Scottie Pippen got in a lot of trouble a few weeks ago for making the ludicrous statement that LeBron might be better than Michael Jordan. And by “a lot of trouble,” I mean the over-sensationalized, melodramatic, yell-about-it-on-PTI kind of trouble from the media. How dare he compare an indecisive, disloyal, cocky 26-year-old to a 6-time champion, 5-time MVP and 14-time All-Star?
I’ll admit, the devil’s advocate in me impulsively jumped to defend Pippen. Not that I originally thought LeBron was better than MJ necessarily; I just thought it was a case of “too soon to tell” and a little unfair to immediately bash Scottie. I was all, “How can you really compare two players when one is still in the league and has likely 10+ years left in him? Who’s to say that LeBron won’t one day win more rings and MVP awards? Who’s to say that he’s reached his full potential? What’s your basis for comparison anyways?”
Then I actually thought about it. I read Joe Posnanski’s “Point After” piece on it in this week’s Sports Illustrated. As a high school kid in North Carolina, Joe idolized and emulated MJ when he played at UNC. He bought the shoes and has personal tug-at-the-heartstringsÂ memories of Jordan’s glory days. LeBron doesn’t have the MVP awards (and probably won’t if he stays in Miami with Wade and Bosh) and the championship rings.
But more than that, LeBron doesn’t bring the competitive intensity MJ had. He doesn’t have the heart. The “chip-on-your-shoulder” attitude. (And this was evident even before his Game 4 8-point performance.)Â LeBron didn’t have to. He was blessed withÂ natural athleticism. Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Told that he was too weak, not cut out for it, would never make it. And that instilled in MJ a unique kind of stick-to-itiveness that eventually led him to greatness.
LeBron will have his moments. He’ll make incredible plays MJ was never physically capable of and he’ll win all kinds of awards. But when push comes to shove, he won’t show the same level of determination as MJ. He won’t push through in the face of adversity.
And so I’ve finally come around to the mainstream view: MJ > LeBron for sure. But not because of the rings or number of points or rebounds he had. MJ didn’t have LeBron’s natural talent to rely on. And the fierce intensity this bred will always make MJ greater than LeBron in my mind. Even if LeBron wins 7 championships, 6 MVPs and goes to the All-Star gameÂ 15 times.