Answering the GOAT Debate: It’s Not LeBron
A few months ago, after LeBron James broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time NBA regular season scoring record. I wrote about LeBron entering the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) debate.
Well, after watching the remainder of this season and seeing LeBron's Los Angeles Lakers get swept in Western Conference Finals by the Denver Nuggets, I don't think there is any doubt who the greatest basketball player of all time is.
And it's NOT LeBron James (pictured above).
It's a man out of Wilmington, North Carolina. Who helped the University of North Carolina win the 1982 National Championship. Who won two Olympic gold medals, and was the main reason that the Chicago Bulls won six NBA titles in the 1990's...
His name is Michael Jeffrey Jordan. Let me explain why Jordan was/is a better player.
MJ's WILL TO WIN
His will to win is maybe the best all-time in the history of American sports. The last two championships the Chicago Bulls won in 1997 & 1998 (both six-game Finals victories over the Utah Jazz) are a testament to that. Neither of those Bulls teams were better than Utah. In fact, those Bulls teams were probably lottery teams without Jordan. But Jordan willed that team to two championships. One guy made all the difference. It's just that simple sometimes.
The closest LeBron came to that was in 2007, when he almost single-handedly led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. They were not as good as the Detroit Pistons, but he willed them to victory over Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals. They then got swept in the Finals by San Antonio. MJ would've at least made the Finals a competitive series.
MJ's WAS A MUCH BETTER COMPETITOR
Jordan was way mentally and physically tougher than LeBron ever has been. MJ played in a much more physical league in the 1980's and 1990's than it is now. After his Bulls team lost to the Pistons in the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals, MJ built up his body so he could take the physical poundings that he had trouble with early in his career. As a result, three NBA titles followed before he retired the first time (in 1993).
Even though LeBron is more physically gifted than Jordan was (at 6-9 and 260 lbs.), he tends to settle for jumpers too much and tends to sulk and pout excessively if he doesn't get a call or just doesn't get his own way on the court.
Also, LeBron has said publicly that he thinks he's the best ever. Jordan didn't have to tell people that, he already knew it. Advantage Jordan.
MJ WAS A BETTER LEADER
Jordan was maniacal about winning. In his prime, he didn't let anybody get in the way of him winning the NBA title, let alone his own teammates. He fought with teammates in practice if they weren't putting out the effort. Just ask former teammate Will Perdue. MJ didn't like the physical screens that Perdue was setting in practice and he was ready to fight. But head coach Phil Jackson kicked them both out of practice before Perdue (who was 7-0 and 260 lbs.) could do physical harm to Jordan.
LeBron just doesn't seem to be as assertive as Jordan in this regard. And never has been.
MJ WAS MORE COACHABLE
This is obvious. Jordan played for the great Dean Smith in college, for Bobby Knight and Chuck Daly on two Olympic teams, and for Phil Jackson for the majority of his pro career. All Hall of Famers, deservedly so.
Even though MJ had issues initially with Phil Jackson when Jackson instituted the Triangle Offense when he took over the Bulls in 1989, Jordan learned to accept it and he actually thrived in it. He accepted coaching because he respected the guys I just mentioned above. And he never got any of his coaches fired in the NBA. He even retired a second time because the Bulls weren't going to bring back Jackson in 1998.
LeBron isn't as coachable. He never played in college so he didn't play for someone who was powerful enough to make him listen to him (like a Coach K, Jay Wright, or Tom Izzo). He had issues in Cleveland with Mike Brown and David Blatt and had a hand in getting those guys fired. Star players are tough to coach, but Jordan was more coachable than LeBron ever has been.
FINALLY, JORDAN NEVER LOST IN THE FINALS
I know that LeBron has been to 10 NBA Finals compared to Jordan's 6. But LeBron is only 4-6 in the Finals. Jordan is 6-0 in the Finals, and never faced a seventh and deciding game in the Finals. LeBron played in two 7th games in the NBA Finals and won them both (in 2013 and 2016). But the fact that Jordan never even faced a 7th game in the Finals gives him the advantage.
This article is going to sound like I think LeBron sucks. And that is FAR from the truth. He is one of the ten greatest players of all-time, without discussion. He is the closest combination of "Magic" Johnson and Michael Jordan that we've seen in one player. He is my all-time starting small forward, as you'll see below.
But we've been hearing from the media that LeBron is "The Chosen One" since he was 16 years old. We've been told that he's going to be the Greatest Player of All Time before he even graduated high school in Akron, Ohio. And he just isn't the GOAT. He's not.
The top floor of the GOAT debate has "No Vacancy" on it. It is reserved for Michael Jordan until further notice, and that's all there is to it.