by Julian McKenzie

If you ask people who the greatest basketball player of all-time is, you’re more than likely going to hear the answer “Michael Jordan”. You may have heard of him.
His accolades speaks for himself: six-time NBA champion and six-time Finals MVP, five regular season MVPs, fourteen All-Star appearances, ten scoring titles. The commercials, endorsements, and influence he had on a number of players, fans, and even sneakerheads who will push, trample, and kill for Jordan Brand shoes.
It has gotten to the point that a soundbyte, article, or Facebook post that suggests the greatness of “His Airness” could ever be eclipsed by one LeBron James is soon met with skepticism, disagreement, shock, and an absolute refusal of such a notion.
“Stop bro”
“I don’t watch basketball but I’m gonna say nah”
“…can [LeBron] be in the same sentence as Kobe first and then we can wonder maybe if he can pass Jordan?…”
“nope, never ever. no matter what.”
LeBron’s resume isn’t better than Jordan’s, but it’s getting there: two NBA championships and two NBA Finals MVP trophies, 11-time All-Star, and four regular season MVP trophies.
LeBron only has one scoring title, but one of the joys of his game is his selflessness and ability to make everybody better, making him comparable to Magic Johnson and not Michael Jordan.

Recently, former Detroit Piston Bad Boy Bill Laimbeer said there was “no question” he’d take LeBron over Michael Jordan on NBCSN’s The Dan Patrick Show, and of course there were staunch defenders of Jordan’s legacy, but critics also pointed to how Laimbeer’s Pistons and Bulls clashed repeatedly in the 80s, and that Laimbeer himself didn’t like Jordan.
The most blasphemous endorsement of LeBron over Jordan came from MJ’s wingman, Scottie Pippen, which led to ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith calling for Pippen, jokingly or not, to be banned from the city of Chicago.
Debaters will oft maintain that they respect and admire LeBron’s greatness, and when it is all said and done, he will likely end up as one of the greatest players to ever play.
But why can’t some sports fans, like some of Jordan’s contemporaries, just accept the fact that he just might end up being THE greatest to play?
“nope, never ever. no matter what.”
There are the few who point to his shortcomings such as leaving Cleveland to go to Miami, his disappearance act in the 2011 Finals, and even the cramps he’s suffered on the court. Of course, his record in the NBA Finals won’t help him much. His most recent loss to the Golden State Warriors brings his record to 2-4 all-time in the championship series.
While those shortcomings are chinks in King James’s armour, he has done more than enough to rise from the ashes and begin to stake his claim for greatest of all the time (or GOAT, as the kids say). His individual play in this year’s Finals may provide some of the strongest arguments for LeBron’s case for “greatest of all-time” in a few years.
Through the first three games in this series, LeBron has scored 123 points through three games, an NBA finals record. According to ESPN, LeBron accounted for 38.3 per cent of his team’s points throughout the series. LeBron also led all players in points (35.8), rebounds (13.3), assists (8.8), the first NBA player to do so, yet was still wrongfully snubbed from the Finals MVP award.
That’s without ⅔ of his “Big Three” of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. LeBron has to rely on former Knicks JR Smith, Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert, as well as the scrappy Matthew Dellavedova. They’re hardly Pippen and Dennis Rodman.
ESPN statistician Nate Silver has even compared LeBron and Michael Jordan’s supporting casts. LeBron’s 2015 cast, according to “leverage-and minute-weighted statistical plus/minus talent for the best player’s teammates, through the conference finals”, has been ranked 60th out of all 62 teams that have ever made it to the NBA Finals.
All that against the Golden State Warriors, the team with the best record in this past regular season, and this year’s MVP in Steph Curry, who looked lost at times in his Finals debut, but still did enough to give his team a NBA Finals victory.
Despite LeBron’s Herculean efforts in this year’s Finals, there are still detractors. There are those who point to Dellavedova, Mozgov, and even Canadian Tristan Thompson, as “preservers of LeBron’s legacy”, crediting them when LeBron can’t make a shot. There is no doubt that LeBron’s role players have done a solid job in keeping the Cavaliers in the Finals, but where would they be without LeBron’s play?
These arguments are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of comparing MJ to Bron. Size and skill is another talking point. The adjustments that the NBA has done for both players in their eras. Still, it won’t matter to some Michael Jordan defenders.
Even if LeBron follows through with his promise to be better for next season and improves his projected totals by a gazillion, it won’t matter because LeBron will never be loved in their eyes.
“nope, never ever. no matter what.”
Yes, LeBron will need three more rings to equal Michael Jordan (he’ll need eight more to equal Bill Russell, who has 11 by the way). He’ll need two more to equal Kobe Bryant. Championship rings are not the be-all and end-all for “best player of all-time” arguments but it doesn’t mean they should be excluded from the conversation entirely.
There are a number of stats, records, and accomplishments that LeBron will need to do before he could lay claim to best basketball player of all-time. Jordan is still the man.
However, LeBron’s not done yet, he is after all only 30 years of age. He isn’t too far away from being the best, most iconic player of this generation, if he isn’t already. So stop saying “nope, never ever. no matter what.”  and consider the idea that Jordan could one day be better than LeBron.