LeBron James’ reign at the top of the basketball world has been a glorious span, featuring some of the best basketball we have seen from an individual in a long time.
Since May, James has become an MVP for the third time, a two-time gold medal winner, an NBA Finals MVP and an NBA champion for the first time in his nine-year career. He’s not only accomplished a feat that hasn’t been done since 1992 when Michael Jordan did it, but he’s also began reinventing himself in a way that has James come off as a matured player with a well-bounced all-around game. The accolades that LeBron garnered came because he added the necessary improvements to finally reach the plateau that had relentlessly teased him.
With the ‘LeBron James World Tour'(name pending)making its final stop in London with James leading the way in a gold medal victory against rival Spain, he has received enormous amounts of praise from his peers as a result.
His Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade has offered his praise by giving his personal outlook on the developing “LeBron vs Jordan” debate:
“He’s on that level, but he has a lot more to do to get there. I think he understands he has an unbelievable opportunity to be one of the greatest to play this game. But that’s when he gets done playing, he can say that.”
“Just watching LeBron play, I mean he’s just playing at a different gear right now,” Wade said. “That monkey is off his back and now he’s just playing basketball. I think we’ll continue to see a better LeBron James — it’s scary to say, a three-time MVP — than we’ve seen.”
The debate was brought up to Wade after Team USA assistant coach Jim Boeheim basically said that Michael Jordan may no longer he the best player he’s ever seen.
The sentiments from Dwyane are legitimate; LeBron is finally beginning to realize the untapped potential that has only leaked out over the first eight years of his career. With the humbling he encountered in the Heat’s loss in the Finals and the desire to improve that came as a result, James is utilizing his physical and mental traits more than he has in his entire career, and it showed in the wanting to play out of his comfort zone in order to become a more well-rounded player.
Even James’ worth ethic is worth comparing to Jordan. Despite being a two-time MVP and being widely regarded as the league’s top player, LeBron went through workouts with Hakeem Olajuwon throughout the summer. James believed that the only thing he needed to win a title was to work on and improve every facet of the game, so that he may maximize his attributes and play a more efficient game.
As Wade also stated, it’s scary to believe that James has done all of this in an already Hall-of-Fame worthy career all before hitting the age of 28. He’s just entering his prime; there are still at least four or five more years of LeBron playing at his peak on a team with two of the league’s top players and the greatest three-point shooter to play. The idea that he’s only gained confidence in his abilities and will continue to improve his post-game is what’s leading the way for a Heat dynasty to have already started.
So, yeah, this is scary.
The LeBron vs. Jordan chants will linger as long as James continues to play at this level. It’s appropriate for a superstar to get compared to the greatest of all time. We’ve seen it before with Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill and Kobe Bryant, but with athleticism, youth, a winning formula and a physical build that we’ve never seen before, James may have carved out his own little niche in the comparisons with Jordan.
The fact of the matter is, however, that we need to let LeBron’s career actually come to an end before we truly start comparing the two. If you get down to it, LeBron doesn’t stand a chance against Michael in any accolade department. Jordan finished his career with six NBA championships, six Final MVP’s and five league MVP’s. The numbers are incredible and while James can’t compare now, he is on a team that is capable of achieving those numbers by the end of his career.
But if you compare the play of both players, you have an argument worth debating over; because LeBron is playing at a level similar to Jordan’s. He’s become a more fundamental player that’s finally untapped the ability to blend a perfect mixture of physical and mental domination over his opponents. He’s not only facilitating the offense through his Magic Johnson-like abilities, he’s also defending the opponent’s best player ala Scottie Pippen.
James isn’t like Michael Jordan as a player, but the two are compared for the sake of debating whether or not LeBron has the game and potential to one day be near his level.
For now, we allow LeBron’s career to pan out and worry about comparing him to Jordan later on after everything is said and done. But that shouldn’t be something we should be waiting for because it’s only going to defeat the entire purpose of observing one of the best to play the game and the lengthy steps he’s taking to possibly becoming regarded as the best to ever play the game.