Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lebron vs Michael. Who's better?

Lebron James has been on a tear of late, scoring 30 or more points in six straight games, while his shooting percentage has been over a whopping 60%. Lots of guys can score thirty points in a game, but nobody shoots 60%, at least not for very long. Very impressive stuff.

For what seems like forever, Michael Jordan has been considered by many to be the best NBA player of all time. Now Lebron has entered the conversation. Could it be that he's better than MJ was? There's some similarities and also some differences between the two to consider when trying to answer what's basically an imaginary question anyway. No matter what Jordan did, or whatever Lebron has done or may ever do, there will always be disagreements on who's better. For that matter, there are those that would say even another player, such as Oscar Robinson, Kareem, etc., belong on top.

Between LJ and MJ, Lebron is bigger and stronger. He's at least 2, and maybe 3 inches taller and outweighs Michael by 40-50 pounds, all of which is muscle. Let's call "faster" a draw.

Jordan scored about 32,000 regular season points. Lebron recently topped 20,000. Even if LJ stays healthy, never a given, nobody knows how long he might play. He might or might not pass MJ. However, if he sticks around long enough, he might even pass Kareem for the all-time scoring title. In that regard Lebron had a major advantage. While Kareem was putting in his college years at UCLA, and Michael at N. Carolina, Lebron jumped straight to the NBA out of high school and started lighting up the scoreboard, so perhaps that will always be a somewhat unfair comparison.

Jordan has 6 NBA championships and James but one. Yet the Miami Heat look poised to at least seriously compete for titles for the next several years. Who knows how many he/they might win? But depending on how one looks at it, that comparison could be skewed as well.

When Michael first started in 1984, the LA Lakers and Boston Celtics were busy trading titles back and forth for several years. Then came the Bad Boys of the Detroit Pistons for a couple years. Because such other good teams were in the way, it took Jordan and the Bulls about 7 years to finally get over the hump. Then again, for the first 7 years of Lebron's NBA career, he was stuck in nowhereland with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It doesn't matter HOW good a player is, there's no way he can win a championship single-handedly. Jordan couldn't have done it without Scottie Pippen and Co., and Lebron wasn't going to get it done in Cleveland. Now he's got D-Wade and Co. in Miami, and in just their 2nd year together won a title. Sure, there's a few other teams out there like Okla City, San Antonio, the Clips, Pacers, Knicks, and even Jordan's old Bulls if Derrick Rose comes back as his old self. It's tough to bet against the "field", but would anyone seriously doubt Lebron and the Heat are the "team to beat"? If they rattle off 2,3,4 more titles, what would that do to the MJ/LJ comparison scenario?

Besides teammates and championships, perhaps another factor should be considered. Coaching. Michael had the benefit of Phil Jackson while he was winning his 6 championships. After Chicago, the Zen Master turned around and won 5 more in LA with the Lakers. Granted, Jackson had fantastic talent on both teams, and it's a "players'" game, but 11 titles are 11 titles. He must have been doing SOMETHING right. How much that figures into the overall MJ/LJ picture, if at all, is another unknown.

Offensively, Jordan and James were/are top notch. Both great shooters from the outside, including 3s, both adept at drawing fouls, and being deadly from the free throw line, both could drive to the basket, and both could certainly come up with spectacular dunks. Defensively, Jordan was tenacious, as is Lebron now.

So far it's a tough call, but there's a couple other factors I think tip the scales a bit. It's not totally size, because despite that disadvantage, Jordan could jump out of gym. Yet because of that very height/weight factor, Lebron is a better rebounder. Jordan fans might cry foul and say, wait a minute -- Michael was a guard. He didn't play under the basket as much as Lebron -- so rebounding isn't a valid stat.

But that's the thing. Lebron can do everything Michael could do -- and more. Lebron can play any of the five positions on the court at a very high level, including point guard, if need be. Perhaps not since Magic Johnson has someone his height been able to handle the ball so well.

Jordan can't lay claim to that. Despite his amazing talent, for the most part he was either a guard or a small forward. Few would think of him as being able to go up against power forwards on a regular basis, much less grinding it out with big-bodied centers near the basket.

Lebron can, and just recently has developed his "low-post" game where he's as much at ease playing center as he is point guard, with all the moves in his repertoire.

Michael set the bar awfully high as an individual player, but yours truly is of the opinion Lebron has at least equalled him, if not slightly surpassed him. And barring catastrophe, he's far from done.

Too bad we'll never get to see them both in their primes playing a game of "horse".

How much fun would that have been to watch?


No comments:

Post a Comment