Jun 20, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James addresses the media after defeating the San Antonio Spurs in game seven in the 2013 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. Miami Heat won 95-88 to win the NBA Championship. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron vs. Jordan


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.  

Tags: Lebron James Miami Heat Michael Jordan

  • Flippy Mcgoo

    While I respect your article Mr Gambill, there is one thing that Lebron fans must realize. He is not better then Jordan! Period. No one is disrespecting Lebron. He is a tremendous talent.

    The different era argument is valid and extremely important. The rules were different. The rules were changed (no hand checking, defensive 3 seconds etc) to allow perimeter players to score more and to allow a faster paced game. This fact must not go unnoticed. Perimeter players have open lanes all day. There is no center waiting for them in the middle. Jordan did not have this luxury. He earned his points when he drove to the basket….and he payed the price. Current players whine over harmless touch fouls these days. A true basketball fan (Lebron fan or not) must acknowledge that the league is extremely soft today. How many all star caliber centers or PF’s are there in the league today? Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Duncan, Garnet, Hibbert, Greg Monroe, Bosh, Chandler, Noah… That is a joke compared to what Jordan played against in his career. Ewing, Robinson, Shaq, Hakeem, Karl Malone, Barkley, Kareem, Kevin Mchale, Bill laimbeer…. I mean come on, really.

    Everyone knows that Jordan was a sensational offensive player. He was also the greatest perimeter defender of all time. He is 3rd all time in steals(2514 steals, 2.35 SPG) only behind Stockton (3265 steals, 2.17 SPG) who played 432 more games then Jordan, and Jason Kidd (2684 steals, 1.93 SPG) and he played 319 more games then MJ. Jordan has the 3rd highest SPG average in history only behind Alvin Robertson(2.71) and Micheal Ray Richardson(2.63). For those that don’t know, Lebrons is 1.7 SPG. Both Lebron and Jordan have a career average of 0.8 blocks per game. Please take note that all of MJ’s career averages were dropped when he decided to play for the wizards. Had he not done that his SPG and BPG would be much higher.

    I have never seen Jordan get shut down offensively. Yes the pistons beat down the bulls but Jordan still had his 30, 40 , 50 points. I have seen Lebron get shut down so many times by elite defenders like Bruce Bowen and Tayshaun Prince. Even Kobe has shut him down(and Kobe is an extremely overrated defender). Scoring 16, 17 , 18 points in the finals is unacceptable for the worlds best player. Especially when the rules are in your favor to score.

    When Jordan won his second Championship there was a total of 4 All Star appearances by Bulls players. Miami currently has over 30 All Star appearances on their roster right now. As far as I’m concerned, Lebron is a coward for leaving Cleveland and joining forces with Wade and Bosh.

    Lastly, there is one important thing that separates these two players. The will, passion and desire to win. Jordan was a cold blooded killer on the court. Lebron wants to be your friend out there.

    So, while Lebron is a great player, the comparisons must stop. Please…. People, do your homework

    • Brian Johnson

      Finally someone who knows THE GAME!!!! WELL SAID! MJ G.O.A.T.

  • flipscrp

    Flippy, I couldnt in a million years said that any better! MJ and lebron shouldnt even be discussed for the next 10 yrs, if ever. This piece was well written and had valid points, but is completely ridiculous! You cant stereotype MJs generation for being bias towards lebron. Most are us still alive and have watched lebron play also. If you put them both on a tv side by side playing basketball, and had someone watch them play who had never seen a bball game in their life, and asked them who looked like the better player, i guarantee 9 out of 10 people would say MJ, if not all! All of these internet comparisons of these two players are laughable at this point and an argument of who the better player is completely ridiculous! (Notice how lebrons name is not capitilized in my reply to this article, hes not even worthy of that yet.)

  • Oknas

    Lebron hasn’t even passed Bird or magic yet

    • Sergio Cardoso

      Or Kareem

  • TotoyBawang

    Jordan hasn’t surpass Russell yet. and he’s done and LBJ is still surging

    • Manuel E Enerlan II

      Number of rings is irrelevant.

      The thing here is Michael Jordan played in an era where the level of competition is at its highest level.

      Bill Russell won his 11 because the league then was an 8 team league and just 2 playoff rounds, therefore, easier road to championship glory.

      Today’s game is at its lowest since early 1950s.