We’ve been saying it since LeBron had the greatest Finals performance in NBA history in 2016, stunning the Warriors in an epic comeback: The LeBron James/Michael Jordan debate is much closer than many people think.
From LeBron’s more impressive resume, to his six straight trips to the Finals (about to be seven), there are a litany of reasons to put Jordan 1A in NBA history, and LeBron 1B. With a title this year, I’ve said LeBron will pass Jordan in the annals of NBA history.
Just in case you were sick of hearing about LeBron vs Jordan from us, here’s Jeff Van Gundy on Zach Lowe’s podcast talking about the LeBron-Jordan debate:
"The conversation is relevant right now, whether he wins another championship or not … he’s playing at peak prime production and efficiency this late in his career … the conversation is already relevant. I’m not going to go as much on Championships … if you’re going to talk about best careers, there’s no way you can say it’s not close. It’s close. Already. If he runs off another 2-3 years like he’s going at right now, you’re talking about 17 years like this? It’s going to be amazing."
Van Gundy famously coached against Jordan in the 1990s during the Bulls-Knicks wars, and got eliminated by MJ in the 1996 playoffs. He’s been announcing LeBron’s games for years on ABC/ESPN.
Even the usually mild-mannered Zach Lowe jumped into the Jordan/LeBron debate – he actually started it at 11:45 in the podcast:
"If they somehow win the title … if they get to the Finals and beat this Warriors team, the Lebron- Jordan thing is now a debate. I know that’s sacrilegious … if he has 4 rings to 6, and he beats a 73-win team and then beats that same team again with Kevin Durant … and he’s on pace to be perhaps the leading scorer in the history of the NBA and one of the 3-4 best passers ever … I’m out of ways to describe it and praise it … if they actually pull this off, that conversation now begins in earnest."
Here’s where I think we continue to underestimate LeBron, if that’s possible. Gambling details from the early 1990s are difficult to find, but by many accounts, Jordan was favored in five of the six NBA Finals he appeared in. Had the better team. The only one was his first, against Magic’s Lakers at the end of their dynasty.
LeBron was an underdog the last two years against Golden State, and he was in his first Finals appearance against the Spurs in 2007. He’ll be the underdog again in the 2017 Finals vs Golden State.
Weaker supporting casts? LeBron. Tougher opponents? LeBron. It all adds up to LeBron’s right there.