As James made waves in high school, Jordan did another farewell tour with the Washington Wizards. While most basketball comparisons fade, this one remains constant. At the end of the day, however, it may not matter whether you compare the two NBA superstars.
Why compare Michael Jordan and LeBron James?
Whether people love Jordan or hate him, he is the benchmark for a player whether they are being compared positively to him or negatively. What these comparisons don’t always take into account, however, is the fact that two great players are not always comparable.
In the case of Bryant, Jordan laid the prototype for his game, so the comparisons are easier to make. Both Jordan and Bryant were high-volume shooters who got by on hard work and a strong will. While the comparisons aren’t perfect, they have merit.
When it comes to James versus Jordan, however, the comparisons make less sense.
LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan
There are similarities between James and Jordan. Both non-point guards play the position in all but names. Like Jordan, James doesn’t need to score to take over a game, and he’ll often fill the stat sheet outside of scoring categories. Both are the definitive leaders for better or for worse. This is where the comparison ends.
Jordan got by on finesse and a relentless mindset. Built like any other shooting guard, he relied on sheer talent.
James, however, as talented as he is, has a monster build at 6-foot-9 with the physique of a Greek statue. He can take the ball outside and shoot. But he is best when he can use his combination of size and athleticism to make things happen, even though his skills are among the best, too.
If one compared James to a historically great player, they’d be more apt to compare him to a Magic Johnson or an Oscar Robertson. Like James, they were players who defied position — could play all five if possible — and got by on a balanced effort that didn’t rely as much on scoring.
Jordan didn’t need to score to win, but he often did. James can have a dominant game with 20 points in his back pocket because he may have a triple-double on top of it. Aside from all of this, Jordan has a merit that’s hard to argue against.
There simply isn’t another Jordan
You can make the argument that James is a better player than Jordan. He has the longevity and the complete game. He also plays in a different era with more competition overall, meaning that rings and overall impact on a game are harder to compare to a league dominated by Jordan.
However, Jordan laid the groundwork for superstar athletes; it just isn’t possible to compare to. Rings don’t make a player. Jordan didn’t have to take on the all-time great Golden State Warriors, because he was the leader of the closest thing to that.
Jordan dominated in a bridge between the old era of basketball and a new one, and he became the prototype of that type of superstar athlete. Nobody who comes after him will match this, because they are all following in his footsteps.
People can argue all they want about Jordan, James, Bryant, or whoever they want. The fact of the matter is that people may win as often, become as big, or change the game like Jordan did, but to do all that at once and still be the best will take a confluence of events nearly impossible to replicate.