spectacle, where today most people would have just sent a TWEET about their next destination. It’s one of the many knocks that James has faced whenever comparing him to any of the great players that have come before him.
There’s no denying that many people see his move to join friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami as a cop out, but it’s one of the many things that makes LeBron James, Lebron James. Although numerous fans didn’t appreciate the way he handled the situation, he paved the way for players in today’s NBA to seek the best opportunities for them despite being the franchise player.
The most recent example is Kevin Durant, who is still facing backlash for leaving a small market team and joining an already established powerhouse in Golden State.
But even with his departure to the Miami Heat, James still didn’t deliver the “4, 5, or 6” championships he gloated about in the team’s Big Three reveal ceremony.
In their first year together, the dominant trio was unable to tame the Dallas Mavericks and their ageless power forward, Dirk Nowitzki. It’s another stain on James’ resume that won’t go unnoticed, as he holds a 3-8 Finals record. Jordan’s Finals record, 6 for 6.
Some would argue that Jordan had less obstacles to face on his path to a perfect record. Less superstars during the era, an NBA that was going through changes by expanding its league, and multiple rule changes that shifted the way defenses played.
But Jordan was the obstacle. By 1989, the Bulls shooting guard was one of the most lethal scorers and dynamic defenders in the game and he was challenging others to stop him. It’s impressive for any player to have eight total Finals appearances, especially seven of those coming in the last seven seasons, but the record is still the same no matter how you twist it.
Although LeBron has been the most dominant player over the past decade, his team is always second fiddle to some powerhouse in the Western Conference. The only time the Bulls weren’t picked as the favorite for the title was the year Jordan took off, which would have made seven straight appearances in the Finals as well for the G.O.A.T.
If we look at the box scores, LeBron James is an absolute monster and stat stuffer no matter where he ends up. In my opinion the King gives Jordan a good run for his money when it comes to the discussion of greatest of all time, but in the end you have to win when it matters.
Even in clutch games, James has neglected to take it upon himself to win it all and pass for better shot opportunities for teammates. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it does separate him from elite company such as Kobe and Jordan, who’s (for lack of better phrase) “Mamba Mentality” has put them in a category of their own. But even when James does shoot when the game is on the line he has fallen flat.
Jordan, he had a whole story mode of clutch moments that appeared in NBA 2K11 where you could relive four of his greatest Finals performances. Not to mention, the infamous “Flu Game”, where Jordan was deathly ill but still tallied for over 30+ points in a hostile Jazz arena (in today’s age that means a player would be sidelined for weeks).
Although the King’s future is up in the air as he prepares to enter free agency again in the 2018-2019 offseason, he could still close the gap between him and Jordan by putting on his best individual season since his 08-09 MVP year.
It’s highly unlikely that anyone will dethrone the Golden State Warriors anytime soon, but James should see that as a challenge, and just one more obstacle to overcome in chasing the G.O.A.T.