It’s a tired debate at this point, but one that we’ll continue to chase until the next great NBA player comes along: Michael Jordan or LeBron James? LeBron’s career is hardly finished, but now that he’s grabbed that elusive NBA title, the comparisons have been flying in and players, coaches and fans have been weighing in. Jim Boeheim, who was an assistant coach on the 2012 gold medal winning USA basketball team, saw LeBron first hand, and it shook up his pre-conceived notion of the greatest player ever debate.
Here’s what he said to Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio, via Syracuse.com:
“I’ve always thought Michael Jordan was the best player that I’ve ever seen. I always have and and I didn’t think it was close. I’m not so sure any more. And I love Michael Jordan. I’m not so sure anymore. This guy is 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, and he’s getting better. He works on his game. His shooting is getting better. He’s a phenomenal, phenomenal basketball player. I love this game, I love the history of this game. I know we’ve had great, great players through the years. He’s like Magic Johnson with Michael Jordan-type skills as well.”
High praise, especially from one of the few coaches in basketball who has coached through all these generations of NBA greats. But enough, already. These cross-generational comparisons are futile, in that we’ll never actually know what’s what. Unless you pluck 1992 Michael Jordan and stick him in today’s NBA, we’ll never know what his stats would have been like, whether he would have won six championships, etc.
The only somewhat definitive proclamations we can make remain within eras – or, at the very least, players that played against each other or in the same generation of the NBA. Kobe and LeBron, Shaq, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. And even then it’s still difficult to say, because some players (Garnett) are riddled with mediocre sidekicks, wasting away their primes on non-contenders. Championships ultimately skew everything, which is intuitively ironic. We can’t consider basketball a team game reliant on chemistry and familiarity, and then attempt to extract individuals with a singular barometer. What the right formula is, who knows.
All of this conversation takes away from appreciation, the real reason why we even watch basketball in the first place. That LeBron James could so seemlessly coexist with any player on the floor, that Chris Paul can orchestrate an offense with such fluidity, that Kevin Durant is 6-11 and also happens to be one of the greatest shooters ever at the age of 23. Someone will chime in on this debate again and we’ll rehash it once more. But in the meantime, just appreciate LeBron’s greatness and confine the inane discussions to sports talk radio.
What do you think?
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