Friday, April 18, 2014

Jordan or LeBron? The best player of all time is...

Because this Bobcats-Heat playoff series contains two of the greatest players in basketball history -- Michael Jordan as Charlotte owner, LeBron James as Miami star -- the comparisons are inevitable.

LBJ or MJ? His Airness or the King? Who's better?

It is a worthy argument. James has forced himself into this discussion with NBA championships in each of the past two years.

But the answer to the question is the same as it was a decade ago. Jordan remains the greatest basketball player ever. LeBron has not scaled that mountain yet.

Because we see LeBron highlights every day, we sometimes forget how good Jordan was. Let's look at their playoff statistics, because I think both men would agree that the postseason is where reputations are made or broken.

MJ outscores LeBron in the playoffs, 33.4 to 28.1. OK, you say, but LeBron is the better passer and rebounder.

That's true. But how much better, really? LeBron in the playoffs has averaged 6.7 assists and 8.6 rebounds. Jordan averaged 5.7 assists and 6.4 rebounds.

So LeBron gets roughly one assist and two more rebounds per game than Jordan in the games that matter most. But Jordan scores five more points per game. And then there's the ultimate argument, perhaps best voiced by actor Jason Segel in the otherwise forgettable movie "Bad Teacher." It went like this:

Teacher: "You are out of your mind. There is no way LeBron will ever be Jordan."

Kid: "LeBron is a better rebounder and passer!"

Teacher: "Call me when LeBron has six championships!"

Kid: "That's your only argument?"

Teacher: "That's the only argument I need, Shawn!!"

Yes, Jordan has six championship rings. LeBron has two -- and I don't think he will get a third this season.

Rings aren't the only barometer, of course. Otherwise, Bill Russell with his 11 championships would be thought of as the game's greatest ever. It's more than that.

How about defense? I'd call it a draw. Yes, LeBron can also guard every position on the floor. He's two inches and 45 pounds heavier than Jordan was, and that means he's more of a physical presence.

But Jordan was a perennial first-team NBA defensive player as well. In Jordan's last game as a Chicago Bull in 1998, he not only scored 45 of Chicago's 87 points and hit the game-winning jumper against Utah, but he stole the ball from Karl Malone to set it up. James is bigger and more physical, but Jordan in his prime was quicker.

Competitiveness? I'd rate MJ a bit higher. LeBron wants very badly to win. Jordan would all but kill himself to win.

Yes, I went to North Carolina and overlapped at Chapel Hill with Jordan for one year there. But I also made a pilgrimage to Ohio to see LeBron play while he was still in high school.

I loved watching Jordan play. I love watching LeBron play.

For me, it ultimately comes down to this when you are thinking about the "Greatest of All Time" title. With your team by one point and three seconds left, who do you want with the ball taking that shot?

I think almost all basketball fans outside of south Florida know the true answer in their hearts.

Michael Jordan.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Trolling

Mary Smithfield said...

The answer is neither! Bill Russell is the Greatest NBA player. 11 NBA championships and a very good team player.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that. Jordan is synonymous with clutch and elevated teams that were average at best , beyond the presence of Scottie Pippin.

Anonymous said...

Also Jordan did not have the supporting cast that LaBron has. There could also be valid arguments for Wilt Chamberland and Doctor J.

Anonymous said...

Jordan had seven championships...you forget the NCAA final clutch shot. LeBron may have gone pro sooner, but Jordan proved he could play in the most difficult tournament there is..the NCAA.

Anonymous said...

Neither, like Mary said. I'd take Jerry West or Oscar Robertson over MJ ANY day & both Russell or Wilt Chamberlain is head & shoulders above whoever is 3rd on the all time list.

TM said...

No knock on Lebron. He is a great player, no doubt! But would Jordan ever call up the Clyde Drexler, Magic and Bird to try to form a championship team? No! Jordan was trying to beat them. He even said it himself.

Anonymous said...

Not to be a negative Nelly but really Scott, this debate is old and overused by sports journalist who have nothing else to write about. What's next Petty v Earnhardt? Dean v K? Babe Ruth or Henry A?
How about a piece on why Coach K's proteges all chose private schools to ply their trade. That would get me past the headline and show your moxy as a journalist.

Shots956 said...

don't start this discussion it is irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Who do you want taking the last second shot?

Of course the answer is... Robert Horry.

Ghoul said...

When either one of them averages 50 points and 25 rebounds for a season, and 10,000 women, get back to me.

Although Jordan is closing in on that second part.

Anonymous said...

I think Scott forgot about Kobe Bryant.

DWright said...

yep. I think it's ridiculous how supposedly basketball afficionados just put Jordan there automatically. It's arguable. Best 1 on 1 player? probably. But basketball is a team game that is not soccer with interchangeable pieces (sorry Don Nelson.) specialization matters. If you had one game to win all time, are you telling me you wouldn't seriously consider (in their healthy prime) Magic or Bird who elevate everyone and changed their respective positions? Russell or Wilt or Kareem who dominate? Oscar who just did everything well.

MJ was a magical combination of all time great player, next level athlete, weakened league from expansion, marketing blitz and explosion of new media that dominated a generation. I just wish basketball people could have a conversation that is more rational.

Anonymous said...

This is Lebron's 28-29yr old season (turned 29 in December). He's got 23,170pts, 6,086rebs, 5,791asts, 2 championships, 2 finals MVPs and 4 MVPs.

Jordan turned 29 during the 1991-1992 season. At the end of that season, Jordan had 19,000pts, 3,697rebs, 3,507asts, 2 championships, 2 finals MVPs and 3 league MPVs.

That's the only comparison worth making at this point, and Lebron leads or is equal to MJ in every category. Prognosticate all you want, but we can't compare what hasn't happened.

