Point/Counterpoint: Who's better — Michael Jordan or LeBron James?

BY DI STAFF | FEBRUARY 21, 2013 5:00 AM

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Michael Jordan

I don’t know why this is even a debate. Michael Jordan is hands-down the greatest player in NBA history.

Now there’s no doubt whether LeBron James is the better athlete (although I can’t see LeBron being able to be competitive in profession baseball). LeBron is 6-8, 250 pounds and has the speed of an NFL receiver. But he’s not the better player.

If you gave Jordan the body of James, I don’t think he would have ever lost a game.

There are stories of Jordan telling his defenders exactly what he was going to do, then doing it. Magic Johnson said in a tweet that he’d take Michael over LeBron 10 times out of 10, noting that Jordan is the “ultimate” one-on-one player.

In fact, Charlotte Bobcat rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, age 19, even told reporters that Jordan, 50, beat him one on one. That’s a 30-year difference. Even today he’s taking down NBA players mano y mano.

Jordan demanded perfection form his teammates — and got it.

Jordan achieved perfection. MJ won every single NBA Finals series he was in— and won Finals MVP every time. The ship has already sailed on James’ road to perfection. The self-proclaimed King was swept in the 2007 Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.

Think about who Jordan played against compared with James. James’ greatest peer, in terms of ability, is Kobe Bryant, and possibility Kevin Durant. His Airness played in an era that had nine of the 50 greatest players of all time as voted by former players and media, including Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Larry Bird.

James wore the number 23 in high school and as a Cavalier, a nod to his idol, Jordan. There’s a reason he switched though — number 23 is retired in Miami.  Until James has his jersey number retired at teams that he has never played for, MJ will be better than LJ.

— by Kevin Glueck

LeBron James

In terms of skill set and skill set alone, LeBron James is a better player than Michael Jordan. Jordan is without a doubt one of the best basketball players of all time, probably the standalone best.

But the league has evolved since Jordan’s days.

In today’s NBA, it takes more than a sweet shooting stroke to survive with all of the height and talent in the game. James brings all of that and more to the table every night. This is a 6-8 guy that weighs every bit of 250 who has the ball control and passing ability of a point guard while also being almost unstoppable in the paint. He’s developed his jumper continually in each of his seasons.

LeBron is also one of the NBA’s elite defenders, and rightfully so: He can guard anyone at any position and get rebounds. LeBron has come close to earning a triple double in almost every game this season. Michael never did that.

In all honesty though, it’s probably not fair to compare the two. 

Jordan was without a doubt the best player in basketball in the late-80s and ’90s. James is without a doubt the best player currently in the NBA. Jordan’s career has long since finished. James is entering the peak of his career.

Jordan was a shooting guard. James is a power forward. It’s like comparing Dwight Howard to Rajon Rondo.

Jordan won six championships, James one, but rings aren’t a determining factor of a player’s skill. Brian Scalabrine has a ring. Is he as good as James? You do the math.

What doesn’t make sense is why we feel the need to compare the two. James and Jordan will never be able to play against each other, so why does it matter who would win one on one?

What also doesn’t matter is James’ decision to join the Big 3 in Miami. Jordan didn’t win a single one of his championships “on his own,” as some people say. Scottie Pippen was Jordan’s Dwayne Wade, and Dennis Rodman was Dennis Rodman.

Hopefully, now that Michael Jordan’s birthday has passed, this discussion will be over for a while — as it should be.

In the meantime, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

— by Matt Cabel

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