Ever since LeBron James left Cleveland for the sunny waters of Miami, I haven’t really been his biggest fan. To posterize the city that built the man, the “chosen one,” into “The King” on national television was an arrogant move. To wipe away most hope from a passionate fan base that has been struggling for anything to cheer about since the Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964, well, Mr. James, that was downright diabolical.
Still, since he left Cleveland, the legend of LeBron has gotten bigger and bigger, and it was cemented last June when he won the NBA Finals Trophy for the first time. Having six straight games with at least 30 points and shooting 60 percent from the field last week didn’t hurt his legacy either.
With the way that LeBron has been playing lately, he has been getting a lot of questions about how he thinks he compares with the greatest ever, Michael Jordan.
MJ, as he is known by many, turned 50 on Feb. 17 and his legacy has been on display over the last week to commemorate the milestone age.
On Friday, Feb. 15, before the NBA All-Star game in Houston, LeBron responded to comments from Jordan, the former Chicago Bulls great, saying that “His Airness” would pick Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers over LeBron if he had to, citing Kobe’s five championship rings to LeBron’s one as the deciding factor. Here’s what LeBron had to say:
“(Jordan) said he would take Kobe over me because … five rings are better than one, and the last time he checked, five is better than one. At the end of the day, rings don’t always define someone’s career. If that’s the case, then I’d sit up here and say I would take (Bill) Russell over Jordan. But I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t take Russell over Jordan. Russell has 11 rings. Jordan has six. I wouldn’t do that.”
Well, Mr. James, I’ll meet you halfway. Yes, deciding someone’s legacy based on rings isn’t really the best way to decide if a player is the best all-time. Not even the great Bill Russell is the best all-time. But LeBron James could be, but he isn’t yet.
What makes Jordan the best player ever, in addition to his rings, is how he played during his career. It’s impossible for LeBron (simple because he’s still playing) to have over 32,000 points like Jordan does now. Jordan also has six NBA Finals MVPs, five NBA MVPs, he’s a 14 time NBA All-Star and he was the league’s scoring champion ten times.
All of those stats are great for Jordan and they need to be considered by all who will participate in the LeBron vs. Jordan debate. But, for me, the deciding factor that makes Jordan the best player of all time is how he captivated everybody while he was in his prime. LeBron just plays basketball. Jordan, on the other hand, changed the sneaker industry forever; his Air Jordan shoes are still a hot seller in any shoe store. But Jordan also did something that only the best player ever could have done: he left basketball for another sport. After winning his first three-peat of titles from 1991-1993, Jordan decided to retire and play baseball. He lasted in the minor leagues from 1994-95 and then decided to come back to basketball. He issued a two-word press release in 1995 announcing his return to the Bulls, saying, “I’m back.” Then, Jordan won three more titles after coming out of retirement.
So what LeBron has in store for the rest of his career, we will have to find out. He may end his playing days leading the NBA record books in most categories. Don’t get me wrong, all of that is great, but how will people remember who LeBron was, not how many points he scored? That remains to be seen. For LeBron to become the best player in NBA history, he’s got to prove his skill as an entertainer, just like Mike.