It’s a conversation we’ll have in five, 10, 15, 20 years – mainly because it’s a conversation we’re already having now.
When it’s all said and done, who will be the greatest basketball player of all time: Michael Jordan or LeBron James?
“Michael, the things he accomplished as a competitor, just with his effort, with his great will – he just never took anything off,” best-selling author Roland Lazenby said on CBS Sports Radio’s Reiter Than You. “Every possession, offense, defense, all that pressure – he took that all on himself. In an age when basketball was much, much, much more physical, he took the physical beating to be a champion.”
And he was certainly that. Jordan won six NBA titles, not to mention Olympic gold, not to mention a national championship at North Carolina.
“Michael, in a lot of ways, has never gotten the credit for having the character to play in an offense like he did at North Carolina, which allows him to show none of his individual ability, really,” said Lazenby, the author of Michael Jordan: The Life. “And at every step along the way, it wasn’t always pretty in the sense that there was plenty of conflict, but one guy like LeBron can be the master of his time and be an all-time great, and that really doesn’t detract from Michael Jordan, in my personal opinion.”
Still, if James wants to surpass Jordan, Lazenby said, he simply needs to keep doing what he’s doing: winning.
James, for whatever it’s worth, also has perhaps the better story.
“I don’t think people understand the culture of abuse that LeBron came out of as a child in terms of all kinds of substance abuse and things in the community and (being) raised by a single mother,” Lazenby said. “But he had so many people step in to help usher him and his mother to a point where things could become stable for him. But to have that young guy – an only child – rise up and become the man of the NBA (and) all that that conveys, how he carries himself, the decisions he’s made – he has been a superstar in every sense of the word.”