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Culture Shock

Jordan vs. James, the debate rages on


As the NBA Finals continue and LeBron James continues to put up astounding stat lines, it is impossible not to bring up the Michael Jordan/LeBron James comparison. Although this will always be a controversial topic, people need to understand that they are two completely different players. Michael Jordan was a scoring juggernaut that could not be stopped from putting the ball in the hoop. Whether he was getting to the rim, pulling up from 15 feet, or shooting from 3, it did not matter. Jordan was going to score and he was going to do it efficiently (his career shooting percentage, 49.7 percent, validates that statement). LeBron James is also unstoppable offensively, but in a completely different manner. Yes, he can score, (although not as efficiently as MJ) but what makes LeBron great is his ability to get into the lane whenever he wants. He can draw two, sometimes three defenders while possessing the rare ability to find the open man every single time. They are both extraordinary talents, but when watching each of them play it really is not difficult to tell how different they are from each other in terms of style of play.

In these finals, the Warriors’ game plan is to 'let' LeBron go for 40 by not doubling him because they realize that he is most dangerous when he is getting his teammates involved. Does anybody in their right mind think any team would have ‘let’ Jordan go for 40 when he was in his prime? Not a chance. If any team did, Jordan could literally go for 65-plus every night, simply because he is a much better shooter (to put it lightly) and a more efficient scorer than LeBron. In contrast to LeBron, Jordan was at his best when putting the ball in the hoop. He was by no means horrible at getting his teammates involved, but it was not his first option. LeBron draws defenders and passes as his first option, then scores as his second. Jordan would only pass to teammates when he was being doubled. Simply put, LeBron will never be as great of a scoring threat as Michael Jordan, but that does not mean he cannot be as great of an offensive threat. James is clearly a better rebounder and passer, but what he lacks is the ability to create a shot for himself down the stretch of tight games. He lacks the ‘killer instinct’ Jordan clearly had in his prime.

If you were a coach and you were given one player to take a game winning shot for you in the closing seconds of a playoff game, there is no doubt every single coach would choose Jordan over LeBron. Most would choose Kobe over LeBron, and some coaches might even have a long list of people they’d choose over LeBron. The bottom line is LeBron probably won’t ever be the kind of player to deliver go-ahead field goals late in games simply because he lacks the offensive abilities. Jordan had the quickest first step the game has ever seen at his size, along with one of the deadliest step backs ever. Combine that with how great of a shooter he was, and he was going to get a great shot off at the end of games every single time. LeBron, at 6-foot-8, 260 pounds, does not have that first step explosiveness Jordan had and relies on being bigger than any perimeter player that guards him in order to get to the rim. Consequently, he does not have that kind of step-back jumper Jordan had which is why there are times at the end of games when he finds himself shooting a go-ahead shot that is just not a good shot (like the end of regulation shot in Game 1 of the finals). And even if he does free up space for a jump shot, he is not nearly as good of a shooter as Jordan in order to hit it.

Regardless of the fact that Jordan and LeBron are two different types of players, the comparisons between the two will never stop. But what the deciding factor will ultimately come down to is rings. Jordan went 6-0 and never even had to play a game 7, which is truly remarkable. For LeBron fans to say that he has already passed Jordan as the greatest ever is ludicrous. He has to get to at least four rings to even be considered. If he gets to five then the comparison will reach more scrutiny than ever before. If somehow James makes it to six or more rings while continuing to be the focal point in each of those championships, he will go down as the greatest of all time. And if James finds a way to lead this undermanned Cleveland team to his third championship, he is on that pace.

Follow Brian on Twitter @MischlerBrian


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