James versus Jordan — that tipoff goes both ways

Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan shoots a mid-range jump shot against the Charlotte Hornets as...
Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan shoots a mid-range jump shot against the Charlotte Hornets as Anthony Mason contests and David Wesley and Vlade Divac watch on at the United Centre, Chicago, in 1998.
Lebron James has just passed Michael Jordan to become the fourth-highest points scorer in the NBA. But is LeBron now better than MJ? Jeff Cheshire argues the current man is at unmatched heights while Steve Hepburn thinks Jordan is still the king.
 

STEVE HEPBURN

Some things just can not be topped.

There have been some great milers over the years but name the best and it has to be Roger Bannister - he broke the 4min mile.

Same in music. Sure, there is Pink Floyd, the Beach Boys and Bob Dylan. But The Beatles are still the best. Can never be overtaken.

So it is in basketball. There are greats such as Julius Erving, Wilt the Stilt and Kobe.

But Michael Jordan is top of the ladder - and always will be.

Forget about statistics - it is an American-based sport so statistics are plentiful and can be manipulated in any way. Things like assists and steals are so wide open to interpretation they are irrelevant.

Jordan changed the game and changed the whole sporting landscape. His athletic ability, wonderful drive and competitive zeal to win set the bar higher seemingly every season.

Sure, maybe evolving technology and the excesses of the 1980s helped raise his profile into many more living rooms but he was the man who changed the game.

The back story of not making his high school team in his first year also makes his - hate using this term - brand even stronger than others.

Jordan was just excitement personified. He could run, jump, shoot and block seemingly better than anyone.

Defence was way stronger back when he played. Guys in the 1980-90s just could not rack up the huge scoring totals they do these days. How good would Jordan be now when defenders can barely breathe on players before racking up a foul?

Jordan also did not do `the decision" sideshow which will still haunt LeBron for as long as he lives.

Jordan perhaps was a tad Teflon, a tad too corporate, and plenty of accusations flew around him about being protected.

But that is what they say about all the greats. And it is hard to compare eras. Someone wrote yesterday Tom Latham was better than Don Bradman.

If there was no Jordan then would there have even been LeBron?

Maybe not. The trailblazer will also be the best.

After all, does anyone know who was the second man to discover America?

LeBron James takes the ball to the rim for the Cleveland Cavaliers during 
...
LeBron James takes the ball to the rim for the Cleveland Cavaliers during their successful 2016 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Cleveland. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
JEFF CHESHIRE

HE is the chosen one, the King - but is he the GOAT?

LeBron James has dominated the NBA for the past decade.

He is the most complete player basketball has ever seen. He has no weakness.

Offensively, his passing ability is next level, he can score in every way and he is the game's smartest player.

Defensively, his chase-down blocks send fear into opponents and at his best he could guard anyone on the floor.

That has led to eight consecutive finals appearances, nine overall, four MVPs and three championships.

Doubters will point to his finals record - three wins and six losses - against Michael Jordan's perfect 6-0.

But surely losing in the finals is better than not making the finals?

Five of those losses came against all-time great teams in Tim Duncan's Spurs and the Warriors' dynasty.

As a 22-year-old he led a team of scrubs to the finals.

Sure, he has had some good team-mates since then.

But so does everyone nowadays.

It is almost impossible to win without at least three All Star-calibre players.

Every time he has left a team, it has plummeted to the bottom of the league.

When Jordan left the Bulls to play baseball in 1993, the team had just two fewer wins the next season.

Others point to LeBron's lack of killer instinct.

Jordan wanted to take the last shot, wanted to win the game.

For LeBron, making the right basketball is more important - sometimes that means passing to an open team-mate.

The "softer" game nowadays is often brought up, suggesting how dominant Jordan would be offensively today.

But could Jordan be so effective defensively without being able to be so physical?

It is hard to score points when you are on the bench in foul trouble.

And if Jordan were to adapt to today's game, what is to say LeBron would not adapt to the '90s game?

The game has changed.

That Jordan is the greatest has become so ingrained that it is almost as if it cannot be questioned.

You see that in the older generation in particular - everyone wants to say they grew up watching and idolising the best.

But you have to be open-minded in these debates.

LeBron and Jordan are different players with different strengths who played in different eras.

The '90s NBA is almost viewed in a romantic sense.

In reality it was just different.

That does not mean it was better.

I'm of the younger generation, so I'll plump for LeBron.

The reality is they were two of the very best to ever do it and they should both be appreciated for that.

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