Since he first came into the league, a mere 18 year old straight out of high school, Lebron James was crowned king of the NBA. Before he ever played his first professional game he was already labeled as the ‘new Michael Jordan’. Jordan was undoubtedly a one of a kind player-persona combination. A star so big he shone all over the world. Thanks to him, the National Basketball Association became the most popular sports league on the planet during the 1990’s. His second retirement in 98’ left a hole not only in basketball fans’ hearts, but also in the NBA’s pockets.
For a while it seemed as if things could just go back to normal. I mean before there was Michael Jordan, there was no need for a ‘face of the league’, so why should there be now that he was retired. The truth was, that the NBA stumbled upon a formula that worked and in order to keep the marketability of their product they needed some more of that MJ stardust.
Indeed, the people’s need for a savior and a “rare” star that ‘shines above the rest’ was evident. They were yearning for that same feeling they got when Jordan cross-shoved Brian Russell for what became his last championship winning shot. They missed his uncompromising winner attitude and his knack for making seemingly impossible plays somehow look easy.
The year was 2003 and it has been 5 years since MJ’s second departure and last championship. The dysfunctional “Shaq-Kobe Dynasty” was in power. Kobe bore close resemblance skill wise, but wasn’t there in terms of his persona. Always preferring to portray the bad guy, he was at best a hard sell for the league. Shaq on the other hand, being the positive figure that he was, provided a great show, but (as later explained) couldn’t, from his position in the paint, present a real alternative to the league’s last true face. Therefore, when the people in power spotted Lebron’s star-potential (which he unarguably has), they knew exactly what they had to do. They had to use his stardust to bake a cake called ‘post-Jordan NBA’. It was a simple recipe that called for media hype mixed with some undeniably impressive numbers and they shoved it down people’s throats till they liked it.
Now, I do not intend to list and compare entire career statistics for MJ and Lebron. It would be futile and tedious work that will ultimately prove nothing new. I mean, we know they are both some of the game’s greats; there is no question there. But a quick overview of even the most untrained eye over both players’ charts would uncover a few basic patterns. The main one being: “Lebron is the youngest in league history to achieve…”
While giving LBJ much of the credibility that supports his huge fan base of “BeLiebronners”, this pattern stems solely from the fact that King James came into the league already a proven force straight out of high school. His Incredible athleticism, a rare combination of immense size and great agility and quickness, coupled with an above average basketball intelligence made him a legitimate NBA star already in his rookie season.
He simply and literally outgrew any other ‘straight outta high school’ NBA prospect that came before him. His listed weight (245 lbs.) is 20 to 30 pounds more than any other small forward in the NBA. Using this mismatch to its full potential, ‘the freight train’, as called by some, enjoys battering his defender/s on his way to the basket. Additionally, many sports analysts’ wet dream of seeing James play pro football further supports this idea of him overpowering and oversizing any league player who could even get close to matching his agility. Never in the history of the NBA has a player been so physically dominant in a ‘non center’ position.
This leads me to my next and most important point. It is true that Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain are three of the greatest to ever play the game. They dominated the paint in their respective eras and used their size advantage (and the absence of the 3 second rule yet to be established) to score the most points and get the most championships in history! If so, how come we’re not impressed? How come none of them are really ever seriously considered for the title “best NBA player ever”?
The answer is very simple: they just weren’t talented enough. Its one thing to bash and thump your defender on your way to the basket, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to skillfully bamboozle 3 or 4 defenders in a way that leaves even them in a state of admiration. And that is something MJ used to do on a regular basis.
So, in essence, we appreciate Lebron’s great point scoring ability, which is well reflected in his stats and stems directly from his overpowering and pummeling his opponents. It is not to say that Lebron isn’t a great basketball player, heck, if he continues racking up points and winning championships he could even one day become one of the game’s all time greats.
King James could be just like some of the other greats I had mentioned earlier, whom with a lot of elbow grease and shear physical power made their way into the exclusive “top 10 of all time” list. These lot never quite captured our imagination but they were extremely effective in their own right and LBJ is very much one of them. So although Lebron may be today’s king and tomorrow’s hall of famer, it would be unjust to even try to compare him with MJ. For everyone knows a king is only temporary, but a true God is forever.