LeBron James: Better Than Anyone, Including Michael Jordan

What makes LeBron so different than any other preemptive Superstar that’s ever played in this league is the fact that he is forced to evaluate his legacy – where he is and how he needs to get better – every single summer. When Jordan played it was just, “Wow, this guy might be the best ever.” He was never forced to quantify his own legacy, never forced to make a Mt. Rushmore – LeBron is put under such blinding heat of a microscope that he has ever flinch analyzed – unlike Michael.

And Jordan could score, for sure, but could he defend as well as LeBron? I doubt it. Who else, besides LeBron, can hold the NBA MVP to 6.3% shooting in the Conference Finals like LeBron did to Derrick Rose in 2011? James rebounds more (7.3 to 6.2), he has more assists (7.9 to 6.1) – he is the most complete player the league has ever seen. He takes care of the ball, take, for example, that Michael Jordan was in the top ten in turnovers four times. LeBron never has. LeBron is efficient. He plays aggressively smart whereas Michael just played aggressive.

Speaking of aggressive, here’s a question for you.

Who is better, Trent Dilfer or Dan Marino? Steve Blake or John Stockton? Brandon Jacobs or Barry Sanders?

Why do all the guys on the front-end of the question have one or more rings while the second guy has none. And who do you think is better? Rings are not the only measure. Rings are measured by wins and winning is a team statistic. That’s why some all-time greats like Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, and Cris Carter are ring-less.

Rings, hm. LeBron has the advantage over Michael at this point, too. At 28 years old, LeBron James had 4 MVPs to Michael Jordan’s 2. LeBron held advantage with two championships over one and, accordingly, 2 Finals MVPs to one.

Also at 28 years old, LeBron is in his 11th season, whereas Jordan played a total of fifteen. That’s on Jordan that he didn’t play as many seasons. He took a hiatus in 1993-94, which is because of his gambling and Commissioner Stern asking him politely to take the year off. That, and retirement, were both Jordan’s fault in shortening his career.

At the end of a career, both these guys are headed for Springfield, so the argument of heard about Michael being in the Hall twice (player and executive) is invalid.

That doesn’t mean a whole lot, MJ being in as an executive AND having picked Kwame Brown with the number-one overall pick during his time in Washington seems ludicrous.

What doesn’t seem ludicrous is comparing them one-on-one. It’s what would inevitably happen to see who’s really better.

LeBron sounds like a daft punk song! He’s bigger, better, faster, stronger. 6-foot-8 versus 6-foot-6. 240lbs versus 195lbs. In one-on-one, there isn’t anyone to set a screen, no space to operate, no one to get your rebound. James’s size advantage and comparable quickness to Jordan gives LeBron the edge.

In their careers, Jordan certainly had the edge in coaching.

Jordan had much better coaching. Phil Jackson is an all-time great while Mike Brown plus Erik Spoelstra is just “pretty good” – at best.

A player getting past pretty good and to their best is about being efficient. Not being a volume shooter and not hogging the ball is essential if you want to win.

Michael Jordan and LeBron James have the exact same total Player Efficiency Rating – 27.9 – throughout their careers. What’s the difference between them two? LeBron will get better. Jordan’s retired. More efficient: LeBron shoots 3% better from behind the arc, despite hoisting triple the amount of threes that MJ did at this point in his career.

Let this statistic sink in. LeBron James, the past three seasons, has been in the top-5 of both points per game and field goal percentage – that’s never been done before, not even by Michael Jordan. If you have a high field goal percentage you are A) a big man that plays close to the rim B) someone who doesn’t shoot a lot c) both. If you score a lot you A) shoot too much B) don’t pass enough C) both. Why does LeBron fit none of those statements which is true for EVERY other player in the national basketball league? Why has he obliterated those standards? Because he’s that good.

LeBron and Michael Jordan are both pretty good; I think that’s fair to say, but to say that LeBron gets preferential treatment from the referees and MJ didn’t is ridiculous.

The NBA has always treated its stars specially. There was the Jordan rule that you could push a guy off to create space for a jumper – as a referee, you don’t let stars foul out. LeBron is a continuation of a rule that’s much older than either of these players, so we shouldn’t use that argument for either of these players.

These players are similar, but also very different at the same time.

Michael Jordan goes hard all the time. I concede he’s the greatest competitor ever. But sometimes he goes so hard that it wears him out and he can’t produce in crunch time. In the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers, he missed 10 of his final 11 shots – sometimes that constant energy is a downfall.

LeBron is smart, he always plays hard, but he knows when to get out in transition or body up a big guy. He can, quite literally, defend whatever position necessary. Including Point Guards, which are the smallest, fastest, most agile guys on the court – LeBron can still guard them. He said to Chris Broussard in an ESPN interview, that he prefers to “hunt in packs.” He defers defers defers to get his teammates going, evaluating the other team, and then strikes at the jugular.

You know what, don’t trust me. ESPN ran an article and an Eastern Conference Executive said “LeBron would dominate Jordan one-on-one, no question.” Then Magic Johnson called LeBron “The best that’s ever been.” Don’t want to take their words for it? How about Scottie Pippen, who played with Jordan? He said “LeBron will end up being better than Michael ever was.”

Don’t trust them? How about other players.

I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t think Chris Bosh is a hall of famer. His statue might be in a museum or a Land Before Time movie, but not in Springfield. So, therefore, Chris Bosh is worse than Dennis Rodman and I believe Scottie Pippen and Dwyane Wade are comparable complements. Say you don’t think LeBron is better, LeBron still won with Bosh as opposed to Rodman. LeBron has won with less than those Bulls teams.

Essentially, there’s a big difference between MJ and LeBron – and it’s not the years they played. Michael Jordan looked to throttle the game. He hoped to appease the basketball gods by staying in the gym long after the game ended and hustling so hard from end to end that observers might have thought he was doing suicides. Jordan might have conquered the game, but LeBron James solved it. James, between 2010 and today, has decreased the amount of shots he takes per game by 16%, and his scoring has risen 2.1 points per game. How does that happen? LeBron James owns Jordan in APG through the first ten season of their careers, 7.9 to 6.1 – almost a two per game difference. Michael Jordan might have said “There’s no I in team, but there is in win” but no one is more is a better exemplar of that statement than LeBron James. He passes, he defends every position, and he is the consummate teammate.

Chuck Daly and the “Bad Boys” Pistons beat the Bulls in three straight Eastern Conference Finals from 1988 to 1990 by implementing a strategy called the Jordan Rules. If he drove, he’d get fouled hard. If he didn’t have the ball, he was overplayed defensively. If he touched the ball – a swift double team. That strategy stifled Jordan as they beat them in 5, 6, and 7 games those three years. If it weren’t for Phil Jackson’s innovative triangle offense, Jordan may have won only two or three titles rather than six.

That’s the thing, LeBron doesn’t need an innovative new offense focused around him, he can succeed in any style of play because LeBron’s greatest asset is his mind, which is geared towards the game. Michael Jordan may have conquered basketball, but all those subject to conquest eventually rise up again whereas those who solve puzzles can succeed for years to come.

 

Sam Fortier is a 17-year old aspiring journalist from New Hampshire. You can follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR or “like” him on Facebook or add him to your circle on Google+.

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