The Great MJ-LBJ Debate and Why It Needs To End

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Sonny Fimple

Bengals diehard. Washed up college baseball player looking to get in tune with my creative side. Pete Rose belongs in the HOF, convince me otherwise. #SignedJT

In life, we are somehow manipulated into making these things we call choices. Left or right, up or down, ketchup or mustard and so on and so forth. Even when talking about two of the greatest living beings to have ever graced the hardwood, we are tasked with a choice that boils down to either team LeBron James or Michael Jordan. You simply HAVE to pick a side in the MJ-LBJ debate

There is this imaginary belief in the MJ-LBJ debate that you can only choose one or the other. Why not be able to identify the greatness in both? For me, this debate seems to have overstayed its welcome. Nevertheless, it is one that will hold its own eternal value and years from now may still be one of the league’s most prized discussions.

LeBron vs. Jordan

The MJ-LBJ debate has become a centerpiece for all who follow the game of basketball, at times transcending the game itself into our everyday lives. To some, Jordan represents a sense of invincibility that LeBron has yet to sustain or accomplish, and may never accomplish. On the flip side of this coin, the name Jordan only represents some overrated guy on a sneaker, while the name LeBron James serves as a symbol of the new age of pro basketball in its purest form, both on and off the court.

Die-hard Jordan fanatics would never even consider giving LeBron the title of the greatest of all time. It would be a cardinal sin to even think such. LeBron freaks think the best is yet to come, and who knows? With Anthony Davis likely to stay in SoCal, it may very well be on its way. With that being said let’s get down to the nitty gritty and have a look at each of their storied individual careers. Warning, the following content may be sensitive to those who have already made up their mind on the matter.

Tale of the Tape

Photo from Mike Powell, Getty Images

When discussing the MJ-LBJ debate, it is virtually impossible not to talk about the accolades each one has garnered in their respected careers. Let’s start with the almighty Michael Jordan. 5,987 points in 179 playoff games. In his playoff appearances, Jordan averages 33.4 points, 33.2 percent from downtown, and is 82.8 percent from the free throw line, which can be deadly in crucial situations. Jordan scored 32,292 points (avg. 30.1 ppg.), 6,672 rebounds, 2,514 steals, 5,633 assists in over 41 thousand minutes played across 1,072 regular season games. Yeah the guy is good, like really good.

On top those whopping numbers, he led the once-decrepit Chicago Bulls to two three-peats (6x NBA champion), is a 14x All Star, 10x NBA First Team, 2x Olympic Gold medalist, starred in Space Jam, and most importantly, pioneered his way to having his own McDonald’s meal, which I would take over Travis Scott’s any day. Jordan was the man. If The Last Dance taught me anything about Jordan, it was that he was an absolute machine in every aspect imaginable.

On to LeBron…

Photo from Getty Images

LeBron James is no shy competitor when it comes to the stat sheet. LeBron has played in 1,265 games and counting, racking up 34,241 career points (avg. 27.1 ppg.), shoots about 50 percent from the field, averages 34.4 percent from three and shoots about 73.4 percent from the charity stripe. LBJ has 7,491 points in 260 playoff appearances (avg. 28.8 ppg.), 2,348 rebounds, 1,871 assists and shoots at about 74.1 percent from the line in the postseason. LeBron is a 4x NBA champion, 4x Finals MVP and 4x NBA MVP. He is also a 16x All Star, 3x NBA All Star game MVP, 13x All-NBA First Team, 2x Olympic Gold Medalist (also has a bronze), will star in the upcoming Space Jam: A New Legacy and is a globally-renowned cultural icon.

What Does it All Mean?

Amidst the chaos of all of those statistics that could go on for days, you’re probably wondering what it all sums up to. Basically, it represents that each player in the MJ-LBJ debate has changed the game of basketball in their own specific way, which is pretty obvious.

LeBron clinched his 4th NBA title on Sunday night; this is a feat in its own right. The Stephen A. Smiths of the world come up with the narrative that LeBron is playing in a much softer era than Jordan. Sure, maybe LeBron wasn’t tasked with facing the Bad Boys from Detroit or Barkley’s Phoenix Suns, but to say LeBron hasn’t faced talented organizations would be what he calls blasphemous.

LeBron in the Playoffs

Many point out that LeBron has been to 10 NBA Finals and only has 4 titles to show for it. Yes, Michael Jordan was 6-0 in the NBA Finals, which is a phenomenal feat all on its own, but to still have 4 Finals rings lying around the house is pretty damn impressive considering he was MVP in each of those victories.

LeBron has stumbled at times when his team needed him the most, as shown in the 2011 NBA Finals, which has put a stain on his Finals resume. Scoring only eight points in a Finals game is certainly not going to add to your legacy, especially against the 2011 Mavericks. This is a perfect transition into to the idea of team loyalty.

Some call LeBron a ring chaser with no longevity or loyalty to the teams he plays for. He took an underwhelming ’07 Cavs team to the Finals where they would be swept by Pop’s Spurs. A few short years later, he took his talent to South Beach with D. Wade and Chris Bosh. After winning two chips there, he headed back to Cleveland to finish what he started. Add another title to the mix, and shortly after, he decided to head for the hills in Los Angeles with Anthony Davis in pursuit of his 4th title. He got there Sunday night, then proclaimed to the masses “I want my damn respect.”

Supporting Casts

Each team James has shifted to had no shortage of a supporting cast. Jordan on the other hand, seemed to have helped build the Bulls from the ground up. Practically playing his entire career in the Windy City, MJ was a firm foundation for a franchise to build around. With guys like Pippen and “The Worm” Dennis Rodman to help him, the 90’s Bulls achieved a legendary status that has yet to be duplicated by an NBA franchise. Regardless, LeBron and Jordan both helped revitalize the careers of those around them in the ultimate expedition of gold.

In The End, It Doesn’t Even Matter

The MJ-LBJ debate could go on and on. LeBron looks to be hungrier than ever. Jordan has long been retired since the end of his Wizards stint. I never got to fully experience the magic of MJ. since I was born mere weeks before his second three-peat in ’98. I’m sure it was spectacular. I was three when he thought he could recapture the magic with the Wizards. That only sent him back into retirement, however.

LeBron is my equivalent to MJ. He’s the guy I see on the Wheaties box or in the Olympics and even on those quirky Sprite Christmas commercials I look forward to every year. Middle school me even used to rock a pair of LeBron’s in gym class; what a sight I’m sure that was.

Even though I have become so accustomed to the greatness that is LeBron, anyone who ever disrespects Jordan should never be allowed to watch a single game of basketball again. Each man has defied expectation and each man has become a symbol of their own generation. Can’t we just agree that these two men are a breed of their own? A breed that basks in greatness and a combined 10x championship glory? There is no right or wrong in this discussion, so please let these men coexist as the legends they are. LeBron may not be the guy I would want to take the final shot, but please, for the love of God, to all the Skips and Stephen A’s, just give LeBron his damn respect.

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