Why the MJ-LeBron Debate Isn’t Really a Debate

When LeBron James donned the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school senior, many saw Lebron as the heir to Michael Jordan. Dubbed “The Chosen One”, there were already whispers that LeBron could someday surpass MJ as the G.O.A.T. Now, as LeBron competes in his fifteenth NBA season (MJ played fifteen seasons), people have seriously began to refer to LeBron as the Greatest of All-Time.

I am here to tell you that that is nonsense. Ridiculous. Blasphemy. Michael Jordan is the greatest to ever play the game.

LeBron does not even come close to MJ in terms of playoff success and championships. MJ went 6-0 in the NBA Finals and never needed to play a Game 7. LeBron is 2-4 in the Finals, and needed to create the first ever superteam with Wade and Bosh in order to win.  Those who claim LeBron is the G.O.A.T. solely approach the debate from a statistical standpoint. Sure, LeBron is probably the better player from a statistical standpoint (although it is very close), but that doesn’t make him the greatest. If you want to be one of those new age, sabermetric guys, then yeah, LeBron is YOUR greatest player.

Don’t get me wrong, LeBron is an unbelievable player, top 5 at that, but he is not the Greatest of All Time. But for anyone that really knows that game of basketball and can analyze LeBron’s play in today’s NBA, the stats are deceiving. In today’s game, very little defense is played until the playoffs. The NBA is without a doubt an offensive league in which isolation plays dominate offensive possessions.  The number of triple doubles has went through the roof in the past seven seasons. Seemingly every night there are a handful of players who are a few rebounds or assists shy of a triple double. I mean, even Jarrett Jack has a triple double this season. Jarrett Jack!!

The NBA is also unbelievably soft today, a far cry from the era that Jordan played in. Look, I don’t like to start comparing the era’s in which players played in, but LeBron benefits enormously from today’s game . LeBron is a physical specimen and the only way to really stop him (aside from letting him take that ugly fadeaway jumpshot) is to be physical. But in today’s game, almost every touch is a foul. Take a look at this play that happened last week:

Isaiah Thomas was ejected for this foul! Come on! That’s nothing but a common foul in Jordan’s era. But of course, LeBron has helped to create this current “soft” atmosphere in the NBA. When the face of the NBA and basketball worldwide flops and complains about every call, everyone else thinks it’s okay to do so.

Above all, the biggest reason why LeBron should never even be considered as the G.O.A.T. is his lack of a killer instinct. MJ was an absolute savage, a straight killer. His game winning shots over Craig Ehlo and his step back against Byron Russell are etched in everyone’s mind. When the game was on the line, Jordan was shooting, and everyone in the arena knew that. But LeBron is more content with passing the ball and having someone else take the shot. It’s almost as if LeBron would rather have someone else win the game than risk losing the game himself. We saw this in Game 3 of the NBA Finals last year when LeBron kicked out to Kyle Korver with a minute left and the Cavs up two points on the Warriors. Of course, Korver missed and Durant drained a three right in LeBron’s face for the lead. LeBron defends himself by saying that he made the right basketball play, would make the same play if he could do it again, blah, blah blah. But let’s consider this: If you are the G.O.A.T. the right play is you taking a shot to try and ice the game, especially when you’re defended by a guy with 5 fouls!!!!

To me, the moment has always been a little too big for LeBron. When asked by reporters if he loses sleep over the finals losses, he said

“What’s going to stick with me is seeing my daughter smile, seeing my kids graduate high school, college. Hopefully my daughter will go off and meet the man of her dreams. That’s what’s going to stick with me. I keep telling you all, these games and wins and losses, yeah, I love it, but it’s not the be-all and end-all for me.” 

We get it, you’re a family man. But the question was about losing in the finals. And that’s your response?? Come on man! To me, that’s an answer a man gives who doesn’t have a killer instinct and doubts his own abilities to win another title. LeBron realizes that he will never be the player Jordan was, and I think he knows his only shot to be considered in that light is the statistics argument. This is why LeBron posts IG’s such as the one below showcasing his stat line and why, according to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, some of his current teammates “have grumbled that James has slowed the ball movement, holding onto the ball until he sees an “assist” pass, rather than moving it quickly”.

For me, the whole MJ-LeBron argument is ridiculous. Michael Jordan is the G.O.A.T. and there’s no doubt about it. Kobe is the closest thing we have ever seen to LeBron, and I even have Kobe before LeBron on my all-time list. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather have my G.O.A.T. as the guy draining game winners in the playoffs than the 6’9’’ 270 pounder thats gets “run over” by 6’0’’ 180 pound guards.