LeBron James is the best player in the world and has been for at least 10 years. There isn't a player in the modern era who has consistently dominated the game like The King. Naturally, he will draw comparisons to Michael Jordan who might be the best to ever play professional basketball.
But one thing is factual: LeBron James has 4 rings, and at 36 years of age, getting swept in the first round is going to make it harder for him to get to 6 rings. By the time LeBron will find himself in the playoffs again for the Lakers, he will be 37 years of age. That certainly is another mountain for The King to climb to cement his legacy. The only thing left for LeBron to achieve is more rings.
Michael Jordan is the standard for all Hall of Fame players, and other than Bill Russell with 11 rings, he has the number of championships that players strive for. As great as LeBron James has been, making 17 All-Star Teams and 16 All-NBA Teams, he needs 2 more NBA championships otherwise he will never be the greatest of all time over Michael Jordan. Here are the 5 major factors why.
LeBron James Had 3 Superteams, Michael Jordan Only Had Pippen
LeBron James broke the media when he decided to join the Miami Heat via the nationally televised program known as "The Decision". While the actual announcement was a publicity stunt, he decided to join the Miami Heat that was very groundbreaking. We did not see a player take matters into his own hands and form a superteam on his own, and he formed the most talented team in the league alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
That was the first superteam LeBron played for, and he went 2-2 in the NBA Finals over 4 years. He lost in 2011 in possibly one of the worst choke jobs in Finals history, won 2 straight, and then lost in 2014 to the rampant San Antonio Spurs. Of course, LeBron then formed a second superteam when he joined 2012 Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving and All-Star Kevin Love (traded for the No. 1 pick). LeBron went 1-4 in the Finals with the Cavaliers, but his 3rd ring in 2016 was The King's greatest achievement.
His third superteam was formed in Los Angeles once Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers. LeBron and Davis won last year by dominating the playoffs from the first round until the Finals. That makes it a total of 3 superteams to win 4 rings with a 4-6 Finals record. On the flip side, Michael Jordan only needed Scottie Pippen.
Jordan and Pippen won 6 rings during 2 separate 3-peats, while the rest of the roster was filled with role players. LeBron James had better teammates over 3 superteams but still does not have the Finals record nor the championships that Jordan has.
Other All-Time Greats Have More Than 4 Rings: Bill Russell, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan
It is hard to place LeBron James above all players if other top-10 players have more championships than him. We compare LeBron to Jordan, but there are other all-time greats such as Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, and Tim Duncan who have more rings. Of course, Bill Russell has 11 rings but he is in a complete category of his own.
Even when not counting Bill Russell, LeBron has some catching up to do. For many Lakers and Spurs fans, James has yet to even grab 5 NBA championships let alone 6. Magic won all 5 with the Lakers and so did Kobe Bryant. Tim Duncan won all 5 with the Spurs. Jordan got his with the Bulls. Each one of these superstars stayed the course, dominated the game, and reaped the benefits.
It is hard to argue that LeBron James, even when playing for 3 separate franchises, couldn't win 5 championships and his time might be running out. If LeBron can't get to 5 rings, he certainly can't get to 6.
Michael Jordan Is Perfect In The Finals, LeBron James Has A Losing Record
Something about 6-0 in the Finals with 6 Championships and 6 Finals MVPs sounds so perfect. That is Jordan's track record of winning in the Finals, to which Bill Russell only compares (actually no one compares to Russell who went 11-1 in the Finals). Jordan's Bulls were good enough to make the Finals 6 times and each time they won without ever seeing a Game 7.
Jordan, the ultra competitor, finished off each and every all-time great opponent before they had a chance to take a Game 7. Whether it was Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, or Magic Johnson; Michael Jordan always won. On the other side, LeBron James has a disappointing 4-6 in the NBA Finals.
Every time when LeBron was the driving force, his teams were good enough to make 10 Finals appearances. While a couple of those losses are hardly counted against James due to the quality of opponents, there is no defending The King's putrid 2011 Finals performance. The Heat should have won that series with their Big Three, but LeBron played well below his capabilities.
Jordan never played a notch below his capabilities and always elevated his game in the Finals. The most important part of playing basketball is winning and no one did it better than Jordan, which gives His Airness the edge over LeBron James and anyone else.
LeBron James Has Longevity… But That Crown Belongs To Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The biggest argument for LeBron James is his sustained greatness over 18 NBA seasons. Coming into the NBA with the spotlight on him from the first game of the season, he has exceeded expectations by staying healthy for so long and dominating the game. In terms of longevity, James has the edge over Jordan.
But even in terms of longevity, James isn't the greatest ever. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is. Kareem played 20 seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, even making All-Star Teams at ages 40 and 41. Kareem was consistently great and might be the most decorated player ever. During that span, he has amassed the most points in NBA history and his accolades speak for themselves (19 All-Star Teams, 6 Championships, 6 MVPs).
But if we are considering longevity as the deciding factor in the GOAT debate, Kareem is the best player ever and not LeBron or Jordan. But clearly, that is not the only criteria we use. LeBron has more points in the regular season and playoffs than Jordan and played much longer in the league. But many don't consider Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the greater player than Jordan and the same should apply to LeBron James.
6 Championships, 6 Finals MVPs, 5 MVPs Beat 4 Championships, 4 Finals MVPs, 4 MVPs
LeBron James has incredible achievements, but they do not compare to Michael Jordan's. His Airness has 6 titles, 6 Finals MVPs, and 5 MVPs compared to LeBron's 4 rings, 4 Finals MVPs, and 4 rings. As great as LeBron James is, those are factual evidence that Jordan achieved more when it came to dominance and winning.
LeBron James certainly had his chances to win 6 rings, but a surprising 2011 loss and even the 2014 loss against the Spurs are questionable. LeBron should have at least 5 rings but even then, it doesn't match up to Jordan. Michael Jordan was the best player in the NBA by his rookie season and by his third year, many were convinced he was the greatest ever.
LeBron came in with a ton of hype but he shared a lot of the spotlight (and winning) with Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan during his era. LeBron may have longevity on his side, but when it comes to the cold hard facts, Jordan's 6 rings and 6 Finals MVPs are the end of the debate.