The debate that won’t die is the one about whether LeBron James or Michael Jordan is the greatest NBA player of all time. Jordan had an impressive 6-0 record in the finals, had a legendary offensive games loaded with fadeaway shots, dunks, and crossovers, and was also a dangerous defender as well. He carried the Bulls franchise during the eighties and nineties, left to play baseball, and came back to win three more titles. Jordan is a basketball God.
LeBron James is one of the most criticized players in the history of the league. He disappeared in the NBA Finals against the Mavericks in 2011, narrowly survived a defeat at the hands of the Spurs in 2013 before a Ray Allen corner three saved the series, got obliterated by the Spurs in 2014 and then by the Warriors in 2017. His free-throws and his effort come into constant question along with his supposed lack of ability to make a shot near the end of the game.
It is difficult for people to see a man who lost 5 NBA Finals and crown him the greatest player in the history of the league, but it is clear that he is. LeBron, at 6’8”, 250 pounds, is a monster of an athlete. The idea he exists is hard to believe even after you’ve seen it in person. He can pass, rebound, get to the rim and finish, shoot, and after he’s done all that, he can block shots.
To put all this ability into context, he’s playing at the most competitive time in the league when international players are groomed to enter the NBA and take spots away from American players. Training is the best it’s ever been in history. LeBron is the best player in the most competitive league of all time.
On top of that, the teams he faced in the Finals were better than each team Jordan faced in the Finals. ELO ratings have each of LeBron’s Finals opponents rated as better than each of Jordan’s. When it comes to other metrics such as win totals, LeBron’s opponents hold the advantage.
LeBron has taken a lot of personal responsibility to win as well. Early in LeBron’s career, he was able to carry garbage can of a Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals. He certainly didn’t have a Pippen-esque sidekick to help him out until he got to Miami and teamed up with Dwayne Wade. Even then, LeBron carried the weight of the team on his back as the primary leader. When Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love went down in 2015, he was still able to win two games against the juggernaut Warriors who had won 67 games that year. LeBron was never to blame for a Finals loss outside of 2011.
As for losing, Jordan lost a lot. He never won without Pippen. The first seven years of his career were early playoff exits. He got beat up by the Pistons and he and Scottie faced a heart-breaking loss in seven games. Losing in the Finals is not an argument for who is a better player ultimately. If LeBron were to win the next five titles, no one in their right minds would say that Jordan was still better because he never lost after a certain point.
One could argue that due to the fact that the league is stronger, LeBron’s titles trump Jordan’s. The effort to achieve what LeBron has is greater, and it takes a team of superstars to beat him. Everything points to LeBron as the best player in the history of the game.
It is clear and obvious. LeBron is the best. He could take a scrap heap of a team and go to the NBA Finals in the most competitive moment in league history. The debate is over. Go ahead and put his face on Mount Rushmore.