By: Opinionated Reezy
Let me begin with a disclaimer saying this is not, let me repeat, NOT an Anti-Jordan, Anti-Kobe, Anti-Anyone blog, rant, etc. It is a pro Lebron post and once you read till the end, I hope you will at least agree that Lebron James should be in the conversation as one of the greatest Basketball Player of our lifetime.
Let’s first get the stats out of the way. In this case, we will compare the stats for Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James.
1072 Games 30ppg 6.2rpg 5.3apg 49.7%fg 32.7%fg3 83.5%ft 50.9%efg 27.9 PER 214 Win Shares
6x NBA Champ, 11x All-NBA, 3x AS MVP, 5x MVP, 6x Finals MVP, 9x All-Defensive
1346 Games 25ppg 5.2rpg 4.7apg 44.7%fg 32.9%fg3 83.7%ft 48.2efg 22.9 PER 172.7 Win Shares
5x NBA Champ, 15x All-NBA, 4x AS MVP, 1x MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 12x All-Defensive
998 Games 27.1ppg 7.2rpg 6.9apg 49.8%fg 34.0%fg3 74.4%ft 53.2%efg 27.6 PER 194.4 Win Shares
3x NBA Champ, 12x All-NBA, 2x AS MVP, 4x MVP, 3x Finals MVP, 6x All-Defensive
LeBron James has a PER on par with Michael Jordan while exceeding in rebounding and assist averages. His scoring is down, but in favor of his assist averages. One thing to keep in mind is that he is still going so I imagine his scoring numbers may drop slightly, but only because his rebounding and assist numbers are increasing. Yes, I am predicting that in the game, LeBron will be changing his style of play once again to increase his longevity, but to also make him even more of a threat on the court. This is not the only reason I am saying he is one of greats, so let’s dig in.
For starters, LeBron James is in great company with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, as it is common place to hate greatness in the moment. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James have each had their fair share of criticism during their rise to greatness. I for one participated in some of it as we all did. Some of the comments were:
Can’t be touched without the refs fouling
Can’t win without…..
Every time this happened the players shouldered through and proved the doubters wrong. They showed how great they were. LeBron is doing that very thing now and the haters are waiting for him to fail. He will need to embrace becoming the villain in order to completely shoulder through.
Second, LeBron James came into the league in 2004, 7 years after Kobe and 20 after Michael Jordan. LeBron had the blueprint of what to do and what not to do by watching the trailblazers before him light the world on fire, on the court. LeBron is great because he is a student of the game and would have patterned himself after greatness. He also had the ability to watch Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and others whom he would adapt his style of play to. We all know his Basketball IQ is off the charts and because of that he would already have his body prepared to counteract the “Jordan Rules”, he would know at a certain point he would have to adjust his weight like Kobe to make his body respond better, and that he would need to have a consistent team around him like Magic and Bird had. Remember, when LeBron James entered the league from High School the highlight of his game was not his scoring, it was his court vision and passing. His first commercial for Nike had nothing to do with him scoring, but him assisting. The NBA (more so the Cavaliers) forced him to play more like Kobe and MJ. He is not playing as he intended to, more like Magic Johnson.
Third, despite all that was mentioned above you still have to play the game and having all the raw potential won’t prepare you for the actual rigors of an NBA Season and seasoned talent that is there. It took Michael Jordan seven seasons to get to the NBA Finals. Those prior years he was losing and learning, getting better, but more importantly, so was his team. His major benefit, even to his admission, was that he was playing in an ultra-aggressive conference at the time. Once he got there he couldn’t be stopped and it was a sight to see. Kobe Bryant took three seasons to get there and he benefitted two ways. The first was having Shaq who went through hard knock life lessons of playoff basketball in the East and the second was learning in a now ultra-talented western conference that was tired of losing to Michael Jordan and adapted to beat him even though he was gone.
Lebron James had to take his lumps as well. Prior to his time in the NBA he hadn’t really lost or experienced what that felt like. Yes it took him four seasons to get to the NBA Finals and he did that with a team comprised of Boobie Gibson, Mo Williams, Drew Gooden, and Donyell Marshall. Additionally, LeBron was playing in a decimated eastern conference after the void of Jordan’s absence and the NBA’s obsession with finding the heir apparent. LeBron James finally has a team that would be considered on par with what Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant had (yes, I am including the Miami years) in terms of consistency and overall synergy. This is not to make excuses for LeBron, but I don’t want to frown on success either. We love posting memes about Jordan failing X number of times and coming back without realizing that LeBron needs to fail to get better. What is unfortunate for him is that failure only seems to occur when the title is on the line.
Fourth, is the future! LeBron just broke the top ten in career scoring and can easily get to sixth place based on his current trajectory. What is equally fascinating is that he is eighteenth in career assists and is a little over 1000 away from cracking the top ten. With his current trajectory, he is on par to hit that in two seasons. Once that occurs he will be the first player in NBA History to be in the top 10 of both offensive categories (scoring and assists).
There is no denying that Michael Jordan is the best and I believe that his overall contributions to the game would make him a great candidate to replace Jerry West as the logo; however, we should never be afraid to see someone else rise to greatness. If we did that we would still be heralding Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics as the greatest ever and there are a multitude of reasons why that is simply not true. There will come a time when a player will perform on the court and will rightfully be considered the greatest ever. When that happens, we should look at more than just the number of championships they have. We should look at the moments, battles, the moments within a season, all of it. It is for all of that I would say LeBron James deserves to remain in the conversation as one of the greatest players of our lifetime.