Jay C. Brandriet
LeBron James vs Michael Jordan.
Who’s the G.O.A.T.?
It’s become a daily sports topic in America. Fans of both players often have extreme opinions when defending the one they think is best.
I can understand some of the resistance from the younger crowd when it comes to Jordan. They grew up in an NBA community, where they were told who the greatest player of all time was. Their dad, uncle, and neighbor delivered the same message.
You guys didn’t even get a say in it.
That 6-0 in the Finals thing they always throw in your face?
Annoying. Tough target to hit as well.
It’s normal to push back.
You’ve seen Kobe Bryant, and Bron. You’ve seen Shaq, Duncan, KD, and Steph.
It’s normal to think the guys from your time, would be THE top dogs.
David Stern said to Jordan, “your’e simply the standard, by which basketball excellence is measured.”
It’s still true.
To know this for sure, you had to live through it. You had to see him play in real time, with results unknown.
“Air Jordan” was an experience. You began to EXPECT him to deliver when it mattered most. Amazing how often he came through. He was a “rise to the occasion guy”. I’m not being sentimental. It was not that long ago.
MJ played basketball as well, as anyone has done anything. His fundamentals were so precise, it made everything look glamorous.
It often felt like he was playing against the game. He was the ultimate artist and the alphas alpha. He was skill, brains, and competitive grit. Nobody was smoother and cooler than Mike.
He liked to manufacture motivation. It’s like he would piss himself off and go on five to six minute stretches of fury. He’d get buckets, sweet dimes, and stops. He made “owning the game” seem tangible.
If your team was facing MJ, you were always frightened late in contests. Pro ball players, grown men, often used social rules when dealing with Jordan. Many would not talk to him on the floor, and some even avoided eye contact.
In 34 years of watching the game, he’s the best I’ve ever seen.
For this debate we will call him a “10”.
After his fifth pro season, LeBron was still on the rise and yet to be a champion. I thought he was already a legend. I figured if we took a season five James, and put him on the floor with prime Jordan? He could fit in. He could hang.
Anyone who’s been the NBA’s best player for a decade, can be compared to anyone special you chose.
Imagine Magic Johnson and Karl Malone combined to be one guy. Then add in LeBron’s skill and spice. James was inspired by Jordan, and that adds to his weaponry.
LBJ will shatter many league records. He will redefine what graceful NBA aging looks like.
There are a few things that can kick him out of the G.O.A.T. argument. A massive decline in level, that I don’t see coming. A major injury (knock on wood for his good health). It’s really about winning. Without a fourth title, even 40,000 points and 21 All-Star games won’t get it done.
LeBron will win more.
I always assumed he would take home four world titles. Put him with Anthony Davis? I think five is more likely.
For a long time I’ve called James a “9.7”.
For this discussion, let’s pro rate him a little bit and call him a “9.8”.
So, who would be better?
A 10, or a 9.8 who will play much longer?
It will end up closer than close.
I go with the 10. Looking at the scale of “HOW GREAT WERE YOU”?…To this point MJ hit his head a little higher on that ceiling than James has.
Jordan was like the sharpest steak knife in the drawer.
LeBron’s more like a gold butter knife, made for a king.
While the butter knife isn’t quite as dangerous, it’s built to last.
The 9.8 who stays in this movie longer, has some big advantages. Bron plays in an era that is viewed under a microscope. The critique of the day is harsh, but the coverage is non stop. Each game is new highlights, stories, debates, interviews, and milestones. Lots and lots of milestones. Every night LBJ competes, leaves him extra relevant.
I think James will retire, with an aura similar to Jordan.
LeBron will catch MJ, but fail to surpass him.
James is second or third best all time right now? He plays for nine more years? He dominates for five? It’s math guys.
Perception becomes reality.
Space Jam 2?
Maybe compared to Michael, LeBron’s path to GOAT island will not be as clean and straight forward. James will have taken some side streets. There was more muddy roads and pot holes along the way, but the destination remains the same.
Young LeBron fans need to be grateful. Being compared to MJ is already having made it to the pinnacle of sport. It’s not something to be defensive about. Respect the players that came before. In twenty years people will try to push LeBron aside too.
Jordan fans need to know that LeBron James is a one and only. He’s a beast of consistency. He’s going to make you sweat, and he’s not going anywhere. Just accept him, to ease your coming pain.
Try to enjoy the greatness.
Jay C. Brandriet