It has been a few days since Lebron James’ legend grew to an even more insurmountable size. On Sunday, Lebron completed the near impossible comeback against the league’s best team, The Golden State Warriors, and gave the city of Cleveland its first title, ending the 52 year title drought that the city was going through. Lebron and the Cleveland Cavaliers faced elimination three times in a row, but did not crack under the pressure. After Lebron was named the MVP of the NBA Finals (for the third time in his career), many analysts became to question whether or not Lebron James is better than Michael Jordan. Lebron averaged a near triple double in the Finals, and led all players in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots. While there is no doubt Lebron James put up an NBA Finals performance for the ages, he is still not better than Michael Jordan. Here are several reasons why Lebron still has a long way to go.
FINALS RESUME/ LEGACY
Now that Lebron has won a third NBA title and was named the Finals MVP for the third time as well, he joins an elite company. Lebron James joined Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal as players with three Finals MVP awards. He is now tied with those three gentlemen for the most Finals MVPs ever, behind only Michael Jordan, who has won six. While many analysts point out that Lebron already has more Finals appearances (7) than Michael Jordan (6), this stat means little, as Lebron has lost in the Finals four of those seven times. Losing on the biggest stage should never be an addition to a player’s resume, even if the the player made the NBA Finals every year in his career. The goal for all athletes is to win, and Lebron’s mediocre record in the finals (3-4) is no where near Jordan’s perfect (6-0). The only similarity between both Michael Jordan and Lebron James is that for every championship they won, both were always awarded the best player. Lebron’s performance in the 2011 NBA Finals is what hurts him the most, as his dismal performance against the Dallas Mavericks put a major dent in his “greatest of all time” chances.
PRIME TOTAL DOMINANCE
When Michael Jordan stepped on the court during his prime, there was no doubt that he was the best player on the court and that he would not be stopped by anyone. Sure, other players had won MVP awards during his tenure, but there was still no doubt that Jordan was the best player on the planet. Lebron does not have that same reputation. While Lebron is similarly viewed as the best player, there have been many times where he has not delivered. For one, after the 2015-2016 regular season, many felt that Stephen Curry had taken Lebron’s throne as the best player in the world. While Lebron’s Finals performance might have proven people wrong, the speculation and the belief that a player had come up and was better than a prime Lebron was still introduced. This is something Michael Jordan never faced. Fans, opposing fans, and even Michael Jordan haters knew that when Michael Jordan stepped on the court, he was going to be the best player out there. Michael Jordan rose to the occasion in the biggest games and on the biggest stage. His Finals performances were legendary, as he delivered for the Bulls and led them to championship after championship. While Lebron had delivered for his championships many times, there were also times Lebron shrunk and didn’t look like the best player on the court. There was the 2011 Finals against Dallas where, at times, Lebron was bullied by smaller players in the post. There was the 2014 NBA Finals when Lebron at times looked like he was undone by Kawhi Leonard. It’s not that Lebron lost in the Finals, it’s just that in some of those losses, he came up short, and that was almost never seen in a big game by Michael Jordan.
THE BEST AT WHAT HE DOES
Lebron is currently regarded as the best overall player in the NBA, and one of the finest overall the game has ever seen. His versatility on defense and his ability to score efficiently, grab rebounds, and get assists makes him a triple threat on the court. While Michael Jordan doesn’t have the size Lebron has, his individual skills are better than Lebron’s.
Jordan is arguably the greatest scorer of all time, even if the career totals don’t reflect it. His dunks, his post moves, his mid-range game and his transition scoring abilities made him the most formidable offensive player. His scoring capabilities are much stronger than Lebron’s. While many analysts argue Lebron is a much better rebounder than Jordan, this argument is not entirely true, as Lebron only averages one more rebound than Michael Jordan per game for his career. Many argue that Lebron could average a triple double if he wanted to, but many people fail to remember Michael Jordan’s 1988-1989 season, when he averaged 33 points, 8 rebound and 8 assists. He also averaged 2.89 steals per game. Michael proved that he, too, could be a dominant all around player.
Michael Jordan’s lock down defense also made him the most dangerous overall basketball player on the planet, as not only was he the best offensive player, but players knew it would be tough to score on him as well. While Lebron boasts versatility on defense, Jordan’s lock down defense led him to a Defensive Player of the Year award, something Lebron doesn’t have, and also a record nine-time selection to the All Defensive First-Team.
Lebron’s talents are at an all time great level, but several suspect performances on the big stage diminish his overall resume for passing Michael Jordan as the greatest player ever. While Lebron has certainly become the Michael Jordan of his era, he still has long way to go to pass Jordan, legacy wise. As an overall player, Lebron is certainly as talented as Michael Jordan was, but in the end, Jordan comes out on top.