Written By: Austin Philippi
- Jordan’s Era – Michael Jordan’s Era is perceived by the previous generation of NBA athletes and a lot of the media or fan base as having been the better era. This perception is because it was more physical, and the rules allowed have changed to help protect NBA athletes. However, while they could muck the games up and keep the pace slow that suited most players in the league as they were uncoordinated, nonathletic, and would be unable to play in today’s era. Now this isn’t the case for all players there have been exceptions over the years the biggest being Michael Jordan who obviously dominated his competition while they could be more physical with him. I’m not denying his greatness compared to his peers, I’m just saying his peers aren’t on the level of what Lebron faces in today’s NBA. The Centers in the Late 80’s and 90’s was obviously some of the best in history, however in that era most teams believed you couldn’t win building around a shooting guard. The guard positions were undersized and slow, they needed to be able to hand check just to have a prayer of guarding Jordan. Obviously, I can’t deny Jordan’s Greatness, but I also can’t deny the overall state and quality of the players in the League today.
- Longevity – Lebron has kept a level of greatness almost incomparable to anyone in league history, especially being the best player in the world in his 15th season. Obviously, his seasons started sooner because he came into the league at 18 so he’s still relatively young but the miles on his basketball legs are not. With no real sign of slowing down or retiring in the next 5+ years Lebron James will eclipse a 20-year career without having a major injury (knock on wood). He can possibly play till he is 40 years old as the best player on the planet. This due to some of the benefits of LeBron’s Era and his dedication to health, science, and his body. Lebron can continue to morph his game into playing and passing out of the post much like he does during key stretches in the playoffs. Lebron has a game and a body that will age well and stay at a high level for a long time due to his knowledge of the game and the knowledge of today.
- Competition – Kevin Durant 6’11 245, Kawhi Leonard 6’7 230, Giannis 6’11 220, Draymond Green 6’7 230, Anthony Davis 6’11 254, Ben Simmons 6’10 240, Joel Embiid 7’0 250, Jayson Tatum 6’8 205, Jimmy Butler 6’8 220, Paul George 6’9 220.
John Stockton 6’1 176, Jeff Hornacek 6’4 190, Gary Payton 6’4 181, Hersey Hawkins 6’3 190, Isiah Thomas 6’1 185 (Isaiah Thomas is 5’9 185 for comparison), Joe Dumars 6’3 198, Reggie Lewis 6-7 195, Brian Shaw 6’6 190, Mookie Baylock 6’0 180, Nate Mcmillan 6’5 195, 6’7 220 Dennis Rodman, David Robinson 7’1 235, Hakeem Olajuwon 7’0 255, Horace Grant 6’11 245, Reggie Miller 6’7 195.
Above is a list of names Lebron and Jordan have played in the playoffs or have made DPOY first teams or won awards and guarded or been guarded by the individual in question on a regular basis when they matchup. As you can clearly see LeBron is facing bigger and better athletes than Jordan had to face during his era. (These were the names that littered the 1st Team-All Defensive Teams of the 90’s)
- Size Difference – Lebron James 6’9 250-270 Lbs., 7’1 Wingspan, 8’11 Standing Reach.
Michael Jordan 6’6 218 Lbs., 6’11 Wingspan, 8’10 Standing Reach.
If Lebron played in Jordan’s era the level of physicality Lebron could exert on players due to his size, strength, and speed Jordan wouldn’t have been able to guard Lebron. Let alone score as efficiently on LeBron and his peers as he did in the 90’s. Lebron has the same advantage Jordan had in that he’s bigger stronger and faster than his peers. However, LeBron’s peers are bigger fast and stronger than MJ’s, excluding some of the huge centers in the 90’s however Jordan only met them face up when he got to the rim and many of the centers weren’t very athletic, meaning Jordan got a lot of easy looks on top of getting mauled and sent to the free throw line more times a game then Lebron.
