Not too long ago, a big deal was made when Scottie Pippen said that LeBron James could be greater than Michael Jordan when it’s all said and done. Eventually, he backtracked from what he said, claiming he was quoted out of context anyway. If anyone knows how good Michael Jordan was, painfully so at times, it’s Scottie Pippen.
But that’s the problem when comparing anyone to Michael Jordan – Everyone jumps up and says ‘hey, hey, no way you’re saying that!’ Like some holy statue (and there is a statue of Michael Jordan in Chicago), Jordan, as problematic as his personality is; as bad as his GM follies with the Bobcats are, is pretty much untouchable sitting on the throne of the greatest NBA player in history.
Like with many great legends, the really good stuff about a player is the stuff you can’t explain. Jordan is one of the greatest winners and clutch performers to ever play any sport. The numbers don’t hurt as well – Six NBA titles, six finals MVP awards, 5 NBA MVP awards, 10-time scoring champion. Enough, right? But it’s the aura around him, that feeling of invincibility in the golden era of 1992-1998, when Centers ruled the league but only one of them, Hakeem Olajuwon, managed to win titles during that time – once while Jordan was playing Baseball and the second time when he was since adapting back to the league.
And that’s what is even more amazing. Jordan left in 1993 and returned nearly two years later. He needed a disappointing postseason exit against the Orlando Magic to provide the extra motivation for that extra tune up and modification in his game, returning as a different kind of player for the second three-peat and another retirement. Then came the second comeback – averaging 20 points per game when he was 40 years old.
And now LeBron James joins legends alley, cementing his all-time greatness with a remarkable playoff performance, leading the Miami Heat to the NBA title against the (favorites?) Oklahoma City Thunder with more than a couple of dominating performances but maybe even more impressively, playing against quite a few of the best in his position around the league – Carmelo Anthony, Danny Granger, Paul Pierce and Kevin Durant.
Even greater about his 2012 postseason? The way he stepped up when Miami were at their lowest moments. After going 1-2 down against the Indiana Pacers; Game 6 in Boston against the Celtics; Everything that happened after game 1 in the NBA Finals. He put all the evil ghosts and whispers in his ear behind him. By winning his first NBA title, he threw himself into the discussion of all-time greatness, and made it a bit more reasonable to discuss about him and Michael Jordan in the same sentence without making it feel too forced.
And here it comes again. While the argument if the 2012 USA team can beat the original dream team in some sort of fantasy game people can probably sort out in a video game, the equally important and impossible to end argument about who is the greatest continues, resumes. No more Kobe Bryant in the picture. After his last two postseason attempts at reaching ring number 6 fell well short of the destination, Bryant isn’t at that place anymore. Who knows, he might win a sixth NBA title, as the Lakers are certainly keeping the flame alive, but I don’t think that the drop in his form will allow the comparisons to be fair ones.
So you look to the future. A 27 year old LeBron James, now with three MVP awards and his first of what could be multiple NBA titles with this Heat team, is the obvious choice. To be frank, there hasn’t been anyone like him, athletically and physically. He might not be able to play Center like Magic Johnson famously did in his first NBA Finals series, but those were different times. James is as special as they come, and has a fair shot of being a much more deserving subject when the discussion if he deserves to be mentioned as equal or even greater to Michael Jordan comes up again and again in the upcoming years.