LeBron’s 4th NBA title has people talking about his GOAT status yet again. It seems as if LeBron cannot just be celebrated for his own greatness instead of constant comparisons to the great Michael Jordan, but this is the world of competitive basketball. Kobe had to deal with it, and now LeBron has to deal with it. While MJ is widely recognized as the single greatest player ever, LeBron has managed to light the fire again.
As great as LeBron James is, since he’s a hybrid player between Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, he simply isn’t as great as Air Jordan. MJ accomplished too much in the game in a relatively condensed time frame to place any player close to him. This is why it is unfair to compare LeBron James to Michael Jordan because he will never get there. Even if LeBron wins 6 rings by the time he retires, he will always be in Jordan’s shadow.
Here are the 6 reasons why 6 NBA titles don’t mean LeBron is as great as Michael Jordan.
6. Shying Away From The Moment
For whatever reason, LeBron James has had many moments where his heart and also his killer instinct has been questioned. This was never the case with Michael Jordan at any stage of his career, because he was the single most driven and competitive athlete in team sports. Jordan was renowned for scaring his opponents and even his own teammates with how focused and dominant he was, something LeBron James just never was. LeBron is a very likable guy, and that might come to his detriment.
LeBron James has always been a player that can let you off the hook. This means when the going gets tough, he is liable to not step on the gas and take matters into his own hands. Rather, he has had many instances where he seemingly quits or doesn’t show the killer will that Jordan had. Not to mention, Jordan had tremendous respect and fear from his foes, to the point of praise. LeBron James, although admired and respected by younger players, has been called a B-word by Draymond Green in an NBA Finals. Would that have ever happened to Michael Jordan? Of course not.
5. Career Failures
The next reason why LeBron James will never be as great as Michael Jordan is the severity of LeBron’s failures. Perhaps the single greatest black mark on a Hall of Famer’s career has been the 2011 Finals disappearance by LeBron James. Since LeBron James has been known to shrink in the moment, he completely let his team down despite being the heavy favorites with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh by his side. All LeBron had to do was play to his normal standards and Miami probably would have won the series, but he was well below them. Jordan never flamed out that badly in a Finals, rather he went undefeated in all of his appearances.
LeBron also has been blamed for “quitting” on his team by his team owner Dan Gilbert, something that will never be uttered about Michael Jordan. Critics of LeBron always point to the 2009 series against the Magic and later the 2010 series against the Celtics as moments he quit on his teammates. Not to mention, LeBron never competed in a Dunk Contest (while every pantheon great has) mainly due to fear of failure, and he also passed up a final 1 vs 1 battle with Kobe Bryant in an All-Star game in crunch time. Too much evidence to ignore if he wants to be the GOAT.
4. Running To Form Superteams
The greatest player of all time should feel that he has enough to win NBA titles on his own, as crazy as that sounds. Michael Jordan had it, and even Kobe Bryant had it. MJ knew he was the best player in the world, and wanted to prove it by destroying all opposition. The thought of him joining some other great players like Larry Bird or Magic Johnson would have made him sick to his stomach, and that is why he won all his championships with the Chicago Bulls.
While MJ had Scottie Pippen and later Dennis Rodman, he did not have the luxury of the superteams that LeBron James formed. When the going got tough in Cleveland, LeBron joined forces with Dwyane Wade (top-3 player at that time) and Chris Bosh (top-20 player at that time) to shortcut a way to the title. Unfortunately, he managed to flame out in 2011 and had to learn how to win by suffering failure. When the going got tough in Miami, he went back to Cleveland once they had superstar Kyrie Irving and the first overall pick which became Kevin Love. Of course, after Cleveland, he bolts to Los Angeles where everybody knew Anthony Davis’s arrival was imminent.
LeBron James is a 4-time NBA champion and has been the undisputed best player on all his teams, which he deserves all the credit for. But when comparing to Michael Jordan, every little fact counts and the fact he played with at least 4 Hall of Famers to win 4 rings in 10 tries doesn’t match up to what MJ accomplished with Scottie Pippen and later Dennis Rodman.