Anonymous said...

The difference is not only that MJ has 6 rings but MJ never went to the finals and Lost! He's 6-0 in the finals and thus LB will never accomplish that feat. Also, MJ didn't leave Chi-Town to go to a team to get a Ring. Team came to him. This would have never happened back when the NBA was actually worth Watching..

Philip Hanrahan said...

Wilt Chamberlain is, and always will be, the standard of greatness.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:44- are you kidding?? This is probably THE dumbest argument for Lebron over Jordan that I've ever seen! You realize that LBJ went in to the NBA right out of HS, at 18, and that MJ went to college for 4 years, making him 22 before he started, right? Based solely on points divided by seasons, MJ would have had approx 9k more points had he turned pro 4 years earlier. That would have put him at 28k points. Eclipsing LBJ by 5k points. Better luck next time.

Anonymous said...

Invalid comparison. Lebron went straight to the league while Jordan played 3 years of college ball. At the same age Lebron has played 3 more years in the NBA.

Anonymous said...

To reply to the sad little LeBron lovers- LeBron will eventually be proven not to be better than FIRST three peat championship Jordan. The Jordan that left for nearly two years, rode a bus around the lower south while playing a much less athletic sport, returned older, less conditioned then once again carried a good (not close to money stacked great like Miami) team to three MORE consecutive championships (second season being the best win percentage by a team all time)? That Jordan? Not Lebronk, Bryant or any other since compares. True story. As for weakened league?? That would be now, not then. Jordan routinely beat and denied many greats rings. Beat Bird, Beat Johnson, beat Thomas, denied Ewing, denied Malone/ Stockton TWICE. Be serious here.

Anonymous said...

This series does in fact "contain" two of the greatest players in history--Lebron and Wade. It does not "contain" Jordan no matter how hard we might wish him to wind back the clock 20 years. This is a silly pretext for a silly column. Everyone but the Observer has come to terms with how irrelevant Jordan is to the current NBA. Finding guys who want to play for him is like trying to find palm treest on Mt Everest.

Marc Lindgren said...

Clearly those of you suggesting Oscar Robertson or Wilt Chamberlin are better than Jordan have no idea what you're talking about. While the number of titles isn't the end all be all, it certainly factors into the conversation. Having said that, Jordan is the greatest. Lebron has a 3 year head start on Jordan. Jordan's numbers after 10 years in the league are slightly better than LeBron's. And LeBron does not have that killer instinct that MJ had. End of discussion.

Anonymous said...

to anonymous at 144
you do realize that at age 28-29 lebron has been in the league 11 years and MJ only had been in 8. So your numbers are invalid. Not to mention MJ was hurt in his second year and in his 10th retired to play baseball.

Anonymous said...

player,coach,team player, unbelievable organizational genius...The Logo............................................................................................he can out shoot all of them at 75 years old

Anonymous said...

Both are great, but the greatest of all time was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar according to Dr. J.

par said...

No doubt - Jordan. Even taking two years off for baseball.

Pace Holding said...

Its a fun enough argument to have, but the difference is that Jordan was so much more mentally tough than whoever he faced & the same would be true today. That is the biggest difference in the end. During the "Dream Team" run in the olympics, Magic tells a story about when he & Bird were sitting in a "dorm room". Jordan walks in with his cigar going & tells them both, "There's a new sheriff in town"... to two of the greatest ever. You got the feeling he wasn't smiling when he said it :)

Anonymous said...

JERRY WEST WAS THE BEST EVER

Anonymous said...

Wilt Chamberlin, without a doubt.

They changed the rules to make it harder for him.

Referees acknowledged letting people foul him. There were no "Jordan Rules for Chamberlin. He was a big man who led the league in assists one year. He still holds records.

Jordan came along when the NBA decided it was more about entertainment and selling jerseys than about legitimate competitive sport. Since then, the stars get coddled and have their numbers inflated. They have sport center and internet to show them off.

Chamberlin was an amazing player and athlete. He would likely be dominant today. He was the greatest.

EJ Linehan said...

According to this poll, it is easily Jordan. http://www.ranker.com/crowdranked-list/the-top-nba-players-of-all-time

Anonymous said...

Lebron's a cry baby punk surrounded by stars who were stars when they got there! I wish The Bad Boys were still around, Lebron would stay home. Pay attention the next time he is weak side defender on a dunk, tucks tail and runs!

Anonymous said...

Lebron is a great player but for me Jordan was the best player of all time. His game was simply more complete.

Jovana said...

Always is ungrateful to argue about who is best in anything. Because of that I will say both of them are best players and i can add at least 10 other players that deserve to be best players.

Anonymous said...

The talk about greatest of all time is never really fair because you can't compare the role of a center or forward to that of a guard. Jordan and Lebron are both flashy but flash and greatness are two totally different things. I think when you look at overall contributions on the court you have to also consider names like Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, hakeem Olajuwon, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, etc. As for Lebron, he isn't even worthy of discussion among the greatest of all time. If he played in the 80's and 90', he might have been good enough to win the Sixth Man Award.

raja said...

The Jordan that left for nearly two years, rode a bus around the lower south while playing a much less athletic sport, returned older, less conditioned then once again carried a good (not close to money stacked great like Miami) team to three MORE consecutive championships (second season being the best win percentage by a team all time)?

Scott Knox said...

Simple, compare game footage Jordan is simply better, coachability us also key. Jordan is not switching teams to do it. Of course chamberlain is great. But best ever, ,,, Joan is always in the discussion and there is reason for that. Generational ly, people will have their favorites or just try to be devils advocate. On a bigger picture the NBA today will never be as good as the 80's or90's NBA. Jordan all the way I can continue so past away