- Shooting – Lebron is a better shooter from 3-PT range throughout his career than Jordan was. Jordan has one season plus a few games in which he shot better than LeBron has from deep but even with that extremely hot year his career average is less than league average. Furthermore, 10 of Jordan’s 13 career seasons he shot below 33% from 3, LeBron only has 4 such occasions. Lebron may not have had the killer post game early in his career but he has shown an ability to hit from anywhere on the court no matter who Is guarding him. He takes and makes some of the hardest shots in the league, all of this while shooting 3 less shots a game on average than Jordan took only to score 3 less points a game. Making him more efficient from the field and scoring with defense on him. Where Jordan has the advantage shooting the ball is his pull up midrange jumper and his FT%. He makes more free throws than LeBron taking relatively the same amount per game.
- Driving to the Rim – Lebron is the best driver of the basketball in NBA history. These are words spoken not only by Lebron fans but his critics as well, if you don’t believe it look at some of the reasons listed above as well his athletic prowess. Better yet turn on an NBA game and watch how un-guardable going to the basket he is. He is also a better passer while driving to the basket than any other player in NBA history.
- Athletic Ability – Jordan may have beaten Lebron in leaping ability and slightly in quickness, however Lebron is pushing and accelerating a much bigger body making his athletic abilities all that more impressive. So, when you combine Lebron’s vitals across the board and compare them to Jordan he either beats or comes close to Jordan in everything while being much bigger and stronger than Jordan. All of this while continuing to keep this athletic ability for a longer period than Jordan played in the NBA.
- More Involved with his Family and Kids – He married his high school sweet heart, had two kids with her early on and has stayed committed to having and raising a good family. Not that I’m knocking Jordan for his personal life but Lebron not only commits countless hours to perfecting his craft but commits that kind of time and energy into his kids and wife as well. He also helped life long friends make careers of themselves. Lebron’s son also seems poised to make a run at the NBA.
- Post-Game – Lebron has moved more to the post over his career, especially after the Mavericks series. During key moments and important playoff possessions LeBron goes to the post where he is the most un-guardable, he just doesn’t post every possession as it takes a tool on his stamina and body. When Jordan posted up he posted mid-range on smaller players and hit them with a dace they couldn’t guard. Lebron has bigger bodies guarding him on a nightly basis making his post play more impressive.
- Vision – Lebron is the best passer in all of basketball. He may be one of the best 2-3 passers in NBA history and could have the stats to back it up. Lebron sees the entire court, and it even seems as if he sees things happen before they do. His overall ability to pass the ball in traffic, in transition, and through or around defenders is what completes his game and makes him the best player to ever play.
- IQ – Lebron may be the smartest player in the NBA, or at least he has one of the highest basketball IQ’s in NBA history. He also has shown an almost photographic memory when it comes to what goes on, on the basketball court. Lebron’s understanding of the game mixed with his athletic ability to be able to execute what he envisions makes him a unique player.
- Never had a HOF Coach – Michael Jordan played and won 6 championships with a HOF coach who won multiple championships years later without another high caliber player. Lebron has never had the luxury of playing with a coach who know more about the game of basketball than he did and that has pretty much been the case sense he was in high school.
- Pass First – While being one of the greatest scorers in NBA history if not the greatest he most often seems to pass first or look to hit a teammate who has an opening for better shot. He trusts his teammates and tries to make the right basketball plays and still finds a way to score nearly 30 a game while taking shots in the flow of the offense (even if it is the Lebron offense).
- Defense – LeBron’s athletic ability, IQ, and intangibles make him a better defender. However, Jordan benefited from his era giving him the nod on DPOY trophies. Lebron also doesn’t give nightly effort on this end any longer, but when the game is on the line I’d rather having Lebron playing defense than Jordan.
- Has done more with his Platform and for his Community – Lebron has been on record several times stating his beliefs and standing up for his community and not worrying about upsetting the other group of people. Jordan has been quoted saying “republicans buys shoes too” and while I don’t mind or knock Jordan for is stance I can give LeBron credit for trying to be a good person in his mind and not just be concerned with his money. He has developed an entire school district and program for kids in his community, under the I Promise initiative. Giving away several million dollars’ worth of scholarships to local kids to help better his communities futures the way he has bettered his own. Jordan does that now too his older age and his billion plus to spend but LeBron has been doing it for years now.
