Thank you Dwyane Wade for being a responsible adult, and scolding some of the young’ns running around these days. Even though the two of them are teammates, even though they just won a championship together, and even though LeBron James is on his way to a top-10 career in the NBA, Wade was realistic when someone asked him if his buddy could one day top Michael Jordan. Wade’s response? That would be a long road, and very, very difficult.
“I don’t know if (James) has the ability to surpass (Jordan) or not,” Wade told ESPNChicago.com on Thursday during a promotional event for his Wade’s World Foundation. “That’s yet to be seen. My version as LeBron being on par with Michael is this: They’re both on the golf course. Michael’s on the 18th hole. LeBron is somewhere on like the fourth hole. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s on par to get to the 18th hole.
“I think everyone knows that (James) is a phenomenal, phenomenal player. He’s one that we haven’t seen, with the makeup of a 6-8 guy who runs as fast as any point guard, jumps as high as any center, and has the ability that he has to do so many things. But Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time, that’s who everyone shoots for. So it’s going to be hard to surpass that.”
Titles don’t come easy, but with the way Miami is set up – three big-time players all in their prime, and the only competition is old (Lakers) or may not stay together (OKC) – it’s not crazy to see them winning two or three more rings before this era ends. I’ve had a number of fans tell me you can’t even make the comparison unless James wins six championships. What if he “only” wins three or four, but still dominates at a level we haven’t seen since MJ? Magic only won five championships (and only three Finals MVPs), but there are many who still argue HE was the greatest ever. Bill Russell won more than twice as many as that, Wilt Chamberlain more than twice fewer. The championships = legacy thing isn’t so black and white. The truth is somewhere in-between.
At age 27, Jordan was in the midst of his seventh season, and was rolling towards his first NBA championship. At age 27, LeBron is going into his 10th season and is coming off his first NBA championship. Here are some more numbers to pick at (this is all pre-28 years old… Jordan technically turned 28 during his first championship season, but I will count it anyways):
MJ – 7
LeBron – 8
MJ – 2
LeBron – 3
MJ – 1
LeBron – 1
Rookie of the Year:
MJ – 1
LeBron – 1
All-NBA First Team:
MJ – 5
LeBron – 6
All-Defensive First Team:
MJ – 4
LeBron – 4
Defensive Player of the Year:
MJ – 1
LeBron – 0
MJ – 509 games, 16,596 points, 3,186 rebounds, 3,018 assists
AVERAGE – 32.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists
LeBron – 689 games, 19,045 points, 4,943 rebounds, 4,751 assists
AVERAGE – 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists
I’ll be the first to admit I always thought ‘Bron’s stats were somewhat altered because of the system he played in for so long in Cleveland, which was basically: give it to LeBron, run screen-n-rolls for 90 percent of the game, and ‘Bron, you either shoot or if someone’s open, dish it off. It worked. Sort of. And probably helped his numbers (although they haven’t exactly dropped much since he came to South Beach).
At the same time, James does have an advantage: he came in out of high school, and Jordan went on his baseball hiatus for basically two full seasons. By the time LeBron hits 32 years old, he’ll be in his 14th season in the league. At the same age, Jordan (if you take away his shortened year coming off retirement in ’95, and his second year in the league when an injury pretty much knocked out the entire season) had only played eight full seasons. That’s a pretty big head start.
Of course it’ll be hard for anyone to EVER top Jordan. It’s not every day someone retires with five MVPs (six in the Finals), six rings, all the individual awards you can possibly win, over 32,000 career points, a reputation as the nastiest, most ruthless competitor ever, and a sneaker legacy that’ll have you live on far longer than your career. Wade has it right. It will be difficult. As he put it, shooting a par through four holes is tough, but doing it through 18 is going to take the best outing of your life.
For the sake of the game, and us, let’s hope LeBron makes it interesting.
So far, what grade would you give LeBron’s career?
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