Skip to content

LeBron tweets he’s not MJ, but he’s playing in that air now

Feb 13, 2013, 12:03 PM EDT

BKN-NBA-HEAT-NETS Getty Images

That we are even having this conversation speaks to how well LeBron James is playing.

As a sports culture have mythologized Michael Jordan to the point he’s superhuman and unassailable. Nike deserves some credit for that. To mention anyone playing at a Jordan-like level is to bring out MJ’s defenders (does he really need defenders?) to point out his stats, or how he never lost in the finals, or how he played at this level for so long, or whatever line of defense they are offering. Even though nobody is questioning Jordan’s greatness.

But the fact remains that right now LeBron is playing at a Jordanesque level — six games in a row scoring 30 points and shooting better than 60 percent in each of those wins. Nobody has ever done that before. Combine it with his LeBron’s run of winning the NBA MVP last season, the finals MVP, a ring with the Heat then an Olympic gold medal — a one-year combo only accomplished by Jordan — and it’s hard not to make comparisons.

Because Jordan is the measuring stick and LeBron has started to come closer than anyone else ever has.

LeBron doesn’t want the comparisons.

That’s fair. He wants to be his own man. LeBron isn’t Jordan; they are different players in both style and temperament. They played in different eras (with different rules about defending on the perimeter).

Jordan is the measuring stick for a reason. While I would argue LeBron has played at a Jordan level the last year and a half, Jordan played at that peak level for six or seven years and has six rings to show for it. Jordan has 10 scoring titles, 5 MVPs and 6 glittering rings. LeBron isn’t there yet. In a long-view historical context Jordan is the better player. Of course, when you get into the historical context you have to bring in how Wilt Chamberlain dominated the league (he led the league in assists one season, just for fun), or Bill Russell (11 rings and as fierce a competitor as there has been), or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s ridiculous career numbers (six time MVP, six rings, most points scored in NBA history), or a number of other guys that should be in that conversation.

But Jordan is the most recent guy in that historical conversation, the guy we all saw play and dazzle us, the guy imprinted in our minds, and he’s the guy we measure all the great players of today against. Fair or not.

And the way LeBron is playing right now, we have to compare him in a historical context because he is unquestionably the best in the game right now.

LeBron is playing closer to Jordan’s level than anyone since Jordan himself retired from Chicago (I have blocked the Washington years out of my mind). In the past season and a half LeBron has been beter and more efficient than peak Kobe Bryant, than anyone since MJ himself.

Jordan is the historical measuring stick and while LeBron may not want out of that shadow the comparisons are unavoidable.

The question is how will we view those comparisons when LeBron retires someday?

Latest Posts
  1. Ricky Rubio with half-court alley-oop to Andrew Wiggins (VIDEO)

    Sep 30, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Timberwolves New Players Getty Images

    We could see a lot more of this during the season.

  2. Byron Scott expects Kobe Bryant to score 23-24 points per game

    Sep 30, 2014, 12:15 AM EDT

    Kobe Bryant, Tony Allen Kobe Bryant, Tony Allen

    Lakers might need Kobe’s scoring, but they shouldn’t count on that much from aging star

  3. Cleveland Cavaliers now huge draw, expensive ticket at home, on road

    Sep 29, 2014, 10:15 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day Getty Images

    Road tickets to see the Cavaliers are $131.33 higher per seat than the second most expensive team, the Lakers.

  4. Trey Burke, in wake of nude-photo scandal: ‘My judgments will be much better’

    Sep 29, 2014, 7:37 PM EDT

    Utah Jazz v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey disappointed in what he’s learned so far about photos

  5. James Harden admits he needs to be better on defense. It’s a start, I guess.

    Sep 29, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets Media Day Getty Images

    If James Harden doesn’t play focused defense this season it’s Kevin McHale that pays the price.

  6. Carmelo Anthony says he re-signed in New York because of ‘unfinished business’ with Knicks

    Sep 29, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT

    Carmelo Anthony Carmelo Anthony

    Anthony said it wouldn’t have felt right leaving after he forced his way to New York midway through the 2011 season.

  7. Erik Spoelstra nearly chose Grateful Dead tickets over chance to join Heat

    Sep 29, 2014, 4:52 PM EDT

    Erik Spoelstra Erik Spoelstra

    Spoelstra applied only on a bet with his German teammates

  8. Report: Kevin Durant says he wants to play in 2016 Olympics (his free agent summer)

    Sep 29, 2014, 4:05 PM EDT

    Team USA Showcase Getty Images

    KD has some words for those that questioned his motivation this summer, and they are not the words of Mr. Nice Guy.

  9. It’s official, Celtics sign Evan Turner to two-year deal

    Sep 29, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Washington Wizards Getty Images

    Can he fit in the Celtics’ system better than he did in Indiana?

  10. Danny Granger reveals he had another knee surgery

    Sep 29, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

    Danny Granger Danny Granger

    Without LeBron James, how many setbacks – even small ones – can the Heat overcome?

  11. Hornets GM: It was important for franchise to act “decisively and quickly” on Jeff Taylor domestic assault arrest

    Sep 29, 2014, 1:29 PM EDT

    Mike Dunlap, Jeffery Taylor Mike Dunlap, Jeffery Taylor

    The Hornets made the right move so far, keeping Taylor away from team activities while the investigation goes forward.

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. R. Rondo (3714)
  2. L. James (3696)
  3. K. Bryant (3143)
  4. E. Bledsoe (2581)
  5. R. Allen (2394)
  1. D. Wade (2367)
  2. D. Williams (2260)
  3. K. Leonard (2043)
  4. D. Rose (2003)
  5. M. Smart (1885)