The comparison between Michael Jordan and LeBron James is one of the hottest debates among NBA fans for years now. After Kobe Bryant retired from the NBA, LeBron asserted himself as the next player in line that had the opportunity to surpass Jordan as one of the greatest NBA players of all-time. Fans have different arguments on why one is better than the other, and there is always a lack of narrative in which people shouldn’t diminish one’s greatness to elevate the other person more.
Philadelphia 76ers head coach, Doc Rivers, played against Jordan numerous times in the ’80s and the 90’s and saw the struggle he went through before he won his first championship. In an interview with Ian Thomsen, Rivers gave the most thoughtful analysis of the two players. He wants fans to know the different paths these two legends took when they became professionals.
It took Michael seven years to win an NBA title. It’s because he didn’t trust the system; he wanted to dominate by himself. He didn’t get the importance of using his teammates and using everyone else, but no one criticized Michael back then.Doc Rivers, via Ian Thomsen
Something that people often forget is the different circumstances under which these players came into the league. Jordan was a star in college, and people knew he would be a good player, but since he wasn’t the number one pick in the draft in a league dominated by centers, there were some doubts about his success. On the other hand, LeBron came in as a number one pick in a great draft when the league became a more guard and forward-driven environment. Rivers explains how all eyes were on LeBron before he played in his first professional game, and he still overachieved with everything he accomplished so far in his career.
The difference between Michael and LeBron is that when Michael came into the league, he surprised everyone how great he was. When LeBron came into the league, they expected him to be great, so it was already on him. Michael, in some ways, we allowed him to grow into greatness. We didn’t allow LeBron that, and he is still overachieved. LeBron is better than everybody ever thought.Doc Rivers, via Ian Thomsen
Rivers had the opportunity to face LeBron on multiple occasions during his coaching career when he was leading the Boston Celtics. First, as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and after with the Miami Heat, Rivers had the opportunity to witness LeBron’s development first hand. Now, as a head coach of the Clippers, Rivers will have to go through the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron if he wants to win another championship.
You should go back and read articles about LeBron coming into the NBA and then say he overachieved that. It’s remarkable. He rarely gets heard, he always shows up, he’s had some of the biggest clutch games in NBA history, yet no one knows it.
LeBron has been incredibly consistent ever since he entered the NBA 18 years ago, and even though a lot of people don’t like him for various reasons, undermining his greatness is not fair. As Rivers said, LeBron won every single accolade he possibly could, and if you are going to measure greatness by the number of championships won, that is fair, and in that case, Jordan is superior. However, LeBron is one of the best athletes of the 21st century and deserves respect for everything he’s been doing for the game of basketball throughout the last 18 years.