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Thibodeau sides with Jordan over LeBron. At least for now.

Oct 24, 2012, 8:20 AM EDT

Chicago Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau yells out during the first quarter of their NBA pre-season basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Chicago, Illinois Reuters

Oh good, more LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan discussion. Because we haven’t beat Man O’ War enough.

At least this time the opinion comes from Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who had to coach against both (he was an assistant with the Knicks in the ‘90s). He was asked about it Tuesday night and he used logic in his answer — Maybe we should wait until LeBron is closer to the end of his career before we define it and compare him to the all-time greats.

Here’s the quotes, via Aggrey Sam at

“They’re different, but I think with all those type of comparisons, those are tough to make because I don’t think you can do it until LeBron’s done, so to speculate now, I guess it makes for interesting conversation. But you have to wait. And they’re both great, and what Jordan did was incredible, but who knows?…. Kobe’s had a great career, LeBron’s had a great career and LeBron’s still young, so there’s still a long way to go for him. But Jordan kept so much pressure on you in so many different ways and it’s a different game now than it was. Back then, it was a lot more physical than it is today.

“I would say [Jordan was the toughest player to game-plan against], because of all the problems that he caused and the way he dominated, to win six championships and unfortunately, I was a part of the other end of that with the Knicks and those were some great battles, and I thought we had a great team in New York, but what he did was just incredible. But you can make a case for a lot of guys and like I said, we have to wait until a guy’s career is over before we draw any comparisons.”

Wait until we all the facts before we jump to conclusions? What a quaint notion, Thibs.

LeBron is not yet near Jordan’s iconic legacy and likely never reaches that level. But the fact that we are even debating this, that we are comparing him to Jordan in a serious way, shows how far LeBron has brought his game. He has matured mentally enough to take advantage of physical gifts that even Jordan couldn’t match. But what separated Jordan wasn’t physical, it was mental, and we’re not sure LeBron can really achieve that.

Or, we could wait and have this conversation closer to the end of LeBron’s career. Like Thibs suggested.

  1. bullysix - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    Anybody that expected that Thibs would choose Bron over MJ and still be coaching in Chicago is smoking something illegal.

    • dls612 - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:08 AM

      Agreed! What did they think he would say!

      • stayhigh_247 - Oct 24, 2012 at 8:57 PM

        exactly, he comes to work and is face to face with MJ’s trophy’s and banners everyday.

    • guyaneserj - Oct 24, 2012 at 2:50 PM

      LMAO.. True…

  2. davidly - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    I think that folks who like to argue that James is a superior physical talent on the court are positing a grapefruit against an orange, ie. James is a bigger guy and has been used at the other spots, but Jordan’s teams were smarter with their personnel, always keeping a good defensive frontcourt on the roster. Why spend time banging down low, when you got Oakley and then Cartright/Grant in the paint, and then Rodman and the three centers for their second three-peat?

    Now one could argue using statistics, like say, assists plus steals-to-turnover ratio which favors Jordan, 2.7 to 2.6. Blocks are identical. James edges Jordan by a rebound, which shrinks to half-a-rebound per 36 minutes. Two things to consider with that last point: You could give James credit for playing one-and-a-half more minutes per game, but then you’d have to give Jordan credit, at this point, for having played five+ more seasons over the course of nine additional years. This leads us back to the premise of the post: Wait and see.

    What I go back to is “Who’s had the most and best offensive and defensive moves that have had nothing to do with size?” It’s not an easy thing to prove, being largely subjective, like gymnastics, but I still think it’s MJ.

  3. fugetaboutit - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    Everyone please stop. What has LeBron done that makes him comparable to MJ?I mean this guy is not even close to Kobe’s level. Sure he is big and fast but MJ had the skills and mental toughness to defeat any opponent. Jordan never lost in the finals. He was second to no one…ever. So please stop it LeBron will have a good career but at most second to MJ.

