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Why LeBron James Could Become the Greatest Basketball Player of All-Time
Okay, I get it... "Michael Jordan is and always will be the greatest basketball player to ever play." That is the notion that most people have in their heads. People think it isn't 'possible' to be greater than Michael Jordan. It's that kind of mindset that limits people from understanding greatness. People always have the right to disagree, that's what opinions are for. But, to say that it's impossible is another story...
Let's look at the facts... If we compare LeBron's accolades to Jordan's at the age of 31, the results might surprise you. LeBron has 4 NBA MVPs compared to Jordan's 3 NBA MVPs, LeBron has played 13 seasons compared to Jordan's 9 seasons, LeBron has 7 NBA Finals appearances compared to Jordan's 3 Finals appearances, and both share the same amount of championships at this point in their careers with three. Another key statistic to look at is their first seven years in the league... Jordan lost in the first round of the playoffs in his rookie season (with a losing regular season record), got swept in the playoffs in his second season (with a losing regular season record and injured his leg during the season), got swept in the playoffs in his third season (with a losing regular season record), lost in the semi-finals in his fourth season, lost in the Eastern Conference Finals in his fifth and sixth season, and finally capture his first NBA championship in his seventh season. LeBron didn't make the playoffs in his first or second season (had a winning regular season record in his second season and still didn't make the playoffs), lost in the semi-finals in his third season, made it to the NBA Finals in his fourth season, lost in the semi-finals his fifth season, lost in the Eastern Conference Finals his sixth season, and lost in the semi-finals his seventh season. There are a lot of arguments that could be made to support LeBron and Jordan here. You can defend Jordan's side of the argument by saying that LeBron was drafted out of high school, whereas Michael Jordan spent two years with the North Carolina Tar Heels. This explains why James was able to play a lot more games up until this point. Also, people will try to say that Jordan didn't play in the NBA for a two-year stretch because of retirement. Now, what about LeBron's side of the argument? You could say that LeBron was more talented at a young age and knew more about the game of basketball at the age of 18 than Jordan did at 18-years-old. LeBron was able to adapt to the NBA at a younger age and made the NBA Finals well before Jordan did, even with a worse team. Also, you could say that it was Jordan's decision to retire (although there is a conspiracy theory that David Stern made Jordan retire, but that's another topic for another day) and that's Jordan's fault alone. To be clear, Jordan's first retirement was on October 6, 1993. This would make Jordan 30-years-old at the time. So, we can't use this as an excuse for comparing the facts above.
I know what you're thinking... How can you compare two different eras of basketball? That's one of the hardest questions anyone can ask about sports. How do you compare eras... of any sport? Well, let's try... People will have you believe that basketball in the 90's was a lot more physical and players were more competitive compared to today's game. It is hard to argue against that statement. Although, other people will have you believe that today's players can't truly show their physicality due to the rule changes that have occurred over the years. Also, today's players have learned from past players to make them better competitors and better players in general. The current generation of players has more access to knowledge about the body through nutrition and exercise. It took getting physically dominated by the Detroit Pistons for Michael Jordan to start working out consistently. Lifting weights were perceived to be risky in past decades because no one really knew the long term effects. Now, it's almost a requirement. By that logic, the NBA has to be a lot tougher than it used to be right? The gist of the argument is that the average NBA player in today's game is better than the average player of the 90's. As the game grows worldwide, it becomes more apparently true. More people becoming interested in basketball leads to more people playing the game, which leads to more players trying to make it to the NBA, which leads to more competition to get into the league, which leads to more people fighting over roster spots and max contracts, which leads to more people fighting over becoming the greatest player ever. Theoretically, the game should be more competitive with every passing second.
So, what's it going to take for LeBron James to pass Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all-time? Does LeBron need more than 6 championships? Does LeBron need to three-peat? Does LeBron need to write his name in the record books of multiple statistical categories? Does LeBron need to go through a time machine and play in a decade that is suitable for you? Or, is your mind already made up that Michael Jordan is and always will be the greatest basketball player of all-time?