So the NBA Finals are finally over. Well, I shouldn’t say “finally over” because they were ended pretty quickly and decisively. The Spurs pummeled the Heat in 5 games. Incidentally, I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet but I did predict the Spurs in 5. Heat fans nearly laughed me out of the barber shop, but wisdom is vindicated by its children. We now see that superb team play is superior to individual superstardom. Every time.

Which brings me back to the ubiquitous conversation. Who is greater? Michael Jordan or Lebron James?

Actually, I can’t even believe people ask the question. Lebron is a physical specimen and a truly good player. But he’s not the greatest of all times—not by a long shot. He lacks what the greatest has—the ability to will his team to a win in the most critical situations, like game 5 when you’re down 3-1. For all his athletic prowess—which is considerable—and all his marvelous stats—which fill the sheets—you kinda watch Lebron waiting for him to not take over.

You never watched MJ that way! You watched Mike leaning off the edge of your seat, in a Pavlovian slobber, having been trained to expect that the next time he touched the ball or his team needed a play he would come through. Nothing like repeat performance to create future expectation. Without doubt, Jordan is the greater player of the two and arguably the greatest of all time.

Now, I need to give a little truth in advertising here. I’m a Lebron “hater.” Have been since he left Cleveland the way he left Cleveland. But, you need to know this, too. I’m an NC State alum, which means I’m a Jordan “hater,” too. Had to be. It’s a matter of team loyalty. Well, I hated on Jordan while he was at Carolina and for his first several years in Chicago. But like most others who at some pointed wanted to “hate” on him, Jordan eventually closed my mouth and made me a fan of his on court excellence. Lebron has yet to close my mouth.

What about you? Who’s the greatest in your opinion?

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27 Comments

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Kareem Abdul Jabbar, hands down, I thought we settled this last year.

  • Avatar daveski says:

    Thabiti, MJ is the G.O.A.T. It’s not even a close race in my opinion. Here’s why:

    1. Jordan never lost an NBA Finals. He’s 6 for 6.
    2. Jordan had two three-peats despite taking time off to attempt to play baseball.
    3. Jordan was the Finals MVP in every Finals he went to and won.
    4. Jordan had a will to win that is unparalleled. (Lebron cares too much what people think and he doesn’t want to be seen as a villain. This is why he passes up so many last second shots and opts to pass.)
    5. Lebron is 2-3 in the Finals.
    6. Jordan’s shoes look better! (I kid, I kid)

    d.

  • Avatar Thabiti says:

    Hey Daveski,

    You’re right. The stats speak for themselves.

    And thanks, Isaac, for the final graphic there with titles, finals mvps, and league mvps. What’s interesting about that graphic is that Lebron has twice as many league mvps as he does titles and finals mvps. He far surpasses Kobe and has twice as many as Duncan.

    Now what does this tell us? We could say it means he’s twice the player as those guys. But it’s probably more accurate to say he’s getting significant individual accolades but hasn’t shown the ability to make his teams great. Which is ironic given how often he’s touted for being an unselfish player. Frankly, it seems he’s unselfish at precisely the times he’s supposed to be most selfish and dominant at individual play. Til he reverses that he’ll still be almost as good as Jordan.

    T-

  • Avatar Thabiti says:

    See… there you go with that ol’ head perspective ;-).

  • Avatar Leython Williams says:

    You can’t be the GREATEST ever if you require another (great) player to get you the ball. To be the GREATEST basketball player ever, you must have the ability to create your OWN shot…this rules out Kareem, Wilt, and Bill in my book.
    MJ hands down!

  • Avatar MarkSingleton says:

    I’m just sayin, Bill Russell tho???? This doesn’t mention College Championships. Dude just straight won. ALL THE TIME.

    I already heard it from Denny Burk and John O about the era he played in. But seriously though. Era or not, this is ridiculous.

  • Avatar Leython Williams says:

    Right on, pastor T! LeBron is bigger, faster, and stronger than Jordan…but I can’t see him ever being greater. “The greatest” distinction carries an intangible that was evident in watching Jordan be the greatest…in the greatest moments…on the greatest stage (6 out of 6 times)!
    One can be great without that intangible, like LeBron is…but that’s all the difference between being great and the greatest.

  • Avatar Thabiti says:

    Okay… I’m almost persuaded on Russell on two counts: number of championships and quality of team play. Imagine a player as dominant as Michael on a team like the Spurs.

    Oh… wait… that would be Michael playing for the Bulls!

    For me, these are different eras. But I think you then have to ask, “What makes them different eras?” In part, Michael made it a different era. Like Julius Erving before him, he redefined the game from everything from aesthetics (baggy shorts, bald head, hoop earring, own shoe) to the level of physical and intellectual play. Mike introduced a new era in the sport. So when we say “different era,” I think we have to acknowledge that part of what makes the eras different is the quality of play, and that has a lot to do with the quality of the player.