  4. marcusfitzhugh - Oct 24, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    I don’t see how there can be a LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan discussion that involves the NBA Finals. MJ teams were six and zero in the Finals. LeBron is one and one. LBJ would have to go 7 and 1 to even start that discussion. Even then, MJ NEVER lost.

    And if we’re talking about the best player ever, Bill Russell MUST be part of the conversation. In Russell’s 13 year career as a player he won 5 NBA MVPs, was a 12 time all-star and won ELEVEN NBA Championships. He also won 4 NBA championships as a player-coach and was the #2 player in his draft.

    LeBron James? Career wise? He’s not close.

    • miamatt - Oct 24, 2012 at 5:52 PM

      I agree with most of what you say, except for implying that that Lebron would have to win “7” to make up for his “1”. How does losing in the first or second round of the playoffs not hurt a legacy, but losing in the finals does? You say MJ NEVER lost, but actually he lost every single year he played with the exception of those six championships. If one of Jordan’s Bulls teams in the 80’s had broken through only to get swept by the Lakers, would we think less of him? I wouldn’t. Kobe has won 5 and been to 7, and I think more of him for making it those two years than simply if he had gone 5 for 5. Again, how would losing in the WCF, rather than in the Finals, have helped Kobe’s legacy? It ties up the package a little neater, but that particular part of your argument makes no sense.

      • tashkalucy - Oct 24, 2012 at 9:40 PM

        One player does not win or lose a season, a playoff series, or a championship series. Not in basketball. Nor does a QB in football.

        But for some reason, that’s become in vogue.

        Anyone that has played those 2 sports knows that TEAMS win or lose. Their leaders may influence the game, but face it – LeBrown left Cleveland because he knew he couldn’t win with his Cav teammates, and Jordan didn’t win anything his first 6 years, not until the GM and coach put a team around him that complimented his game.

        And the NBA has turned into a total joke where players like LeBron now have to play out their options to become teammates with other All-Stars because they know they can’t win on their own.

        The NBA is too much like a giant court where the better players get together with their buddies to win and keep the court. The NBA has never been a national sport, it always had 4-5 teams at most with a shot at the championship that year (often only 2 or 3), and the other teams were shades of rebuilding. It’s become more so the past few years. The only way the NBA can stay in the public eye is for the players to snipe at one another like WWF wrestlers, and for TV announcers like O’Neal and Barkley to add to the freak show by saying something outrageous every broadcast.

        The NBA IS entertainment. It is not a professional league in any true meaning of the words.

      • marcusfitzhugh - Oct 25, 2012 at 12:27 AM

        Miamatt, assume LBJ ends his career having gone 6 and 1 in the Finals. How is that record possibly better than Jordan at 6 and 0 in the Finals? They’ve both won the same number of titles, but one record has a blemish. The other doesn’t.

        Let me make this easy. Two Mercedes on the lot. Both new, same color, same price, same equipment, same model. One has a scratch and the other doesn’t. Is the sales guy going to waste his and my time showing me the one with the blemish? No. You know why? No one favors the blemish.

        For that same reason, LBJ cannot go 6 and 1 and think his record is as good as Jordan’s. LBJ needs 7. Besides, right now he’s at 1. It’s ridiculous to mention LBJ and MJ in the same sentence at this point. LBJ has been in the league NINE YEARS. When MJ finished his ninth, he had been to the Finals 3 times won 3 times and taken home 3 Finals MVPs.

        Does LBJ even have a shot at winning 6 more? When LBJ is in his FIFTEENTH year will he really be leading anyone to the Finals for the seventh time in a row?

  5. martinez1108 - Oct 24, 2012 at 9:50 PM

    James is bigger,stronger then Jordan. But I don’t think we will ever see the competitive drive that Jordan had with Lebron. Jordan was just about winning no flashy, aarrogant stuff on the court like James. So until James wins 6. Then we can compare him to Jordan!

  6. elnogo - Oct 25, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    Just to clarify Lebron has been in 3 finals losing 2 of them.

  7. jordanismyidol - Oct 26, 2012 at 2:39 AM

    Lebron is a beast dont get me wrong but will never be as great as MJ.

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