I’m not going to wade into the LeBron vs Michael Jordan debate on who is the best NBA player ever. They were in two different eras and cannot ever face each other in their primes.
They are different players playing against different opponents with different teammates. I could compare them, but it would be a waste of time.
However, I wonder just how history will judge LeBron as opposed to how it has dealt with Michael.
My thought is that history will not be kind in the comparison, and it really has nothing to do with which is the better player.
I think King James may suffer the same fate as Wilt Chamberlain in his comparison to a contemporary, Bill Russell.
Historically, Russell comes out better than Wilt the Stilt. And, I think I know why.
Wilt Chamberlain may have been the best athlete to ever bounce a ball on a hardwood court.
Besides being 7’ 1” in an era when the average center was 6’9” or so, he was a freak physically. When he wasn’t in the gym at Kansas, he ran track. He ran a 10.9 hundred-yard dash, threw the shot 56 feet, triple jumped over 50 feet and won the Big Eight Conference meet in the high jump.
Wilt had a wing span of 7’8”, and standing flat footed could reach up 9’6”.
As a freshman at KU, he was a skinny 240 pounds, but eventually grew to over 300 pounds. He is the only player in NBA history to score a 100 points in a game, to average 50 points for a season or average over 30 points and 20 rebounds for a career.
Wilt played on two NBA championship teams, is in the Naismith Hall of Fame, and a member of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame.
Wilt’s debut with the KU freshman team was a game against the KU varsity, who were favored to win the Big Eight.
The freshmen won.
Against the older guys, Chamberlain scored 42 points, had 29 rebounds and four blocked shots. The next year in his debut as a varsity player, he scored 52 points with 31 rebounds against Northwestern.
How can Bill Russell touch that? He can’t. However, Wilt won two NBA championships. Russell won 11. LeBron has been in eight NBA Finals and won three times, twice with a loaded Miami Heat team. Michael was a perfect 6-for-6 in NBA championships.
I think the biggest difference in the way Russell and Chamberlain are viewed is a simple one. Big Bill’s entire career was with the Boston Celtics’ dynasty. All 11 of his championships were on the parquet of the Boston Garden. Wilt played for the Globetrotters (when he left KU but wasn’t old enough for the NBA yet), the Warriors, the 76ers and the Lakers.
Jordan’s entire career was spent in Chicago. He made the Bulls a dynasty. LeBron James has bounced from Cleveland to Miami back to Cleveland and now to Los Angeles. Moving each time as a free agent. There is no dynasty in King James’ resume.
And, I think appearances will play a part. Michael was a combination of thoroughbred and ballet dancer. His athleticism had a certain physical poetry to it. If he had been a Baryshnikov, he would have jumped over the ballerina and landed on his toes.
LeBron James looks more like a linebacker. While he can do anything Michael could, he looks more like he would run over anyone between him and the basket. He would have thrown Baryshnikov over the dancing swans and carried the ballerina off with one hand.
You think of Jordan as either smiling or shooting with his tongue hanging out. LeBron looks like he’s blitzing and about to take Tom Brady’s head off.
Both are among the best to ever lace up a pair of Chuck Taylors, Nike’s, Adidas or PF Flyers. However, when people look back 25 years from now, I think LeBron James will suffer in comparison, fair or not. Alongside Michael’s bust in the Hall of Fame is a Bulls Jersey. What will be next to LeBron’s? A Cleataker (Cleveland/Heat/Laker) jersey?