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