4. A Losing Finals Record 4-6
LeBron James is a great player who carried many average teams deep into the playoffs. It is for this fact that he is consistently remembered for being one of the greatest all-around talents and impactful talents of all time. He has the size, skills, and natural talent to dominate the game of basketball and that is why he reached the Finals so many times. But his losing Finals record is not a very pretty sight when talking about the greatest player ever.
LeBron James might have made more NBA Finals than Jordan, 10 to 6, but he managed to have 6 total losses. Some of these losses are very questionable, especially with the talent James had on his team. James even got swept twice in the Finals which is very strange for a player of his caliber and talent. He is the first player in 20 years to get swept in the Finals twice. Not to mention, LeBron James has shown too many instances when he doesn’t take the big shots when he needs to. Kyrie Irving delivered in the 2016 Finals with a game-winner to help LeBron win his 3rd ring, and most recently passing up a shot attempt to Danny Green in Game 5 of the NBA Finals this year, which ended up missing. LeBron was lucky enough to have all-time clutch shot makers in his career such as Ray Allen and Kyrie Irving to help him win rings, but he has shown he doesn’t shoot the big shots when he is supposed to.
One thing about MJ, he didn’t make the Finals every year, but when he did he won every time. MJ was not the type of player to falter in critical moments and made sure he killed all competition when he had the squad around him. LeBron playing in the East for the majority of his career might have helped him make more Finals appearances, but he did not make the most of it when competing against other great teams. He lost to the Spurs twice, Golden State 3 times, and the Dallas Mavericks once. LeBron’s various Finals defeats is certainly a mark against his great career, and gives the undefeated Finals performer Michael Jordan the advantage.
3. Individual Accolades
LeBron James might be the best all-around NBA player of all time. He has the physical ability to dominate the boards and on defense, and the skillset to be the primary scorer and playmaker on his team. In many ways, James is an unstoppable force. That is why he can carry any team on his back and lead them to regular-season wins. He affects the game in every way and is often dubbed “The King” during the regular season.
But even with all of LeBron’s success on the court, LeBron cannot match the number of individual accolades that Michael Jordan has. LeBron won 4 MVPs, Jordan has 5. MJ captured a whopping 10 scoring titles over his career, while LeBron only managed to win 1. Jordan was the best offensive player in his era while LeBron has never had that case made for him. LeBron’s career PPG average of 27.1 is extremely solid (4th all-time) but MJ has a PPG average of 30.1 (1st all-time). Michael Jordan has won the Defensive Player of the Year Award and made 9 All-NBA Defensive Teams in his career. LeBron never won the DPOY Award and made the All-NBA Defensive Team 6 times.
The most important accolades are saved for last, in the final reason why LeBron will never usurp Michael Jordan.
1. 6-0, 6 Titles, 6 Finals MVPs Without A Game 7
The single greatest achievement in Michael Jordan’s career is not his 10 scoring titles, his Defensive Player of the Year honors, or even his iconic shoe line. It’s the fact that Michael Jordan won all 6 of his NBA Finals appearances and earned the Finals MVPs 6 times. To top it off even more, MJ never even let his opponent have hope for a Game 7. When Jordan played in the Finals, he was the undisputed star of the series and he always played above his usual production. He never flamed out, never feared the moment, and knew how to be a killer since Day 1. He is truly one of a kind.
Even if LeBron James wins the next 2 NBA titles, a 6-0 record is just much better than a 6-6 record. It took Jordan 6 trips to capture 6 rings, while it might take LeBron at least 12 to get his 6. Add to the fact that LeBron has had tremendous teammates all his career, he might have been able to make his Finals record look a little nicer. Further adding to the fact that James doesn’t have Jordan’s killer instinct and doesn’t meet Jordan’s accolades makes it a done deal that LeBron James will never surpass Michael Jordan as the GOAT. He will go down as one of the 5 greatest players ever without a doubt, but that number one spot looks solidified forever.