    So, I love Russell. And Trip Lee says I look like him :-). But I still have to say Mike is the reigning GOAT.

    T-

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    “Create your own shot”, you mean like the “sky hook”. Based on your definition, he’s in a league all by himself.

  • Avatar Thabiti says:

    Leython that’s a really great point, brother!

  • Avatar Thabiti says:

    No, he means bring the ball up the court, create off the dribble and finish–whether in the lane or with a jumper. We’d never seen Kareem, Wilt or Russell do that… though they’re definitely greats at their position.

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Oh, I think I get it now. Jordan is the greatest at his position?

  • Avatar Leython Williams says:

    Agreed, Pastor T….plus, Russell was great! But in His era, wasn’t Wilt the better individual player? Did Wilt not have greater head-to-head numbers? As far as era, it’s very debateable as to whether Russell was even the best pure player of his era…no debate that Russell was the better winner though (part of being the best winner is sacrificing being the best player). Much respect to B. Russ!
    But…MJ was the greatest player and winner of his era (no debate). GOAT, indeed.

  • Avatar Leython Williams says:

    He’s the greatest player, period. A part of being the greatest player, in my humble estimation, is being able take control of a game on your own…you can’t do that to the same degree if you require someone else to feed you the ball on the block; It limits you. Based on this, I’d be hard pressed to give the “greatest” title to a traditional post player…though they may be great at their role/position…there can only be 1 “greatest”, so the criterion get tough! 🙂

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    I’m understanding this better as we go along. You and Bill Russell’s twin seem to be able to just eliminate position’s right out of the game.

    Quick question, cause I’m clearly out of my league. I’m learning here. Can a scorer take control of a game in which his team refuses to play defense? Is there such a thing as “being able to take control of a game on your own”?

    Let’s be fair, Jordan was great at doing what he did once the ball was in his hands, however it got in his hands, i.e. inbound pass, rebound, etc. By the same “fair” token Jabbar was great at doing what he did once the ball was in his hands. I think this is apples to apples.

    Now back to “creating your own shot”.

    BTW, you know yawl (you and T) making up all the rules. :-).

  • Avatar Thabiti says:

    Ha! That’s right. When you’re making the argument that is obviously right, you get to make the rules! 😉

    Okay… so let’s admit that bball is a team sport. Let’s admit that no man can win alone. Let’s admit that Jordan’s early years without key players or a strong team around him proves that no man can win alone. Puttin’ up 63 against the Celtics as an outstanding individual player won’t make you the greatest.

    But having said that, there’s still a sense in which Jordan could simply dominate the action and spirit of the game on both sides of the court. Lock down defense. Unstoppable offense. He was simply relentless. Give him the ball and clear the side and he’d more or less destroy the other team. Have him guard a key player on the other team and he’d disrupt their entire flow.

    Kareem could change the game around the basket. But he couldn’t change the other team’s entire scheme in quite the same way.

    By the way, why the ol’ heads on the porch talking about Kareem when the topic is MJ and LJ? Gotta help our elders stay in this decade at least! 😉

    T

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Oh, oh, oh, my fault, I didn’t know we were just talking bout MJ and LJ. In that case I agree, MJ is the greatest. 🙂

    Where are the Elders?

  • Avatar MarkSingleton says:

    I’ll agree that greatest of all time goes to Mike. I just always like to bring up Russell because you literally can’t ask anything else. He won Olympic Gold and 2 NCAA Championships on top of all those nba chips. But with Jordan I think the big factor isn’t just that he won chips, got mvps, put up crazy dunks and wagged his finger in Mutumbo’s face, I think the thing that really shows how good he was is the number of hall of famers that didn’t get a championship because they played in his era(Stockton/Malone, Barkley, wilkins/mutumbo, Ewing, Reggie Miller and more). That’s crazy to think of because of him, none of those guys were able to get a championship.

    Agreed on Mike being the Goat.

  • Avatar Leython Williams says:

    Yup, there’s always one on every porch! Haha.

  • Avatar David Jimenez says:

    Jordan hands down the greatest of all time. Undefeated in the Finals, six Finals MVPs, every Finals he played in never went past a sixth game, and his will to win was so great he made sure the players around him elevated their game. I’ve never seen LeBron make anyone around him a better player. When he was in Cleveland he had Carlos Boozer, Boozer got better after he and LeBron parted ways. Jordan would consistently workout with his teammates to take their game to another level.

