Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Everything You Need to Know
Dribbles. Post up! Sky hooks. Now that you know I understand basketball, let’s get right to it: Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James—who’s really the greatest of all time (GOAT)? Even if you don’t care about the sport, I’m here to give you all the information you need to pick your side in this intense debate.
First off, you have to remember that LeBron is playing in a totally different N.B.A. than the one Jordan played in. In some ways, the defense is more, but in other ways it’s, like, where did the defense go? So, that’s a lot to think about.
M.J. came to the N.B.A. after three seasons of college ball, but LeBron joined right out of high school. That sounds like it might go in LeBron’s favor, but you know what it actually means: LeBron probably spent his whole first season saying things like “Man, I know I graduated, but I keep feeling like I have a Social Studies paper due tomorrow!” and that must have been super annoying, so, clear point for M.J.
Now, think about both players in their prime. Who would you rather have playing on your team? BEFORE YOU ANSWER, let me FINISH and say what kind of team I’m talking about. O.K.? O.K. Thank you. Now, to be clear, I am talking about a basketball team.
Real talk, guys: I grew up in Chicago, but it’s getting harder and harder to insist that Michael Jordan is still the GOAT! This may or may not be true, but trust me and walk around repeating that sentence. If you’re trying to get cast in a movie in the role of Guy from Your High School Who Writes Long Facebook Posts About Sports in a Tone That Implies “I Clearly Believe That One Day Someone from ESPN Is Going to Read These and Hire Me on the Spot” Even Though They Get at Most Three Pity Likes—you’ll get the part.
But back to the debate: Who would you rather have putting baby powder on your baby? Your first instinct is LeBron, right? Because of that whole chalk-clapping thing he does? But consider this: What if that means LeBron would try to keep all of the baby powder for himself, to practice his clapping? As you can see, there are no easy answers here.
And, look, if we’re talking about who is the most self-conscious about his forearms (and so is always hiding them in those tight sleevies), then LeBron is the clear winner. But, as every sports editor I have ever worked for has reminded me, that is literally never what we are talking about.
Quick interjection: if the argument ever gets too heated, you can always ease the tension by saying, “Hey, at least we can agree that ‘Space Jam’ was amazing!” If this seems to make your interlocutor angrier, look more closely at his face. Whoops. Are you talking with Anthony Minghella, the director of “The English Patient”? Well, no wonder he’s mad—“The English Patient” came out the exact same day as “Space Jam,” so of course it’s a sensitive subject. Point: LeBron.
Off-the-court stuff matters, too. While LeBron is socially active, M.J. is seen as the guy who just wanted to play basketball, avoid controversy, and do that thing where he stuck his tongue out a lot. But what they don’t tell you is that M.J. was secretly politically active. During local elections, he would stick out his tongue either left or right, to indicate the candidate he supported. Once, when his favored candidate lost, he spent a week with his tongue out halfway, out of respect. Another time, when a teammate’s pet lizard died tragically, he darted his tongue out several times in rapid succession, as though to say, I’m sorry your lizard can no longer do this.
Here’s something else: we spend all this time fighting about whether M.J. or LeBron is the greatest that we completely forget about Tim Duncan! I’m not saying anyone thinks he’s the greatest, I’m just saying we completely forgot about him.
To really have this debate be fair, you need to imagine each player in the other’s era. Take LeBron in 2018, and then rewind—suddenly, it’s 1998. Then 1988. 1958. Wait, 1588?! Your rewinding machine is broken! LeBron is disappearing into deep time! Fast forward again to 2018 to get help. You scream and scream, and, finally, someone comes. Who is it? It’s me, in my annoying voice, saying, “Why do we still call it ‘rewinding’ when we don’t use tape and so are not technically ‘winding’ anything?” Now it’s too late. LeBron is somewhere in dinosaur times, somehow leading a team of microraptors to their first N.B.A. Finals.
As you can see, there are really no easy answers here. There is a legitimate case to be made for either player, and that’s why this debate is so good. It may just be the Michael Jordan of debates.
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June 6, 2018 at 12:13PM