Do you know what really grinds my gears? People that say “Do you know what really grinds my gears?”. The second thing that really grinds my… well you know, people that want to dismiss the greatness of LeBron James.
Now let’s get some things out of the way here. First, I am by no means a Cleveland fan or a full blown LeBron fan or hater. And the same goes for Jordan, not a full blown fan or hater. I like to just be an honest fan and also a bit of a realist.
The real comparison for LeBron, stat wise, is not MJ. Since he arrived on our TV sets, he was never a score-first player like MJ was. He was always more of a Magic-type of player. Able to guard all 5 positions and the ability to always make all of his teammates better. Jordan wasn’t playing the center spot in the 1980 NBA Finals as a rookie, that was Magic. Jordan also wasn’t guarding the 2010-11 MVP in the Eastern Conference Finals and completely had him locked up, that was LeBron guarding Derrick Rose. But, since my compadre Gerald gave you numbers, I’ll give you numbers.
In LeBron’s 14-year career, he has never missed any significant time for injury or otherwise. Jordan missed all but 18 games in ‘85-86 due to injury, retired in ‘93-’94 at age 30 to play baseball. Then missed 3 more seasons from 98-01 before returning to play 2 forgettable seasons with the Wizards. The best ability for anyone to have is always availability.
LeBron just passed MJ on the All-Time Playoff scoring list. And yes, I know the voice of public opinion would chime in now and say “But LeBron has played in more playoff games”. This goes back to LeBron being other-worldly durable as he’s been in every final since 2011. LeBron is also shooting career high percentages from the field (57%) and from 3-point land (42%). Jordan’s best year’s, 52% from the field in ‘90-’91 and 40% from 3-pt in ‘95-’96.
My favorite claim to poke holes in for this debate is the “Teams back in the day were much better than now”. Let’s go over the teams that Jordan played in the finals, shall we…
1991: Old and past their prime Lakers
1992: One Hall of Famer Blazers
1993: One Hall of Famer Suns
1996: One Hall of Famer Sonics
‘97 & ‘98: Two Hall of Famer Jazz
So, the only really good team would be the Jazz. But the two seasons Jordan was after his first retirement, they lost to the eventual champion Houston Rockets. In 1994, they lost in 5 games and in 1995, it was a first round exit. FIRST ROUND!! That’s no bueno. Now for LeBron’s opponents.
2007: Spurs with probably 3 eventual HOF’s**
2011: Mavericks with a Top 5 PG ever and the best International player ever
2012: Thunder with 3 of the current Top 5 players in the league
2013 & 2014: See Spurs from 2007
2015: Warriors with the greatest shooter ever in a 3-Pt centric league
2016: Best regular season ever Warriors**
I’m sure your next question is “Warren, what’s with the asterisks?”. Go take a peek at LeBron’s supporting casts for those 2 seasons. ‘07 was a big bowl of JAG’s (Just Average Guys). And 2015, it was a similar cast with Kyrie and Love both hurt. And when Jordan played solid teams in the playoff, he couldn’t get past the Celtics and the Bad Boy Pistons.
People conveniently forget to mention Jordan's struggles early on. Or the fact that he didn't sniff the finals until he had the right combination of Pippen and Phil on his side. LeBron has gone farther with worse. People also fail to mention how Jordan was a questionable teammate at times. Never heard of LeBron punching teammates in practice.
It also should be mentioned that Jordan has something that no other player has ever had. His brand has some kind of impenetrable force field around it where people forget about his misfortunes, his struggles. People lump his career into his 6 Finals wins and disregard all other points in his career.
LeBron, for the most part, has been the same player for most of his career. He took a 17-win Cavs team to 35 wins his rookie year. And by his third year and fourth year, they back to back 50 win seasons. They had not won 50 games since ‘92-’93. And in ‘08-’09 & ‘09-’10, they have their first two 60 win seasons in franchise history. Then LeBron leaves for Miami. And what do you know, the Cavs go from 61 wins to the first pick in the draft and a whopping 19 wins. For a reference, when Jordan left to play baseball, the Bulls won 55 and 47 games respectively and lost in the Eastern Conference Finals both years.
Again, this is not intended to be a smear campaign against MJ or a praise be to King James piece. But MJ fans and LeBron haters need to put all the facts out there to make an unbiased and conscience decision in this debate.
(Checkmate Gerald!... Just kidding, you’re still my Hoot Brother)