- Rule Benefits (both sides have ways they benefit from rules) – Like I stated many times before Jordan had benefits working in his favor as well as against him while he was in the league. For example, in the 90’s the game was more physical because they could put their hands on you a little while their defending to check you or keep you in front of them. This I something that makes the game more physical, now if you go back up and look at the players Jordan guarded and was guarded by not only did they need to hand check just to contain him, but it allowed Jordan the bigger stronger faster player of his generation to be able to exert his physical dominance more so than LeBron is aloud to today.
- No Injuries – Lebron has played all 15 seasons of his career and the playoffs in 12 of those years. Never having played in less than 60 games in those seasons including a season in which the league had a Holdout and only played 66 NBA games that season. Lebron also looks poised to play at this level another 5-8 years if he can continue this steak of being ironman.
- More Consistently in Finals – Lebron has already been to 8 NBA finals with a chance to go to a 9th this season. Jordan only played in 13 total NBA seasons, if Lebron’s career continues along the path I’ve been projecting it for the last decade then he will end up in more total finals than Jordan played years in NBA. Lebron would have been the only athlete in the modern era with this kind of dominance and the only one known sense Bill Russel. Lebron may finish his career having went to 13 or 14 NBA Finals and winning 5-6 rings in total. However, that is just speculation and we will have to continue to watch the greatest ever defy our expectations.
- Expectations from a Young Age – Jordan set his standards and exceeded them and expectations. Lebron has been given the ultimate expectations from day one, that he has had to live up too. He was deemed the “Chosen One” in High School by sports illustrated, was made the number one pick in the NBA draft as a kid still in High School, and he’s been getting compared to Michael Jordan sense basically his 3rd and 4th seasons in the NBA. Lebron too has exceeded almost all his expectations and because he is so great and seems so super human we believe he can keep it up for a long time to come.
- Higher Nightly Standards – The Previous expectations are historic, but he also faces pressure to perform on every night of the regular season and post season. At any point that he has a game below his super human standards he is ridiculed and discussed in the media for it daily. No other athlete has had these kinds of expectations and pressure put on them on a nightly basis until Lonzo Ball this season, and even he was given a pass once he didn’t put up Lebron level numbers. Lebron meets his nightly expectations and proves his greatness by updating his resume nightly on why he is unstoppable in the golden age of NBA basketball.
- Clutch – For much of LeBron’s career he has had to live under those previously stated standards and take last second shots under such pressure. This is something Jordan didn’t have the same worry of if he missed. Obviously the both are worried about making it to win the game first but that is all that Jordan had on his mind. The social media age has given us an avenue to put our opinions of athletes out for consumption. With all of this said Lebron has made more game winners in the playoffs than Jordan on a better FG% than Jordan on such attempts. Lebron has come through for his teams which been underdogs more often than Jordan’s bulls ever were, just for LeBron to overcome the odds. Not to mention Lebron has the highest PPG avg in elimination games and has the most wins in NBA history when facing elimination.
- Finals Competition – Lebron James has Faced Tim Duncan (3), Kevin Durant (2), Kawhi Leonard (2), Steph Curry (3), Draymond Green (3), Klay Thompson (3), Tony Parker (3), Manu (3), Westbrook (1), Harden (1), Nowitzki (1)
Michael Jordan has Faced Karl Malone (2), John Stockton (2), Shawn Kemp (1), Magic Johnson (1), Charles Barkley (1), Clyde Drexler (1), Gary Payton (1)
Lebron has faced some amazing teams in the NBA finals and some all-time greats as well that are in their prime. The warriors could possibly have 3 top 5 players of all time at their respective positions depending on who you ask, and this team was created for the sole purpose of beating Lebron.
- Stat Accumulation – The previous 22 reasons are going to be what leads Lebron James into being the all time leading scorer in NBA history while also being top 5 in assists all time and top 25 in rebounds and steals. Lebron will also lead NBA history in virtually all playoff stats, wins, and appearances. His overall longevity and stat accumulation will end up untouched and almost un repeatable in NBA history going forward. What Lebron is accomplishing daily at only 33 years of age that is already being etched into NBA history is just remarkable.