Closing In On the G.O.A.T.

On Tuesday night the Los Angeles Lakers took a commanding 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals over the Miami Heat with a 102-96 victory in game 4. If the Lakers can defeat the Heat on Friday night in game 5 to secure their 17th NBA Title, and LeBron James is named MVP, his claim to being the greatest player of all time will gain even more steam. 

Some such as I, a LeBron fan, still will not be able to put him ahead of Michael Jordan. It’s not because of any sort of nostalgia, but because of what I witnessed. I have intently watched both of them play, being a fan of both, and I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when LeBron dropped 48 on the Pistons during the playoffs in 07. When he blocked Andre Iguodala’s shot during the 2016 Finals, and pounded the floor when he and the Cavs ended Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought. 

I was a 15 year old kid, in my room in Pittsburgh Pa, glued to the TV, when Jordan switched hands in mid-air on Magic and the Lakers. When he announced to the world he was coming back from retirement, I was a full-service attendant at a BP in Cleveland, OH and saw it on the front page of the Plain Dealer. I was in my house by myself watching the shot against the Jazz in ’98, lit, so loud that the neighbors asked me to tone it down. 

I honestly don’t think I am different than many other fans. I am passionate about sports. I played sports, and I immersed myself in sports, often identifying myself with teams and players. So, I would like to think that by seeing both players entire careers, and watching both of their games intently, I have an objective and unbiased perspective. I wrote an article 2 years ago outlining the difference between LeBron and Jordan and why I believed that Jordan was and still is the greatest.

What makes Jordan the greatest, in my opinion ,are not the stats, although he definitely has the stats, it’s not the skills, and no one can argue he has the skills either. LeBron may be faster than Jordan, and although some say he is, it’s been reported that Jordan once ran a 4.3 40. He is stronger than Jordan, although Jordan was not by any means weak, he was considered a big 2 guard, and LeBron is bigger than Jordan. 

Many say LeBron is a better passer, although Jordan was a good passer, it was not his focus, he did at times play point guard, he was a scorer. LeBron is one of the most gifted passers in history, on the level of the all-time great passers and he has played the 3 position most of his career. He is a better rebounder than Jordan, however, he is also 3 inches taller and 45lbs give or take heavier. LeBron is a more versatile defender, but Jordan is a more tenacious defender. He once won Defensive Player of the year, league MVP, and the scoring title in the same year. 

I personally think LeBron is the better all-around player. He can do everything Jordan can do and do some of the things Jordan can do, he does it better. They play two different types of games, Jordan was an assassin who had to learn to trust his teammates, while LeBron is a team-first player, who had to learn a killer instinct. 

However, to sum things up, what separates Jordan from LeBron is that Jordan always was great. People like Nick Wright bring up LeBron’s game-winning shots vs Jordan’s in the playoffs as validation that LeBron is better than Jordan. He brings up the 10 Finals appearances as well. While those are valid arguments, and the arguments against are that Jordan never lost in the Finals, the fact remains that you can’t validate LeBron being the G.O.A.T. by splitting his career in two.

When considering that titles are won by teams, and the stars of those teams have to show up big in big moments, even when Jordan lost, he showed up big. NEVER, NEVER, did Jordan disappear, or had to be reminded he was the best, or be talked into taking the reins. 

He always took the reins, always was spectacular, and always, always left it all on the court. He did it big all the time, in pick up games, regular-season games, playoff games, heck even card games. No-load management, no saving himself on defense, and no half stepping. That is what makes him the greatest and that is why LeBron will never catch Jordan. 

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