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Is A New King Destined to Sit On Jordan's Throne?
Cleveland's LeBron James, playing the best basketball of his career, is a clear threat to Jordan's mythical crown
Former Detroit Pistons bad boy Bill Laimbeer caused quite the firestorm around the NBA last week when he said that he would take Cleveland's LeBron James over Michael Jordan.
Understand that in many circles Jordan is regarded as the greatest player of all time. And for some it is downright blasphemy to suggest there is another human on the face of the earth who plays the game of basketball at a higher level than Michael Jordan.
Many chalk it up to the fact Laimbeer has residual hate from the bitter, volitale, Pistons'-Bulls' rivalry in the early stages of Jordan's career. The Pistons beat the Bulls in three of the four series they met. And when the Bulls finally got passed the Pistons in 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, the Pistons walked off the court without shaking hands.
So, Laimbeer probably does hate the Bulls, and likely hates Jordan on a personal level as well. If the two men passed each other in a hallway Laimbeer would probably give Jordan an elbow to the gut.
Nonetheless, Laimbeer's point in taking James _ who will be leading the Cavs against the Golden State Warriors for the NBA title _ over Jordan because he can do more on the court is valid.
"There’s no question I would take LeBron James," Laimbeer said, on the Dan Patrick radio show. "He can do more. Michael Jordan could score and make big shots and look spectacular at times with wild-flying dunks, but LeBron can get you 18 rebounds. LeBron can get you 15 assists if he chooses to, or he can score 50 if he wanted to.
"So the triple threat he poses is just phenomenal, and then the size that he's got.... he just physically dominates. It’s impressive."
James, at 30, and in his 12th season, is playing the best basketball of his career, which is saying something for a man whose career average is 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game, while shooting just about 50 percent from the field.
But James has taken his game to a mental level that is on par with Magic Johnson, the brilliant Los Angeles Lakers' point guard. James is always seeing two and three steps ahead of his opponents, on both ends of the court. His basketball IQ is off the charts, and he has matured into a great leader on the floor.
James is arguably the most versatile player in the history of the NBA. James is the only player I know who can play point guard, shooting guard, small forward and power forward....and be the best player in the league at each position. Please, stop and consider that for a moment.
Not only that, he can guard everyone of those positions. And, at 6-foot-8, 260 pounds, and as strong as a well, should I say, Bull?. This man can even guard some under size centers for short stints.
Jordan couldn't do that, nor could Bird, or Magic. I have to say Oscar Robertson was good enough to do because he averaged a triple double, and so could Wilt Chamberlain, the most dominating force in the history of the game.
Now, here is the part where we get to Jordan's inflated legacy, which has grown to the point where he could do no wrong.. Listening to some of Jordan fans, you would think the man never missed a shot.
Jordan didn't carry the Bulls to six titles all by himself. The fact he is 6-0 in Finals is most certainly a testament to his great play, and his lead role as the Bulls' catalyst. However, none of those championships occur without the splendid players who were around him. Hall of Famers like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman made significant contributions. Role players like Horace Grant, B.J, Armstrong, Jon Paxon, Toni Kukoc and Ron Harper were important.
Now, remember that Jordan got beat in the playoffs his first six seasons in the league. And, throughout all of those playoff losses Jordan was the best player on the floor. The problem was that he faced better teams. The Pistons, with Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Rodman and a cast of superb role players, like Mark Aguirre, Vinnie Johnson and Rick Mahorn punished Jordan
The point here is you can't judge the GOAT, or the greatness of a player, by the number of championships he has won. Heck, Bulls' bench warmer Will Perdue won three NBA championships. Does anyone in their right mind think he was better than Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks, who never won a title?
And, if you are judging the greatest player ever by titles, then it is Bill Russell. He won 11 championships in 13 seasons. No one has come close to that. And, if you are basing the GOAT on individual play and stats, Jordan falls short there. There has never been a more dominant player than Chamberlain.
I am not here to say LeBron is better than Jordan, or Jordan is better than LeBron. It is really a futile argument, being that they will never play against each other. I do know that I would take either one of them on my team, and preferably both of them on my team.
Because I know if I have Jordan, or James, on my team I am going to have a playoff team, capable of winning a championship. Our ultimate success will depend upon how well the front office builds the team around them.