He’s labeled “the best basketball player in the world” and affectionately called King. It’s believed that if you put him on any of the last-place teams, for example, Philadelphia’s 76ers or Brooklyn’s Nets, they’d immediately become playoff contenders. The highest paid player in the NBA, LeBron James is acknowledged as a game changer who’s been to the NBA Finals six years in a row. Maybe that is why this generation’s basketball fan is so quick to compare him with Michael Jordan—Mike, MJ, Air Jordan—considered to be “the greatest basketball player of all time.”
All arguments for this conversation could be shut down now before we get started, solely based on James’ poor performance Sunday night, but to do so would be closed minded, dismissive, hatin’ with no “g.”
James and his Cleveland Cavaliers team blew a 21-point, fourth-quarter lead over the Boston Celtics, who were without 5-foot-9 guard, Isaiah Thomas, their star player, or any of the past Celtics greats to assist. James only scored 11 points during the game, and was without any during the games last 18 minutes. It was one of his worst postseason performances of his career. “I didn’t have it,” said James, addressing the team’s loss. “We have to play a lot better.” He might currently be the best player in the world, but not every day.
You can compare or measure the achievements of both James and Jordan, but it ends there, because unless we can go back in time to have James’ Cleveland and Miami Heat championship teams play against Jordan’s Chicago Bulls championship teams, it’s all speculative, a personal opinion, a matter of who you like, who’s your favorite, who you root for. It’s also important to note that even if James wins three or more championships—he has three now—there will be some who’ll always remind you of the four that he’s lost.
What makes Jordan the bespeckled jewel of the basketball universe is the six NBA championships that he’s won—1991, 1992 and in 1993, and three more from 1996 to 1998. Jordan retired after winning the 93 chip, after the unfortunate murder of his father. He left to ply his skills at baseball, his other love, then decided to return to basketball after two years, winning three more NBA championships with the Bulls upon his return.
Jordan has never lost a championship that he’s competed for. It’s even believed that his Bulls team would have won the championship each of the two years that he was away from the game if he had played. Jordan, His Airness is six for six, and was voted the series MVP each time.
James, who’s one game away from competing for another championship next week, potentially seven in a row, has three Finals wins, and was voted the series MVP each time—first in 2012 and 2013 with Miami, and last year, 2016 with Cleveland. He has two Finals losses with Cleveland and two with Miami. A win and spectacular play will further the debate. Another loss will increase the divide.