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Sports Authority

Concannon: LeBron and Jordan can’t be compared

| Friday, February 16, 2018

I’m sick of debating LeBron James versus Michael Jordan. I’m exhausted of the same recycled arguments about LeBron’s Finals losses, about his choice to leave Cleveland and about Michael Jordan’s six rings. It’s the most tired debate in sports.

I’m going to settle the debate right now.

First, I’ll introduce our contestants for greatest of all-time status. There is general consensus — at least there should be — that LeBron James is the best player in this era of NBA basketball. His seven straight finals appearances are unprecedented since the 1960s, and his statistics are eye-popping. Beyond this, the value he adds to the teams he plays for is incredible. After infamously leaving the Cavaliers and taking his talents to South Beach after the 2009–2010 season, his old team went from 61 wins with him to 19 wins without him — in a single season. From the best regular season team in the NBA to the worst. That’s hard to even fathom. With this level of achievement, you would think fans would watch in awe and appreciate his greatness as it stands, but you would be wrong.

Next, we have Michael Jordan. The original GOAT. Every young LeBron-hater’s favorite player despite not even being alive when he was in his prime. He’s 6-0 in the finals, despite leaving the NBA for two years to pursue professional baseball in his prime. He led the American “Dream Team” to a gold medal in the first year professional athletes were allowed in the Olympics.

They both have incredible resumes, so who is the winner?

The answer, definitively, is that this question isn’t worth your time and in some ways ruins modern basketball. Every time LeBron James achieves anything, Twitter has to explode comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan. People emerge from all corners of the internet to attack the greatest player of our generation, criticizing him for his Finals losses and whatever other metrics they choose to attack him with. Why do we have to do this? It’s nonsensical for several reasons.

First, the argument between LeBron James and Michael Jordan is deeply flawed because they played in different eras. Today’s NBA has a far different landscape than the NBA Michael Jordan played in. We’re in the era of super-teams, of free agents being courted and signing max deals with the team that gives them the best chance to win. Comparing the Finals accomplishments of Jordan and James is impractical and really impossible. Yet we still do it.

Second, all this debate really does is just expose our biases. Many of the people reading this article were too young to even see Michael Jordan play. Take a second and think, “What am I even basing my opinion off of?” Did you just read articles online and reach this conclusion? Do you just not like LeBron James as a person and therefore join the Michael Jordan camp? Maybe because you never saw MJ play you just latched onto LeBron by default. Either way, you’re using deeply flawed reasoning.

Could you imagine how much worse the NFL would be if every time Tom Brady took a step we were forced to hear tired debate about Brady versus Manning or Montana, or whoever else? It’s ridiculous. We get to watch LeBron James, an athlete whose replays will be shown for the rest of our lives. He is so skilled he has transcended basketball and built a brand for himself outside of sports, and all half of us can do is criticize him relative to a player who hasn’t played in decades?

The next time you watch LeBron put his incredible skill set on display, do us all a favor and just appreciate how good he is. I don’t want to hear you talk about Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain. Let’s just appreciate the stars we have in the NBA now, and not obsess over guys that played decades ago.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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