It’s time to talk about the biggest taboo sentence in basketball. Michael Jordan isn’t the most talented player ever anymore. LeBron James is something we’ve never seen before, no matter what you think – and I hate the guy and teams he played for – he’s the best player to ever play in the NBA. On top of that I grew up watching Jordan as anyone born in the mid-80s did, so this is in no way era bias.
Now before I get into it, it’s important to remember I’m not arguing careers. As of right now Jordan has had the better career but LeBron is a more talented player. There’s obviously been a ton of backlash on Twitter when I’ve brought this up the last couple of days and I’ll address everything in more than 140 characters.
First off, let’s get rid of the notion that defense was incredibly better in the 90s. Hand checking doesn’t mean defense was better. A hand check is a foul, always has been, always will be. Will it give Jordan more freedom of movement? Sure. But what he wouldn’t be able to do now is just beat one defender and then have an open shot. With the NBA being allowed to play zone now – something that wasn’t allowed in the 90s – defenders can help more, making defenses more complex.
Also, if you think hand checking would slow LeBron down, remember he’s 6’8” 250 lbs – literally the size of Karl Malone. What defender would try to check him back in the 90s? Pippen and Rodman are the answers I got quite a bit. Pippen is the same height as him, but LeBron still has 20 pounds and an inch and 30 pounds on Rodman. On top of that after LeBron beats a defender, no one would be challenging him at the rim. Not to mention how different players are now compared to then. Everyone now is bigger, quicker and more athletic. We are at a peak in terms of athleticism in the NBA and pure talent. If the NBA quit today there are easily 15 players that instantly get into the Hall of Fame, not to mention the likes of a Russell Westbrook, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis, etc who easily could get into that breath.
To those saying LeBron plays in a weak Eastern conference and never plays anyone. Take a look at who both LBJ and MJ played in the Finals. Jordan had incredibly weaker opponents, especially compared to LeBron. MJ’s first title came against an old Lakers team, followed by a Blazers team that was strictly based around Clyde Drexler and then a Suns team who was okay. After that he got a Jazz team that really wasn’t that good – they had Malone/Stockton in their mid-30s and only made the Finals because everyone else in the West got old – the Rockets, David Robinson got hurt, the Sonics didn’t have anyone except Payton/Kemp.
Yes, you can argue the East is weaker now than when MJ played – especially this year – but in the West, LeBron has had to play the Spurs 3x, a Warriors team who won 73 games a year later, a Thunder team with KD/Russ/Harden/Ibaka and a Mavs team who had Dirk in his prime surrounded by Kidd and Chandler. Every single team, with the exception of possibly the Thunder are better than any team Jordan played in the Finals. So, if you want to knock LeBron for playing no one in the East, you have to knock Jordan for playing weaker competition in the Finals.
The third thing a lot of people said to me is how LeBron can’t shoot the ball. Well, if LeBron can’t shoot the ball than exactly how good was MJ? Jordan obviously is a much better midrange shooter than LeBron, but why should LBJ be penalized for settling for midrange jumpers? He uses his athleticism and skill to get into the lane and finish. Not to mention he’s a better career 3-point shooter than MJ and has better effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage for you advanced stat nerds (like I am).
Everyone wants to find a reason to hate LeBron because of his personality and look I get it. Like I said I hate him, but can acknowledge how damn good he is. This is also in no way a slight to Jordan, both players are in the top 99.99 percentile of talent in the NBA, with no one else in the top-2 conversation. But, there’s a notion that LeBron sucks in the playoffs or chokes away games. Last year he showed us just how dominant he can be putting up the best points & assists per game in a Finals. If you want to compare playoff stats, they are more than comparable:
PER: Jordan, 28.6 James, 2777…4
VORP: Jordan, 22.8 James, 24.9
True Shooting%: Jordan, .568, James .566
Best Win Share: Jordan 4.8, James 5.8
If you want total career stats:
Jordan: 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, .509 eFG%, .327 3pt%, 27.9 PER, .569 TS%, 104.4 VORP
James: 27.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.9 APG, 1.7 SPG, .532 eFG%, .340 3pt%, 27.7 PER, .581 TS%, 108.6 VORP
Everyone wants to remember their time as the best, especially players. That’s why it’s almost impossible to take what they say for a good word. I mean, shit TMac said the league is watered down now when he made an All-NBA Second Team with Jermaine O’Neal, Peja, Ben Wallace and Sam Cassell. That team SUCKS.
Again this isn’t an argument about career or resume. Jordan still has that, because of those six rings. This is just strictly on a talent level. Ryen Russillo – someone I trust immensely with NBA talk just said today on Mike and Mike, ‘there’s no gap between MJ and LeBron, but there’s a different argument with resume to talent. I can’t argue six rings, but I can argue talent.’
No matter what you think of him, sit back and watch him play. We’ve never seen someone like him before. Enjoy greatness, but cheer against Cleveland. Hell, that’s what I do. These are the two best players to ever step foot in the NBA and we’re splitting hairs at 99.99 percentile of talent. But, it’s time to drop some of the false LeBron notions and realize basketball is getting better than it ever was in the 90s.