Lebron James means more to the Cleveland Cavailers than Michael Jordan meant to the Chicago Bulls.

during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 26, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

During Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 26, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. Image courtesy: NBA Entertainment

Yes, you read that right. Now before everyone draws out their verbal knives, hear me out.

The Lebron vs Michael Jordan Debate

When Lebron initially left the Cavs in ‘09, they went from being a 60+ win team to being a 60+ loss team. Yes. The biggest two season disparity in NBA history. In contrast, when Michael Jordan first left the Bulls, they went from being a 57 win team to a 55 win team. That’s right. Michael Jordan left that team and they won only 2 less games.  That’s how underrated his support cast was. And that is exactly how overrated Lebron’s support caste is.

Kyrie Irving is a superstar? His team consistently finished last or 2nd last in the downtrodden eastern conference! Kevin Love never even sniffed the playoffs in Minnesota. Just because these two put up great individual stats doesn’t mean they were superstars. When Lebron missed 10 games in a row this season because of injury, this team with Love and Irving went 2-8. And Lebron still dragged this team to the NBA Finals with these two out for most of the post season. It’s odd how players around Lebron suddenly seem to get better. Mozgov was losing minutes to a rookie in Denver and all of a sudden he’s an elite rim protector and pick-and-roll man? Iman Shumpert and J. R. Smith went from being unwanted commodities in NY to great defenders and spot up shooters with the Cavs? Delladova suddenly became a household name after being an unknown, undrafted backup PG?  Tristan Thompson suddenly became the best offensive rebounder in the league?

This is the effect Lebron James has on his teammates. His impact on the game both defensively and offensively is unparalleled. What he meant to this year’s Cavs team, especially in the Finals, is unfathomable. The only player to come close was when Hakeem Olajuwon took a team devoid of any All Star other than himself to the ’94 NBA Championship.

On the other, Michael Jordan lost in the playoffs to Isiah Thomas and the Bad Boy Pistons for 3 years in a row. When he reached his first NBA Finals against the Lakers, it was Scottie Pippen, not Michael Jordan who guarded Magic Johnson. MJ got destroyed by Magic every time he switched on him but Scottie Pippin’s defensive brilliance slowed Magic to a degree enough for the Bulls to win the series. In Scottie Pippin and Dennis Rodman, MJ had arguably the greatest defender and rebounder in NBA history.

I’m not in the least questioning Jordan’s greatness. I’m simply shedding some light on Lebron’s. People talk about Lebron’s legacy and being 2-4 in the Finals.

What people don’t realise is that Lebron basically took a D-league level Cavs team to the Finals in ’08 where they lost to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in their primes.

Then he lost to the Spurs in ’13 when Wade and Bosh basically disappeared in the Finals. And this season lost to the loaded Warriors after having his roster stretched to basically six role players. He became the first player in NBA Finals History to lead BOTH teams in POINTS, ASSISTS and REBOUNDS. He averaged an assist & a half shy of a triple double with 35.8 points, 8.8 assists and 13.3 rebounds. What else could the man have done?

The only loss that rests squarely on Lebron’s shoulders was the ’11 loss to the Mavs where he infamously played horrible down the stretch in the 4th quarter. From this perspective, Lebron is basically 2-1. Not so bad, is it?

I have no doubt that if Lebron can bring even one championship to the city of Cleveland in his time, it will cement his place amongst the 10 greatest players of all time. And he has earned it.

Kabir Saxena
Leave a replyComments (2)
  1. Kevin 1 year ago

    Going to call BS on this article. It reads as if you’re just repeating what you hear Jordan detractors say instead of actually doing research or having legitimate knowledge of the subject.

    Your first point examing the records ignores the fact that Lebron wasn’t the only person to leave th Cavs when they tanked the following season. Whereas when Jordan left the Bulls improved their TEAM the following season (Adding Kukoc and Kerr among others, you know, one of which was the guy that saved them from going down 0-3 to the Knicks?). Jordan was the only starter that left the Bulls. Whereas when Lebron left Cleveland, Mo Will, Jamison and Varejao were oft-injured, Shaq/Ilgauskas left and the Cavs hired a new coach. Pretty BIG differences that an honest analysis would take into account, right?

    Or better, let’s look at the Heat after Lebron left who were on pace to be competitive in the playoffs before Bosh went down for the season. Now they’re on pace compete to come out of the East. I’m intentionally ignoring additions and subtractions here because that’s what you did

    Lastly, you emphasize that they only lost 2 more regular season games as if that’s important. How about the fact they went from winning the championship 3 years in a row to losing in the 2nd round to a team they never lost against with Jordan in the picture.

