Why the LeBron vs. Jordan comparisons are crazy

Posted: 02/14/2013 by levcohen in Basketball
Tags: , , ,

The big off court basketball story of the past few days has been LeBron vs. Michael. These conversations are happening right now for two reasons. The first is LeBron’s incredible recent stretch. Over the last seven games (his seven games this month), James is shooting an incredible 69% from the field, and 80% from the field. He has added a 52% three point percentage. He has gone 30-6-6-1.6-1 over that time. That stretch is one of the best in NBA history. Still the comparisons to Michael Jordan are outlandish. Jordan was a star in every sense of the word. Let’s run down all the ways he was a star:

1. He was consistent, scoring at least 20 points per game in each of his 15 years. That includes his two years in Washington at ages 38 and 39.

2. He won scoring titles in 10 straight years(not including the baseball years).

3. He was the most famous person in the world during his time on the Bulls

4. He won six straight championships (excluding the baseball years)

5. He has hundreds of expensive basketball shoes named after him (Air Jordan sound familiar?)

6. He acted like a star. He made his own rules (check out the book: The Jordan Rules). He didn’t care how obnoxious or selfish he looked.

7. Everyone knew he gambled away nights before and after games, and yet nobody tried to do anything about it. He clearly had 100 times the power that David Stern, the commissioner, had.

8. He often didn’t sleep and still put up those record setting numbers.

9. Upon retiring, he was universally recognized as the best player in NBA history.

That’s just scratching the surface. Jordan was just a star. Let’s see how many of the same qualities James has: He is well on his way to matching, if not exceeding, Jordan’s consistency. He has the same 20 points+ in every year as Jordan has (LeBron has played 10 years), and has also amassed at least 6 assists and 6 rebounds in every season since his rookie year. James has only one scoring title, but also has the second best Player Efficiency Rating of all time. #1? You guessed it. It’s Jordan. LeBron is very very famous, but he isn’t the most famous person in the world. James has won just one championship. Then again, his first came when he was younger than MJ when he got his first, so there is hope. I don’t see six championships, though. LeBron has some popular shoes in his name, but nothing compared to Jordan. LeBron is the opposite of Jordan in that he really cares about how he is portrayed by the public. Just look at all of his commercials. He really wants to come off as a likeable guy, something that MJ didn’t care about. As far as we know, LeBron doesn’t gamble or do anything like it. If he did, he’d have people calling for his head. It could very well be that people are just more skeptical and critical than they were in the 90’s, but I think Jordan had an aura that James doesn’t have.

There are three keys here:

1. LeBron is still playing. You can make no comparisons with Jordan over Jordan’s whole career when LeBron might just be getting started. But LeBron could also tear an ACL and never be the same. These early comparisons aren’t fair to either one.

2. They are built drastically differently and have totally different styles. LeBron has two inches and nearly 50 pounds on Michael. Jordan could shoot the way LeBron never will (if LeBron can ever shoot like Jordan from inside the three point line, the league is in trouble). LeBron is a better distributor, but Jordan is one of the five- if not three- best defenders of all time.

3. These comparisons can never be taken seriously because we are always looking for the next Jordan. It is natural to want our current star to reach greater heights than stars of previous eras, and James is the third player we have compared to Jordan- he is also the least comparable. First was Kobe. Kobe had a game that mimicked Jordan’s. He could do everything Jordan could do, but he just never was quite as good. Kobe was about 95% as good as Jordan. Then there was Dwyane Wade, who was the clear best player in the NBA during the mid 2000’s. Wade is still going strong, but he is clearly declining, and had a much shorter peak than MJ, Kobe or King James, so he isn’t comparable to Jordan. The point is that as the years go by, it will take less and less for people to start comparing to Jordan. The fact that Jordan is still the bench mark for a super-super star more than 10 years after retiring is actually quite a feat.

Eventually, someone will be declared better than Jordan, and it might be James, but right now I don’t think there is any comparison between LeBron and Michael

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