While LeBron James has valiantly proven that he deserves to be a two-time champion, this in no way, shape or form validates the argument that James is either Jordan’s equal or has already surpassed him. However, the blasphemy isn’t so much the question of if James can surpass Jordan it’s when. To be fair, comparisons of this magnitude could be the result of fans and the media alike searching for the next omnipresent sports figure who will set a new precedent for how the game is viewed and played.
Between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird revitalizing basketball back to its former glory to Michael Jordan becoming one of the most iconic and dominant athletes of all time, there are times when it is appropriate to compare individual athletes to see how the sport of basketball has progressed and evolved rather than trying to quantify championship acquisitions and individual accolades to determine who is the best. Comparing players from different eras was an insightful avenue for sports aficionados to understand the legacy of the NBA and the prominent changes that came with each memorable inauguration of the next influential player.
Now, these assessments lack the deep and balanced sentiments that made these continuous debates worthwhile. Rather than placing all the greats on the same pedestal, it now becomes a merciless competition to determine who is by far the best while viewing anyone below that pinnacle as a great underachiever. Specifically, when discussing the individual and team contributions that James and Jordan have brought to the game, it becomes more of a debate of who did it better rather than praising them both for their innate athletic intellect as a whole. Instead of fans being united under one all encompassing sports umbrella which preaches unanimous respect for the greats, it has now become a glorified battlefield that is separated into two distinct camps; those who love LeBron James and those who hate LeBron James.
It usually comes as no surprise that the fans that despise LeBron typically do because of the animosity that has resulted from the media constantly attempting to find legitimacy in comparing the two athletes. Fans of Jordan believe that someone who has only garnered two rings and two finals MVP’s shouldn’t uttered in the same sentence as Jordan until James acquires at least the same number of championships. And even then, diehard Jordan fanatics believe that no matter what James does that he will never surpass Jordan because he lacks two key advantages; James will never be undefeated in the NBA Finals (James is currently 2-2) and the era in which James currently competes in isn’t nearly as physical or combative as it was back when Jordan was in his prime.
As a result, the singular arbitrary argument that arises after immense frustration is that Jordan played in a league of men while James plays in a league of boys. Despite the fact that James has been a dominant competitor since he entered the league, the loyalty that certain fans feel for Jordan overshadows their logic that James is still a phenomenal player. While there is clearly a generational gap that separates the two athletes, the level at which these players perform is still makes them equal to each other in a sense.
Although the times in which they played touted different play styles and varying levels of physicality, what it comes down to is that both players separated themselves from the pack definitively with not only how they performed on the court but more importantly how they adapted their game when facing road bumps along their paths.
Just like when Michael Jordan realized his inadequacies when attempting to transition to baseball, James realized that even though he was a sensational player he would never win a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers. As a result, both players made calculated risks to further their careers even if their integrity and reputations were on the line.
While fans thought Jordan’s attempt to play baseball was a waste of time and James’ pursuit of winning over loyalty was cold hearted, it ultimately allowed each of these successful athletes to pursue their lofty goals of being something more than just another player on the court. Their conceded mistakes allowed them to evolve into not only monumental basketball players but also into respected human beings who are now considered pioneers of their craft.
In the end, while the comparisons between Jordan and James will no doubt be ripe with envy and dedicated ferocity, fans and the media alike need to see in the bigger picture. Whenever these discussions occur it shouldn’t be about who is the best but rather how both of these player paved the way for the next generation to become inspired by their performances and how what they did is something that should be appreciated respectively and not used as a means to degrade one or either of these tremendous sports figures.