In the ever-ongoing search for content while sports remain in recess, First Take decided to tackle the LeBron James/Michael Jordan debate, though they decided to leave the arguments about who's the superior player to Skip and Shannon over at FS1. Instead, the crew used their Wednesday to debate if LeBron's brand will ever surpass Jordan's on a worldwide scale.
Stephen A. Smith said he wouldn't rule it out.
And Jay Williams said the power of the Jordan brand will remain unmatched, perhaps for a very long time.
No matter where you fall on the "Greatest of All Time" spectrum, Jordan and LeBron are unmatched in their icon status. They're the only two players who have their own pantheon both within and outside of sports. Their presences transcend basketball, and are the only names that belong in a discussion like this.
Williams is right when talking about the power of the Jordan Brand. People who have no intention of ever watching a basketball game, much less play one, still buy Jordans because they're, well, Jordans. Whether you're in Uzbekistan or Los Angeles, everyone knows the Jordan Brand. This especially applies to players who have come into the league this century and the ones who will follow in the decades to come. Superstars will want to rep Jordan Brand, and that alone will keep Jordan's name in discussion circles for as long as it exists.
But that and his legacy as a basketball player are all Jordan has. Those are both nearly immeasurable in their power and reach, of course, and to say that's "all" he has is selling it short. But, as Stephen A. Smith explained, LeBron has his hands in many a cookie jar. He has Uninterrupted. He has his Promise school. His social media platforms reach hundreds of millions of people.
LeBron is living in a different era than Jordan. He doesn't have his own brand like the Jordan Brand, but his star power is amplified by the society we live in, with unlimited information at everyone's fingertips. It is not ridiculous to think that a good majority of the seven billion people that live in the world know who he is. Jordan was like that back in the 90s, but if you hear international players talk about his influence, the only way to engage with Jordan content was to buy his sneakers and watch grainy VHS tapes of his plays. Maybe grainy YouTube highlights if the player in question is young enough. Simply by virtue of how the world has developed, LeBron's reach could be farther than Jordan's ever was.
That's not the case right now. But in my eyes, it will eventually be the case, and perhaps sooner than we think. LeBron wields the power he has to enact change, the type of change that will linger long after he's gone. And, as Smith poignantly points out, he's only 35. This is his first act, with several more yet to come. With the money and influence he'll earn in his final years in the league, the sky might not even be the limit.
Nobody will supplant the Jordan Brand, but LeBron's will shine brighter. It's just a matter of when.