Why Can’t People Accept That LeBron Could Be Better Than Jordan?

If you ask people who the greatest basketball player of all time is, you’re more than likely to hear the most famous double first name of all-time, “Michael Jordan.”

His accolades speak for themselves. He’s a six-time NBA champion and six-time Finals MVP, has five regular season MVPs, fourteen All-Star appearances and ten scoring titles. The commercials and endorsements have influenced a number of players, fans and even sneakerheads — all of whom will push, trample and kill for his iconic, self-named shoes.

It’s gotten to the point that a soundbyte, article or Facebook post that even suggests the greatness of “His Airness,” could ever be eclipsed by one LeBron James, is soon met with skepticism, disagreement, shock and the absolute refusal of such notion.

“Stop bro.”

“I don’t watch basketball but I’m gonna say nah.”

“…can [LeBron] be in the same sentence as Kobe first and then we can wonder maybe if he can pass Jordan?…”

“nope, never ever. no matter what.”

LeBron’s resume isn’t better than Jordan’s, but it’s getting there with two NBA championships and two NBA Finals MVP trophies, 11-time All-Star, and four regular season MVP trophies.

LeBron only has one scoring title, but one of the joys of his game is his selflessness and ability to make everybody better — making him more comparable to Magic Johnson than Michael Jordan. However, when talking greatness, you have to go back to Jordan. Not that Magic isn’t great, but you’re likely to hear more people defend Jordan’s honour for best of all time.

Recently, former Detroit Piston Bad Boy Bill Laimbeer said there was “no question” he’d take LeBron over Michael Jordan on NBC Sports Network’s, “The Dan Patrick Show.” Of course, there were staunch defenders of Jordan’s legacy. But critics also pointed to how Laimbeer’s Pistons and Bulls clashed repeatedly in the 80s and that Laimbeer himself didn’t like Jordan.

The most blasphemous endorsement of LeBron over Jordan came from MJ’s wingman, Scottie Pippen, which led to ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith calling for Pippen, jokingly or not, to be banned from the city of Chicago.

Debaters will maintain that they respect and admire LeBron’s greatness, and when it’s all said and done, he will likely end up as one of the greatest players to ever play.

But why can’t we just accept the fact that he just might end up being THE greatest?

There are the few who point to his shortcomings such as leaving Cleveland to go to Miami, his disappearance act in the 2011 Finals and even the cramps he’s suffered on the court.

And while those shortcomings are kinks in King James’s armour, he has done more than enough to rise from the ashes and begin to stake his claim for greatest of all the time (or “GOAT,” as the kids say).

This year’s Finals may provide some of the strongest arguments for LeBron’s case for “greatest of all-time” in a few years. Through the first three games in this series, LeBron has scored 123 points in three games — an NBA finals record. That’s without ⅔ of his “Big Three” of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. LeBron has to rely on former Knicks JR Smith, Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert, as well as the scrappy Matthew Dellavedova. They’re hardly Pippen and Dennis Rodman.

ESPN statistician Nate Silver has even compared LeBron and Michael Jordan’s respective supporting casts. LeBron’s 2015 teammates, according to “leverage-and minute-weighted statistical plus/minus talent for the best player’s teammates, through the conference finals”, has been ranked 60th out of all 62 teams that have ever made it to the NBA Finals.

LeBron is even shooting at a pace that would make, and has made, Kobe Bryant proud.

According to CBS Sports, James has taken 107 shots in three games, averaging 35.6 shots per game. That’s three more than Jordan’s time in 1993. Following Game 3, Bryant tweeted “Can’t win a shootout with a butter knife” in support of King James.

All this against the Golden State Warriors, the team with the best record in this past regular season. All this against this year’s MVP in Steph Curry, who has looked lost at times in his Finals debut, but has still managed to keep his team in close throughout the series.

Despite LeBron’s Herculean efforts in this year’s Finals, there are still detractors. There are those who point to Dellavedova, Mozgov and even Canadian Tristan Thompson, as “preservers of LeBron’s legacy”, crediting them when LeBron can’t make a shot. There is no doubt that LeBron’s role players have done a solid job in keeping the Cavaliers in the Finals, but where would they be without LeBron’s 123 points in three games?

Yes, LeBron will need three more rings to equal Michael Jordan (he’ll need eight more to equal Bill Russell, who has 11 rings as a player, by the way) if he wins this year’s Finals. He’d need two more to equal Kobe Bryant. There are a number of stats, records and accomplishments that LeBron will need to reach before claiming to be the best basketball player of all-time. So, Jordan is still the man.

However, LeBron’s not done yet. He is, after all, only 30 years of age. He isn’t too far away from being the best, most iconic player of this generation, if he isn’t already. But we may need to prepare ourselves for a time when Jordan could be number two to LeBron James.

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