NBA Miami Heat

5 Reasons LeBron James Will Never Be Better Than Michael Jordan

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5 Reasons LeBron James Will Never Be Better Than Michael Jordan

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Josh D. Weiss-US Presswire

There’s no longer a question of who the best basketball player in the NBA is right now. Until last June, some people still claimed LeBron James couldn’t be considered the best player until he won an NBA Championship. Well, check that one off the list. With that win, James erased many doubters and vaulted himself into the role of Face-of-the-NBA. Say “so long” to Kobe Bryant.

Now the question becomes, can James ever surpass Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player ever? He recently won his fourth MVP award, putting him one behind Jordan and two behind record holder Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s six. Oh, and he’s only 28 years old.

James’ physical talents are transcendent. At 6’8, 250 pounds, (that’s a little low if you ask me) he’s built like a post player, but has the skill set to be a legitimate point guard. In fact, earlier in his career, James brought the ball up the floor much more than he does now. When his Cleveland Cavaliers team failed to win the championship, there was speculation that James needed to play in the post more. So, in the 2011 offseason, he worked with NBA Hall-of-Famer Hakeem Olajuwon on footwork in the post. It’s an added dimension to his game that makes him look truly unstoppable at times.

However, Jordan is NBA royalty, considered by many the greatest player ever. Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell have the astounding individual scoring and rebounding statistics, but they played in an era where few games were on television, thus reducing their overall appeal. Abdul-Jabbar has the career statistics and reputation as a winner, but benefitted from playing with another pillar of the NBA, Magic Johnson. And unless Kobe Bryant can capture his sixth NBA title, he’ll always be behind Jordan in terms of ranking.

So it stands to reason that James is the only threat to Jordan’s throne. Is it possible that James will surpass Jordan as the greatest player ever? Perhaps. But here are five reasons why I don’t think James will ever be considered better than Jordan.

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5.) The Decision

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Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Like it or not, James’ televised announcement of where he’d be signing in free agency will always be in the recesses of our collective minds. His now infamous, “I’ll be taking my talents to South Beach” line has been mocked ever since the words left his mouth. Many took pleasure in the Miami Heat’s failure to win a championship in his first year with the team, a lot of which made for TV events. It’s possible, as the years pass, that people will slowly forget about that self-aggrandizing prime time event, but not me.

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4.) NBA Popularity

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan came into the NBA at a time when its popularity was at an all-time high. The Larry Bird/Magic Johnson rivalry captivated the country and made the NBA playoffs must see TV. Jordan took the game to new heights with his acrobatic style and knack for hitting game-winning shots. The post-Jordan era saw a decline in the popularity of the NBA for a couple of reasons.

One, there wasn’t a transcendent superstar or rivalry to focus on. Yes, Shaquille O’Neal was incredible, but back to the basket post players aren’t as popular as slashing, jumping shooting guards. Two, the popularity of the NFL sky-rocketed, stealing fans from the NBA. James plays in a time where the NBA simply isn’t as popular as it was when Jordan played. As a result, he loses overall appeal.

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3.) Marketing

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Steve Mitchell-US Presswire

The NBA’s popularity increase in the 1980s also afforded Jordan tremendous marketing opportunities. Jordan and Nike were perfect for one another. Their marketing campaign focused on Jordan’s rare jumping ability and the shoes he was jumping in. Every kid wanted to be Jordan, so naturally they wanted to wear his Nike sneakers.

James makes plenty of money marketing himself, don’t feel bad, but he doesn’t have the appeal that Jordan did. In fact, I still get Gatorade’s “Be Like Mike” jingle stuck in my head a couple decades later. It was the perfect player and the perfect marketing environment and something James can’t replicate.

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2.) Clutch Factor

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Photo Courtesy: Solecollector.com

Jordan’s career can be remembered by the big shots he seemed to hit every time he was given the chance. From his series-ending foul line jumper against Craig Ehlo and the Cavs, to his push-off NBA winning jumper against the Utah Jazz, Jordan was a man of the moment.

James hasn’t had many of those moments at this point in his career. He did hit a ridiculous game-winner against the Orlando Magic in the 2009 playoffs, but that’s been the anomaly, not the norm. He’s been criticized for passing up the big shot more than Jordan, even though Jordan’s team won big games on shots by John Paxson and Steve Kerr. But by that point, Jordan had earned a reputation as a cold-blooded assassin in late-game situations. To this point in his career, James doesn’t have that reputation, though I suppose that could change in the future.

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1.) Championships

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Photo Courtesy: Bleacher Report

If any player wants to be in the conversation with Michael Jordan, they need to reach his six NBA Championships. Without those titles, Jordan supporters have the ultimate trump card. It doesn’t matter how many regular-season MVPs James has if he can’t get to six titles. It’s an incredible standard to meet, but that’s the reality of Jordan. He set the bar at an almost unreachable height.

So it’s possible for James to move past Jordan as the greatest of all-time, but it’s going to take a lot more work. Six titles, a handful of memorable game-winning shots and a reputation as a guy who refused to lose. It’s possible, but I wouldn’t count on it.