In light of LeBron James losing his fourth NBA championship, I thought it would be appropriate to address the ongoing debate of Michael Jordan versus King James once and for all.
This debate is reminiscent of the same one with Wilt Chamberlain versus Bill Russell. They both made 13 playoff appearances but Russell was 11-0 in championship appearances while Chamberlain was 2-4 (sound familiar?). Jordan was 6-0 in championships while James is of course 2-4.
Russell’s playoff averages were 16 PPG, 25 RPG and 5 APG while shooting 43% but Russell was never viewed as the Celtics primary scorer. Chamberlain’s playoff averages were 23 PPG, 25 RPG and 4 APG while shooting 52%. Chamberlain was clearly the superior offensive player but both players were even in most other categories and head-to-head in the playoffs Russell was 7-1.
Jordan’s playoff averages in 13 seasons were 33 PPG, 6 RPG and 6 APG while shooting 49% and James playoff averages through 10 seasons are 28 PPG, 9 RPG and 7 APG while shooting 47%. Very similar with Jordan having the scoring edge and James having a slight rebound and assist edge while both were/are elite defenders. Jordan and James never had the opportunity to play head-to-head but the worshippers of King James like to portray the lack of help James has had throughout his career compared to Jordan and that James is a better all-around player than Jordan so let me address both.
As for surrounding talent, Jordan needed Pippen to start winning championships, but aside from Pippen, the best players he had were Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman. His centers were a revolving door of journeymen from Bill Wennington to Luc Longley to an aging Bill Cartwright to name a few. His shooting guards were that same revolving door from John Paxson to Craig Hodges to Steve Kerr.
James had two dominant players at his side when he took his talents to South Beach and certainly had two all-stars by his side most of this season. And in the four years he played at Miami with the “Big 3” he was 2-2 in championships.
As for who is the better player, if both played head-to-head I don’t think they could have stopped each other. James could post up Jordan every time and would be too strong but Jordan would be too quick for James to keep up.
But the big difference I see in both is the fourth quarter. LeBron has failed in the fourth quarter as many times as he has succeeded. He frequently passes up shots at the wrong times and risks putting the game in the hands of inferior players. Jordan virtually never failed and was an “assassin” offensively which is why he was 6-0 when it mattered most. He always looked for the shot, demanded the shot and wanted the shot in crunch time.
Now if James wins the next four championships and finished 6-4 and makes 10 appearances in the Finals than we might have something to discuss. This would parallel Brady being 4-2 in Super Bowls while Montana is 4-0.
Heck even Kobe had more of a killer instinct and was more consistent in the fourth quarter than James and he has five championships to show for it.
LeBron is the best player in the NBA. He is an exceptional talent and built like a Greek God. He already has and will continue to break many NBA records by the time it is all said and done and will be in the discussion for best all-around player in the history of the league statistically.
James so desperately wants to be liked and seeks approval where Jordan only and I mean only cared about winning.
But he isn’t loyal (Cleveland to Miami to Cleveland), he isn’t likeable “I hope I can put my team in position to be in the Finals again next year”, he hasn’t proven to be a winner when it matters most (.333 winning percentage in the Finals), he isn’t classy (left the court and couldn’t take the time to congratulate the Warriors – like the infamous Detroit Pistons) and he only has two championships a whopping 10 years into his career.