With all due respect to the Miami Heat, it seems like the LA Lakers are set to win the 2020 NBA title. Two more victories will give LeBron James the fourth championship of his career; that will add another accomplishment to his career resume and, in theory, move him even closer to Michael Jordan in the race to be basketball’s GOAT.
Not everyone, however, believes that a fourth NBA championship would give King James the crown. Jalen Rose, for example, believes that LeBron isn’t ready to surpass His Airness just yet.
The LeBron James-Michael Jordan debate has been raging for years
For better or worse, sports fans love to debate historical greatness. In the world of basketball, that means arguing whether LeBron James or Michael Jordan is the GOAT.
Virtually everyone, even if they don’t follow the NBA, knows how great His Airness was. Jordan didn’t only dominate on the basketball court, though. Thanks to his incredible talents, he became a pop culture icon; he graced billboards, commercials, and even hit the big screen alongside Bugs Bunny. During his prime, MJ was, quite simply, everywhere.
Although LeBron doesn’t have the same sort of stranglehold on the spotlight, he’s been cast as an heir to Jordan’s throne. Both men are generational talents, capable of doing virtually anything they want on the court; King James is even filling the role of a modern-day MJ in Space Jam 2.
While Jordan himself has previously said that he and James are simply different players who play in different eras, that hasn’t stopped the debate. If LeBron wins another NBA title this fall, the comparisons will only intensify.
Jalen Rose believes that Michael Jordan is still the NBA’s GOAT
With the Miami Heat seemingly collapsing before our eyes, the LeBron James-Michael Jordan debate has kicked back into high gear. Is a fourth career title enough to give the Lakers star a claim to basketball’s GOAT title? Jalen Rose doesn’t think so.
“When I judge all-time greatness, it’s how dominant you were amongst your peers in your era,” Rose told Insider. “That’s all we could compare you to.”
By that measure, His Airness has the clear edge. During his time in Chicago, Jordan won six championships in two separate three-peats; even if James wins his fourth title this season, he won’t have dominated the postseason in the same way.
“LeBron’s chance, to me, to legitimize being greater than Michael Jordan happened in one press conference,” Rose explained. “Not five, not six, not seven.’ If [the Heat] would have started to win four, if they would have started to win five, then I think he would have catapulted himself into that category. But not having a “three-peat” when Jordan has two…”
Jalen Rose still paid LeBron James a serious compliment, though
Taken in isolation, it might like Jalen Rose is throwing all his support behind Michael Jordan and failing to give LeBron his due. The former forward, however, still paid King James quite the compliment.
“[James] is, if he wins this championship, in my opinion, going to pass Magic Johnson and become a member of the Mount Rushmore in NBA lore,” Rose explained. Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bill Russell would join him atop the NBA mountain top.
Rose also made note of LeBron’s work off the court. “I am old enough to know about the Ali Summit and what those athletes sacrificed, and now he stands on the shoulders of them. That’s my ultimate endorsement for him as a modern-day athlete,” he added.
Even if you don’t agree with the core of Rose’s argument, the NBA veteran’s statements do suggest that there’s a bottom line where everyone can agree. Regardless of who you call the GOAT, both LeBron James and Michael Jordan are special players worthy of a place in NBA lore.