Since we’re on the cusp of another NBA season, it’s time for ridiculous comparisons between the league’s best today and the best to ever play the game.
Oh, what’s that you say? The comparisons of LeBron James and Michael Jordan are holding water? All it took was one title for James to finally appease the masses into accepting him as one of the greatest to ever play, and Charles Barkley is taking it one step further with another candid remark on the matter:
“I do think he can be better than Michael. I thought I would never compare somebody to Michael Jordan. But this guy, LeBron James, he does everything well. Michael did everything well. LeBron James is just bigger, stronger, faster. That’s the only difference.”
Although Charles has usually been a critic of James and the Miami Heat, he’s quietly jumped the fence on the issue after witnessing LeBron and the incredible postseason he is coming off of. The fact that LeBron’s also the first person since Michael Jordan in 1992 to win league MVP, Finals MVP, an NBA championship and a gold medal in the same year aids the argument that weighs in the direction of James deserving the comparisons.
LeBron James has spent his entire basketball playing career running head-first into the line of fire in the form of hundreds who have attempted to put a damper on his Hall-of-Fame caliber career.
And I’m not just talking about the future NBA legends he’s made look foolish during his nine-year career, but also the mainstream media that has played a significant role in James’ career since his high school days. LBJ’s stunning athleticism for a high school kid enticed NCAA recruiters from every corner of the nation, but also drew in the attention of NBA teams that were purposely planning on losing games for the services of a 18-year-old who had led his team to three consecutive state titles.
From his days of receiving brand new Hummer’s to receiving two pieces of NBA Finals hardware, the media has been right there behind his back, always serving as a source of pressure ready to make the next knee-jerk reaction that would draw in the ire of LeBron’s critics and loyalist’s.
The pressure arises not only from LeBron James reaching his personal expectations, but the expectations of what he could end up as.
Because he was born and bred with freakish athleticism, those who observed James felt something they hadn’t felt since watching a future number three pick of the Chicago Bulls in 1984. The overwhelming amount of confidence, the surprisingly consistent jumper, and the uncanny ability to be just as good a distributor as he was a scorer caused LeBron’s status as the future face of the league to draw up comparisons to those in the past who have met high expectations and then surpassed them by a large margin.
It’s always in the best interest of those who analyze the game to talk up the possible ascension of a big-time player, thus why LeBron James has ended up being compared with Michael Jordan since his first days in the NBA.
There’s no doubting that MJ is the best to play the game and even though he and James don’t have similar games–it’s far more appropriate to compare the career and playing style of LeBron’s to that of Magic Johnson’s–they are compared because Michael is the greatest and LeBron just so happens to be good enough to possibly reach the heights that MJ has created a peak at.
That’s why there was so much talk of LeBron winning a ring. Because he didn’t have a ring, critics felt it necessary to use this to undermine James and why he didn’t deserve the talk of being compared to the greatest who ever played. There was no doubting that LeBron had a game capable of putting him near Jordan’s level; there was just too much doubt of LeBron’s leadership for analyst’s to properly compare a six-time NBA champion with someone who had lost their first two NBA Finals in embarrassing fashion.
Now that he’s finally won a title–and in more than impressive fashion–LeBron can begin to revel in the talk of being compared to Jordan. Winning an NBA title is a representation of excellent teamwork, a solid framework on how to play the game, and having a leader who was capable of stepping up and leading his team on both ends of the floor in dire situations. Unlike in 2011 when it was Dwyane Wade attempting the saving, it was James in 2012 hitting critical shots on one end and limiting the league’s top scorer on the other.
Winning that championship proved that LeBron wasn’t just unbelievably resilient, but had finally become the leader that so many observers were hoping he would become. He showed resolve in the face of obscurity on numerous occasions and was always the one leading the Heat. Every win and every loss, LeBron James was the one who was doing everything he could to will his team to victory, and it showcased the three-time MVP’s commitment to bettering himself in order to become the player he needed to be that was capable of winning a title.
LeBron obtaining a better post game to make himself a better all-around player? That sure sounds like Michael Jordan developing a more consistent jumper prior to the second three-peat because he recognized that his athleticism was waning. Both players have keen understanding’s of what their body’s are capable of, and both did everything they could to make sure their body was constantly ready for every type of situation.
LeBron isn’t Michael and it’s doubtful that he ever will be, at least in the eyes of those who observe the game. Michael’s name is held in unrealistically high regard and it is a very sensitive subject to compare any player of any generation to Jordan. LeBron can go on to win eight titles, yet it’s a guarantee loyalist’s to Michael will take note of those first two NBA Finals losses and comparing it to Jordan, who never lost upon reaching the NBA Finals.
For now, we can consider ourselves fortunate that we are living in an age where there is a player that can draw legitimate comparisons to Jordan without a public outrage. LeBron James has proven to all of us that he is far better than we ever thought he could be and that he’s ready for the comparisons; because there will be plenty of them coming over the next decade. As long as James stays healthy and keeps a quality team around him, he’s going to end up winning just as many league MVP’s, Finals MVP’s, and championships as Jordan.
We knew that he could be an incredible player. Knowing that he’s become the leader so many wanted him to not become is his greatest reward yet.