It’s no secret LeBron James has been chasing Michael Jordan for the status of the Greatest Of All Time. That would imply his position as at least the 2nd greatest player of the game is secure. Bill Simmons examined LeBron’s legacy and determined Steph Curry is closer to him than one might expect. Not just close, but has a very good chance to overtake him when all is said and done.
LeBron vs MJ
“Five’s not happening; I hate to break it to you.” That was Simmons’ instinctive prediction that LeBron will have four rings on his hand when he retires. The Lakers are struggling, and given their cap situation; there are no moves to make. They quietly tried to feel out interest for a Westbrook trade and found out what all of us knew - there is no interest.
The Lakers are probably not winning the title this year, and unless Anthony Davis does some magic, becomes the most durable player in the NBA, and finds some Mamba mentality on a retreat in the mountains, next year won’t be a lot different. So from an accolades standpoint, LeBron is most likely to stay at 4 rings, 4 MVPs, 4 Finals MVPs, and a whole lot of records (points, Finals appearances, etc.) That won’t cut it to challenge MJ, especially after The Last Dance did what it was made to do - remind everyone what the Michael Jordan experience was like.
” The Last Dance is interesting because LeBron wasn’t in it, and it was intentional. I do think there was some gamesmanship with that. I think he’s pretty conspicuously absent from it”, Simmons pointed out.” I think LeBron since the Last Dance has definitely been more out there on social media, weighing into things, than he used to be.”
“[LeBron] Seems way more concerned about legacy stuff, staying stuff like 'That was the hardest championships anyone's had to win, in the bubble' that he just didn't use to say. I think he's definitely been more cringey in the last 18 months.”
Bill Simmons, The BS Podcast
It’s well established by now that LeBron notices everything and that every time he publicly speaks, or posts on social media, it’s a part of a strategy. If you were to challenge MJ’s legacy, the chink in his armor is the perspective Jordan chose profit and sales over principles. “Republicans buy sneakers too” will always follow MJ, so if you won’t catch up in titles and individual accolades, maybe you can do with social issues, right?
The strategy would make sense, but the only problem is it’s hard to build a case you didn’t choose profit and sales over principles if you say Daryl Morey “wasn’t educated enough” about the situation in Hong Kong. LeBron’s deafening silence about everything going on in China while making millions on products made and sold in China won’t go away. He’s smart enough not to say it, but LeBron’s actions speak louder than words, and the message is clear - “Chinese buy (and make) sneakers too.”
So if we can safely say LeBron’s not making it to no.1, then he’s at least safe to stay at no.2 for a long time, right?
LeBron vs. Steph
The theory that Steph has a chance to finish his career ahead of Lebron is based on the fact the Warriors seem like they are ready to have another multi-year run. Simmons pointed out you have to have a longer view on this. “It’s not just about the fact they are the favorites to win this year. They’re built to be good for a while. They have their nucleus in place, Klay and Draymond aren’t that old, they have all these young people, they have trade pieces, guys like Poole and Kuminga, the Wiseman trade card, money to spend - and I think Curry’s gonna age real well.”
“Even though LeBron has 4 rings, Curry has 3. LeBron's made 10 Finals, Curry's made 5 - there's a world here that looks completely different 6-7 years from now.”
Bill Simmons, The BS Podcast
As we know, it’s not just the numbers. Steph has a great chance to match LeBron in titles won and reduce the Finals appearances gap. But when we talk about all-time rankings, it’s all about the breathtaking achievements. LeBron leading the Cavs back from a 3-1 deficit is such an achievement. I think even now, Steph has more of those moments than LeBron.
Steph is the first (and so far only) unanimous MVP in NBA history. He was the best player on a 73-9 team. Curry has as impressive of a highlight reel as LeBron does, and more importantly - Steph redefined how basketball is played. As dominant as LeBron was, he didn’t impact basketball philosophy and team building as much as Curry has.
“The fact Curry did change how basketball is played is gonna matter if he can start adding some Finals and maybe a couple of more rings [to his resume.] I think LeBron's a better player than Curry, but if you're just talking about career - Curry's impact on basketball and being at the forefront of changing how it's played, and how young people play it. It's the one thing LeBron doesn't have.”
Bill Simmons, The BS Podcast
Speaking of teambuilding...Steph will retire a Warrior, and all his titles and accolades will have happened with the team that drafted him. It can’t be overstated that LeBron’s approach to dominance was kind of parasitic. He would find a host, suck all the nutrients out, and then bail town. LeBron will never have a fanbase love him as much as Golden State loves Curry. To me, that could be the most important point in Steph’s favor.
Not just what his achievements are, but how Curry got there. We often jump to “who’d win 1-on-1” when a question like this is asked. No doubt, LeBron wins 99 out of 100. But when we’re talking all-time NBA careers, you have to keep in mind it’s a conversation about more than an individual matchup. Consider someone’s full body of work and the legacy they left behind.
Given all that, I agree with Simmons. Steph’s not only close but has a strong case to overtake LeBron when all is said and done.