If there was any doubt about his greatness, LeBron James shut them down on Sunday night after he took the Los Angeles Lakers to claim the NBA championship, 17th in franchise story and 4th in Bron’s personal collection. Bron cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players in history, getting closer to Michael Jordan, widely considered the greatest of all time.
James has always compared himself to His Airness, but that appears to be a mistake for the 35-year-old, who has stated he’s chasing that ‘ghost from Chicago’ in recent years. However, that’s not the comparison to make when it comes to LeBron. According to David Aldridge, editor-in-chief of The Athletic D.C and one of the most famous sideline reporters in the game, LeBron’s career and style of play are more similar to Magic Johnson than Michael Jordan.
Via The Athletic:
We are here because James insisted on putting it out there in 2016 — he thinks his historical adversary is Jordan. But, he’s wrong.
The more accurate comparison for James is not Jordan, at all. It’s Magic Johnson. It’s always been Magic. He won five titles as a player, playing an outsize role in re-establishing the very franchise James has now brought its 17th championship, the Lakers.
If we’re going to go through with this insipid exercise, though, let’s at least compare apples with apples:
Magic and LeBron were both their team’s primary ballhandlers, no matter the position at which they were listed.
Magic’s Lakers made nine NBA Finals in his 12 “real” seasons, winning five championships; James’ teams have made 10 finals in his 17 seasons — including nine of the last 10 with the Heat, Cavaliers and Lakers since 2011 — and won four. Magic played in 50 finals games during his career; Sunday was James’ 55th finals appearance.
Magic won three league MVP awards and three finals MVP awards; James has won four league MVPs and four finals MVPs. Magic played in 12 All-Star games. LeBron has played in 16 All-Star games. Magic was All-Star MVP twice; LeBron has been All-Star MVP three times.
Magic is fifth all-time in league history in assists (10,141); James is currently eighth. Magic was first-team All-NBA nine times; James has been first-team 13 times. Magic had 30 postseason triple-doubles; LeBron has 28.
The numbers would likely be even closer if Magic could have declared for the draft out of high school, as LeBron did, rather than playing two years at Michigan State before coming into the NBA at 20, after winning a national championship as a sophomore in 1979.
Aldridge also compared Bron’s style of play with Magic’s, reminding everybody that they are two excellent passers.
LeBron can score with the best of them, to be sure — you don’t reach third all-time on the NBA’s scoring list, with the odds good he’ll catch Karl Malone, at least, for second, behind Kareem, by being a shrinking violet. (And, even early in his career — as the Pistons can attest — LeBron could carry a team in the postseason as the primary scorer.) But what separates LeBron from everyone else his size — with the exception of one Earvin Johnson — is his lethal passing. It’s what makes him so incredibly impactful, night after night, even when his shot isn’t falling.
James’ hard right-to-left dribble diagonally across the paint, followed by a pinpoint pass to the opposite right corner, is a pass I’ve never seen anyone else try, much less execute on a regular basis. The alley-oops to Anthony Davis are reminiscent of his lobs to Dwyane Wade back in the day (though, of course, it was Wade diming up James in Milwaukee in 2010 that produced one of the most iconic hoops photographs of all time). Magic tried passes that defied description every night and energized his team with his dimes much more than his scoring.
This idea has been getting more supporters in recent times. LeBron might be fighting to be called the GOAT but his direct competition wasn’t and isn’t Michael Jordan. He shares a lot of similarities with Magic Johnson and that’s the comparison we should be making, although comparisons will always be hateful.