    You also don’t mention how pathetically bad Lebrons path to the Finals was this season. Dellevadova wasnt a household name because of Lebron, he was gaining recognition for his dirty plays onTaj Gibson and Kyle Korver then had maybe one or two games where he played well then completely disappared afterward. If that was entirely due to Lebron, he should’ve been able to get it out of Delly more often. Tristian Thompsons offensive rebounding ability was well documented and notable BEFORE Lebron joined the Cavs, it was only highlighted because of the stage he was playing on wasnt the regular season anymore. Shumperts rep as a 3 and D player didnt change one bit and neither did Smiths rep as an erratic shooter. Mozgov has ALWAYS been regarded as a good rim protector. Lebron didn’t do anything to enhance the perception of those players

    I don’t get why MJ losing to the Pistons is cited here? He lost to those guys his first couple of years in the league. By comparison Lebron didn’t even make the playoffs his first 2 years in the league to lose to historically great teams. Moot point

    The bit about MJ guarding Magic is factually incorrect. MJ was NOT destroyed by Magic whenever he switched on him. In fact, Pippen fouled out of Game 3 with seconds left in the game with LA going up 2 and it was MJ who guarded Magic in OT, holding him to 0 points, 0 assists and 1 turnover while himself propelling the bulls to a run that would win them the game and a 2-1 series lead. He also played good defense on Magic in Game 5. Though I’m curious why you bring this up yet you don’t mention how Kawhi Leonard and Andre Iguodala nearly DOUBLED their production from other series/regular season when Lebron was guarding them in the Finals? Or we can cite other examples like Jason Terry going lights out on Lebron. Jordan was a better defender than Scottie Pippen, not as versatile to guard big men but he actually has shut down/taken great players out of the game/series when he guarded them (See Gary Payton Games, Isaiah Thomas, Reggie Miller etc). Don’t downplay Jordans defensive brilliance. Who has Lebron done this to aside from Derrick Rose?

    Lebrons performance against the Warriors was primarily stat inflation and anyone looking at it objectively can tell. He was almost a ghost in the 4th quarters of these games, one of his only baskets being a go-ahead layup no one cared to defend from him. He completely dominated the ball almost every possession and he HIMSELF admitted that he ran the shot clock down far too long on these plays. This in effect leads to a late pass to a teammate where they’re forced to shoot it. Either they make it and he gets an assist or they miss it and it hurts their FG% which makes THEM look bad but doesn’t diminish Lebrons numbers. HIs rebounding numbers were inflated as GSW employed small lineups, he was as big or BIGGER than their big men. He SHOULD be getting the boards. His scoring average is offset by the absolutely atrocious FG% he shot, which for some reason is being completely overlooked. What he COULD have done was allow the offense to flow more naturally so that players can get good looks and more confidence instead of, by his own admission, pounding the ball too much running down the clock. What he COULD have done was take more efficient shots instead of shooting below 40% in an NBA Finals series. What he COULD have done was play better defense to limit the oppositions scoring opportunities rather than having Igoudala ball out of his mind and win Finals MVP . Youtube video = zK9wLWF8TXo to see just how good Brons defense was. Then claiming the Cavs ran out of talent throwing his team under the bus when these same guys showed they were able to GET THERE and win 2 games. Lebron could’ve done a lot more actually, may have meant his averages werent as gaudy but it may have also meant he pulls out 2 more W’s

    I do believe he’ll be a Top 10 player when it’s all said and done but you do NOT, have to completely disrspect Jordans legacy with this misinformation for that to happen. Doing this only hurts your own credibility

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  2. Kevin 1 year ago

    Also the first time Bron played in the Finals, his Cavs team was hardly D-league

    The Cavaliers that season had a Top 5 defense, in fact they played great defense on Tm Duncan in the Finals bringing him to 45% shooting compared to his season averages of 55%. Pretty drastic difference highlighting that teams defensive ability. He got to the Finals in a very weak Eastern Conference (Which it still is). Beating two .500 teams in the Wizards and Nets and then beating a Pistons team without Ben Wallace and Larry Brown (A Pistons team that never regained the playoff dominance they enjoyed when they had those two)

    The Finals he lost to the spurs he was completely and utterly outplayed by Kawhi Leonard and could NOT slow him down at all, whereas Leonard held Bron to 1-6 shooting in Game 5 when he guarded him. In fact in the 4 losses Lebron scored 48% of his points when the Spurs were up 15+.

    In the Last 3 games (3-4-5) of 2014 Finals
    – Lebron allowed 13 ppg Kawhi Leonard to average 23.7 ppg on 69% in Games 3-4-5 of Finals – much more efficient than Lebron’s 27 ppg on 55% in those 3 games (14% FG difference)
    – Lebron also got out rebounded by Leonard 9.3 rpg to 7.7 rpg in those 3 games
    – Leonard also outstole Lebron in those 3 games 2.0 spg to 1.7 spg
    – Leonard also outblocked Lebron in those 3 games 2.0 bpg to 0.7 bpg
    – LeBron also had more than twice as many turnovers as Leonard (3.7 to 1.7)

    If he’s being so completely outplayed by a glorified role player in the FINALS, you can’t possibly say he has no blame in the Heat losing.

    Curious why is it that when arguing in Lebrons favor he gets the double standard treatment: He makes his teammates so much better, but then its his teammates fault that he loses

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