    And more than all of that, Jordan was mentally tough. You weren’t going to get in his head, and he made sure everyone else was mentally tough as well. Jordan’s basketball IQ was second to none on the court. I like LeBron and I think he gets a bad wrap more often than he should but he’s no MJ. Nobody on the planet could guard MJ when he was in his prime. I think LeBron in his prime could be guarded and disrupted. Put a Pippen and/or Rodman on him and he’s done. He lacks that killer instinct and mental toughness to persevere. IMO

  • Avatar Jason Lee says:

    Great points, Thabiti! I’ve been trying to say this a while in my limited sphere of influence, & especially to the folks that have drank the Lebron kook-aid. MJ wasn’t icing down a sore hammy in the final minutes of a championship game, just sayin!

  • Avatar Nate Fells says:

    As an Arkansas guy, I love to bring up the fact that LeBron is more Pippen than Jordan: point-forward who could guard all five positions & score in many ways however isn’t a shooter or clutch. Many even say Pippen was the only guy who could have guarded Jordan. Perhaps that’s the motive behind Pippen declaring “I think LeBron will be better than Jordan when it’s all over.”. It was a nod to his own splendor rather than that of LeBron.

    Besides their difference in playing style & abilities there’s another aspect that makes the LeBron vs Jordan an apples to oranges comparison: Fathered vs. Fatherless. I couldn’t overlook the irony given that the Finals ended on Father’s Day. Jordan clearly looked to & received the affirmation of his father allowing him to not look for validation in the sea of men reporting on him. He also clearly had instruction from his father which allowed him to respond correctly to criticism. Even LeBron’s preachers’ kid teammate (yes plural since both are ‘pastors’), DWade, is able to handle the “Heat Hate” sent their way as just part of the game, better yet, their jobs.

    Clearly is Jordan is better: he won more, had the killer instinct & faced tougher competition in an Eastern Conference filled with hall of famers & would be Hall of Famers had it not been for His Airness, Jordan also endure Dunk Contests BATTLES & the Jordan Rules. However, what is often overlooked is Jordan’s career is so much better because his home was. I hope even more men step up to the challenge of godly fatherhood in the coming generations.

  • Avatar Donald Outterbridge says:

    I appreciate Tim Duncan! The other guys are all about their Brand.

  • Avatar Bart Barber says:

    DELIBERATELY AVOIDING the comparison between Larry Bird and Michael Jordan (because life is too short), let me simply say that Lebron James is not better than Larry Bird.

  • Avatar Gabriel says:

    I think I shall join this discussion because I think I’m the only person here who has been a Utah Jazz fan since childhood (since ’92). For full disclosure, my favorite players ever were Hakeem and Stockton and since I’m a Jazz fan (to this day), I am, by definition, a MJ hater. I think that the best way to determine who’s the best between MJ and KJ is based on imitation. There are a long list of players in the league today that are still copying MJ (Kobe being the most obvious example). Are there any players coming into the league in the past couple of years who are trying to imitate KJ?

    I think the discussion about who’s the greatest ended based on two things. First, Jordan won a championship immediately following a 2 year retirement, and moreover, the Bulls were 72-10 when he came back. What other player can leave his sport in his prime after winning a title, attempt to pick up another sport, and then return back to his previous sport to winning another title? Second, virtually every Hall of Fame player from the 80s and 90s have been forced to admit that he’s the best. If it’s agreed that the 80s was the best era for the NBA and if Hall of Famers from that era agree, then it’s no longer a discussion.

    Personally, I came to begrudgingly accept that MJ was the greatest after the Bulls beat the Jazz twice. Also, many of his signature moments came against the Jazz (i.e. the flu game). As a kid, I use to watch the Jazz run the same pick-and-roll and just dominate teams with it. I always use to ask the question “Why can’t anyone stop it?”. Then I saw the Jazz face the Bulls and saw the same basic isolation plays for Jordan and asked “Why can’t anyone stop him?”

    Now, we can always talk about MJ’s shove of Russell… lol

  • Avatar TheBapo says:

    As a Miami Native and the City of Miami Fan, I have to tip my hat always to MJ because how much he helped changed the game from the Big Man era to the Jordan/Kobe Era. As much as I love Lebron and watching his ability to play as God has given him, Lebron should not be compared to MJ because these guys are different positions and they are Era players of different decades of teams. The talent in LJ and MJ era are Two Completely styles of Play. And there is one Stat that I have it to give it to MJ…. 6 Championships within 6 Games within 6 NBA Finals. Every time MJ came, he saw and conquered and that gives him the edge. But LJ and MJ should not even be in comparison. If LJ ever gets 5, that should make him better than Jordan even tho Jordan has 6.

  • Avatar MsGee Carvin says:

    I’m catching up on the front porch. Let me just say the greatest point guard is none other than Erving “Magic” Johnson. I’m a basketball fan, and although I was not a fan of MJ, I have to give him his props and say (with my head bowed down) he was truly a great player. And not because of his championships, but because he could literally play every position on the court.

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