LeBron James continues to make history, and people continue to find reasons to downgrade it.
Wednesday night, James passed Michael Jordan to move into fourth place on the NBA's all-time points list, which means it's another squirt of lighter fluid on the "LeBron vs. Jordan" debate fire, but also another excuse for people to water a milestone down.
The "LeBron vs. Jordan" argument is worthless right now. Fans are too emotionally invested in just one side, living in the moment.
Yes, it's ironic coming from someone that's regularly had this debate both on TV and radio (I might start it again on Wizards Outsiders Friday, 6 PM on NBC Sports Washington Plus), but it's still true.
Until LeBron's story is done being written, we can't truly compare his career to Jordan's.
Fans look at one career through the foggy glasses of nostalgia, while the other is dissected in real-time through the magnifying glass of social media. Opinions will be tainted until both careers are viewed only through our memories.
Essentially, like fans forget the bad stuff with Jordan, soon the masses will overlook the majority of LeBron's failures, this season included.
Then we can really have a conversation.
Yes, Jordan won six titles in six tries, but people forget things like his 11-for-27 shooting performance in a Game 4 loss in the 1997 NBA Finals. Or, the fact that he beat a Jazz team that scored just 54 points (seriously) for an entire game in the 1998 Finals.
Also, Robert Horry won seven, so let's pump the breaks on using titles in a team sport as the end-all-be-all to decide a player's value.
The last four NBA FInals have subjected LeBron to going through the most stacked team in NBA history. Jordan never played a team with more than two All-Stars.
LeBron brought his team back from a 3-1 deficit to beat a Warriors franchise that won 73 games in the regular season, one more than Jordan's Bulls. LeBron also never lost in the first round of the playoffs, Jordan did.
We examine LeBron so intently that every play matters in the moment, but just remember the highlights from Jordan's time.
#NBATwitter breaks down LeBron's effort on defense in his 16th season on a random Tuesday night but forgets that every team he's left has had massive fall-off with him no longer on the roster. The Cavs went from 61 wins to 19 the first time he left, and have the third-worst record in the NBA this year after getting dragged to the Finals in 2018. Oh, Miami also went from 54 to 37 wins when LeBron left South Beach, while Jordan's Bulls went from 57 to still 55 wins the first time he retired.
LeBron is the first player in NBA history with over 30,000 career points, 8,000 career assists, and 8,000 career rebounds, which is why it took longer for him to pass Jordan on the scoring list. His game is totally different than Jordan's was, but fans would rather add up the extra games it took instead of acknowledging the list that only he occupies.
LeBron's mindset has been to make the best play first, not just a scoring play, and yet he still was able to climb into the Top-5. It's remarkable.
"LeBron played in an era where no one can touch him" gets thrown around, but people forget that Jordan never played against a zone defense, which is used to stop isolation.
Also, LeBron is huge and still a once-in-a-generation athlete, and could have played with any rules, so please stop that narrative.
Look, nostalgia is a powerful emotion. How often do you think back on your childhood and say "man life was easy", when in reality, in that moment, you likely had a million things that you thought were terrible when you were going through it. It's human nature to forget the bad times with things we love.
We can't have a true decision on whether it's Jordan or LeBron until both movies are done.
Yes, this Lakers' season is horrendous, and plenty of blame goes on LeBron. Seeing him pass Michael in that uniform was just weird, and it should have been in Cleveland. But this era of player movement is the new norm in the NBA. This is a different league, and players have to adapt to a fast pace and constantly changing landscape if they want to succeed. This isn't the 90's anymore. Players jump teams and take control of their careers more than ever.
Plus, it was just as weird to watch Jordan play in a Wizards uniform late in his career, an era that's forgotten outside of D.C. Those were years 14 and 15, and though he was older, it was one of those "star finishes career in random uniform" situations, which deep down is what LeBron is doing in L.A. anyway. The difference for LeBron is he's still widely considered the best player in the NBA, and Jordan had been retired for three seasons and that was just extra credit for his career.
Think about it, the last time LeBron James didn't make the NBA Finals "Toy Story 3" was the No. 1 movie in America, "Tik Tok" by Kesha was the No. 1 song, and Instagram and Snapchat hadn't been launched yet. That's an incredible run that we just gloss over because some video on Twitter showed him sulking.
So yes, arguments can be made on both sides, and we've all been there. For right now, in the middle of this milestone, let's take a second to just put away the magnifying glass, and look back at what LeBron has accomplished with our own nostalgia, realizing this will likely never be matched again.
That right there, is how you truly measure greatness.
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