Five Ways LeBron James Can Surpass Michael Jordan
Five Ways LeBron James Can Surpass Michael Jordan
Ever since he exploded onto the national basketball scene in high school, LeBron James has drawn comparisons to Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time. And, make no mistake about it, James invited these comparisons.
He stole MJ’s pre-game powder toss ritual, donned the legendary number 23, and was dubbed not only the “King,” but also was referred to as the “Chosen One.”
And, for the most part, James has lived up to those expectations.
He is one of only eight players in NBA history to win 3+ MVP awards, and is one of just two players in league history to win the regular season MVP, Finals MVP, an NBA Championship, and an Olympic Gold Medal in the same year, which James did in 2011-12. Guess who the other player is? That’s right- Jordan.
Jordan has better numbers than James, and five more championships than the Chosen One, who won his first one last season.
Jordan averaged 30.1 PPG, 5.3 APG, and 6.2 RPG over the course of his 15 year career, totaling five MVP awards along the way.
James has averaged 27.6 PPG, 6.9 APG, and 7.2 RPG in his nine years in the league.
There are people that say that James will never deserve to have his name mentioned in the conversation with Jordan, and if you are one of those people, you are wrong.
Just as Jordan did, James has revolutionized the game of basketball, but the King is doing it in a different way. Despite his designation as a SF, James has no real position; on some possessions he brings the ball up, on others he anchors himself on the low post. He can guard opposing PG’s as well as any guard in the league, and has no problem bodying up a Center on the block, either.
However, numbers don’t lie, and Jordan is currently viewed as the better player. That is something that could change, though, by the time James’ playing days are over.
5. Win Six MVP Awards
Jordan accumulated five MVP awards over fifteen years, and James currently has three of them in his nine years in the league.
Both are averaging an MVP award every three years, and if James can snag one more than Jordan, that is just something else he will have over MJ.
This season, James is the clear-cut front runner for the award that celebrates the best player in the NBA, putting up ridiculous averages of 26.1 PPG, 7.1 APG, and 8.3 RPG.
4. Leave the Miami Heat
When James opted to sign with the Miami Heat, he was unknowingly said that he couldn’t win on his own. He needed Dwyane Wade, his best friend and fellow All-Star, to help him on his path to his first title.
This move riled up the critics that incessantly proclaim that James and Jordan will never be comparable.
I wonder if those same critics have ever heard of Hall-of-Famer Scottie Pippen.
Maybe they have, maybe they haven’t. That doesn’t matter. What does matter, though, is that James shows that he can win on his own. He took the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007, but was promptly swept in four games against the San Antonio Spurs.
James cannot finish his career with the Heat if he wants to surpass Jordan. He can even to return to Cleveland in 2014, where he was born and raised, at the end of his contract. And, if you doubt James’ lack of loyalty to a team/organization, remember that we are talking about the same guy who deserted his hometown of Ohio for the luscious waves of South Beach.
3. Average a Double/Double In a Season
Averaging a double/double over the course of an NBA season is something that Jordan never accomplished, and is a feat that James should be able to achieve by the end of his playing days.
In 2004, Bill Simmons said this on the prospect of James averaging a triple/double over an entire season:
“When LeBron hits his prime and finally gets surrounded by quality shooters and big guys who run the floor, he’ll toss up a triple-double for an entire season. Comfortably. We’re talking 33/12/13 every night. LeBron sees everything in slow motion; he’s always thinking two moves ahead, like he’s playing chess…Not since Magic or Bird has someone connected with teammates like this.”
Quality shooters: Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade. Check.
Big guy that runs the floor: Chris Bosh. Check.
If James is able to put up double digit points, assists, and/or rebounds every night over the course of an entire NBA season, he would further propel himself onto Jordan's level.
2. Tie/Surpass Jordan's Six Championships
This is the deciding factor for many people as to what players draw justified comparisons to Jordan, who won six titles in his fifteen seasons. Championships are definitely an important factor in making these comparisons, but should not be the central point of the discussion.
Bill Russell won 11 titles in 13 years in the league. Is he the greatest ever? Robert Horry won seven championships, one more than MJ; does that make him better than Jordan?
The answer is a resounding no to both of those questions. However, to vindicate his case in the chase of Jordan, James needs to win at least five more championships, which looks to be a burdensome task with Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Kobe Bryant standing in his way.
1. Proclaim That He is Better Than Jordan
For someone who referenced himself as the Chosen One, James has been rather quiet on the Jordan debate. Does he even want to be the next MJ? That remains to be seen, as his game is more reminiscent of Magic Johnson.
If James does want to be the greatest ever, though, he needs to believe that he is.
There are many reputable people that believe that James can do it.
"I do think he [James] can be better than Michael," Charles Barkley said. "I thought I would never compare somebody to Michael Jordan. But this guy, LeBron James, he does everything well. Michael did everything well. LeBron James is just bigger, stronger, faster. That's the only difference."
"Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to play the game," Scottie Pippen said on Mike & Mike In The Morning on ESPN Radio last year. "But I may go as far as to say LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game because he is so potent offensively that not only can he score at will but he keeps everybody involved.” Keep in mind, Pippen won six championships with Jordan.
“[James] is a leader. He gets on the court, he tells people what to do … this guy can guard five [positions] … put him on anybody, he can guard him. I always felt Michael Jordan was the best player I've ever seen … I didn't think it was close … and I'm not so sure anymore … this guy is 6-9, 260 pounds and he's getting better … I know we've had great, great players through the years. He's like Magic Johnson with Michael Jordan-type skills as well,” said Jim Boeheim, who was an assistant coach on the USA Olympic Team.
"He's on that level," Wade said during the Olympics of his teammate’s potential to reach Jordan. "But he has a lot more to do to get there. I think he understands he has an unbelievable opportunity to be one of the greatest to play this game. But that's when he gets done playing, he can say that.” He added, "And it's because all he's got to do is play basketball now. He doesn't have to worry about what he hasn't done, even though it will always be something. But he got the biggest one off this back,” in reference to James winning his first of (presumably) many championships.
James has the talent, the physical prowess, and the belief of many respectable basketball icons in his ability to surpass Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time.
I like James' chances of being able to do just that, and become the undisputed Chosen One.