Michael Jordan is Not the GOAT: He Played Against Plumbers, Let’s Be Honest

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Jake McAuliffe, Reporter

LeBron James and Michael Jordan are the two most iconic basketball players in history, and arguably two of the biggest icons in American sports history. Though they are two players with different play styles that played in different eras, for years and years these NBA greats have been compared against each other. 

And so, the complex question obviously arises: who is better? Who takes the title of greatest basketball player of all time?

Let’s break it down, diggity dawg:

 

Debunking the Jordan Debate 

It’s no secret that Jordan, throughout his 15-year career, is the modest owner of SIX championship rings, all in their own separate three-peats during the 90s. While discussing Jordan as the GOAT, many fans bring this up as the be-all end-all when comparing him to LeBron. LeBron, two championships shy of Jordan’s total, has been critiqued heavily for his many losses in the finals, compared to Jordans ZERO finals losses. When looked into just a little further, however, an entirely different picture gets painted.

Here is a complete list of teams Jordan beat in the finals in order:

  • ‘91: Los Angeles Lakers 
  • ‘92: Portland Trail Blazers 
  • ‘93: Phoenix Suns 
  • ‘96: Seattle Supersonics 
  • ‘97: Utah Jazz 
  • ‘98: Utah Jazz 

The 1991 Finals featured the not-so-”Showtime” Lakers who lost in just 5 games to the Bulls. The Lakers 2 years prior lost NBA great Kareem Abdual-Jabbar, and now their best player was Magic Johnson, who only averaged 18 points during the 5- game stretch; and who also happened to retire from basketball just months after this series due to HIV. The ‘92 finals featured the Bulls bouncing the Trail Blazers in 6 games; this is mostly due to Portland lacking the luxury the Bulls had which was rare at this point in the NBA; a second superstar. Clyde Drexler did what he could for Portland but the combination of Scottie Pippen and Jordan was too much- as the theme of the Bulls facing teams with only one superstar became quite prevalent. In ‘93 it was the Phoenix Suns turn to take a shot at the champions, but their lack of superstar talent also led to their fall, with Charles Barkley only able to do so much but take the Bulls to 6 games. 

After Jordan’s so-called “retirement”, he faced the Supersonics in 1996. The bulls were easily able to handle this team of only 1 hall of famer, closing it out in the sixth game, a game where Jordan shot 26% from the field and had 5 turnovers; needless to say that really shows how good the team around him was, especially since Dennis Rodman and Toni Kukoc were two stars added while Jordan was gone. The ‘97 and ‘98 finals wins were a bit more impressive, with the Jazz actually having a second star in John Stockton, who for some reason averaged less than 10 points in the ‘98 series. 

It is clear that these might not have been these 6 unbelievable heroic runs from Michael Jordan that some fans make it out to be. Rather it was great team basketball, with Jordan as the forefront playing some of the best basketball anyone has ever seen; the second greatest ever, even. When you combine an 2 all time greats in Jordan and Pippen and with a great surrounding cast and coaching, put them up against these 90s team which are far from the standards of today’s NBA, then it is easy to see why the Bulls were so dominante- not just Jordan- but the team and situation. 

 

So, what makes LeBron the G.O.A.T.?  

LeBron James may just be the largest impact player on a team in sports history. Throughout his ongoing 19 year career, LeBron has led each and every team he’s been on, and made 10 finals throughout his career, 8 of the finals being consecutive. Although he’s only won 4 of the 10 finals, “LeBron’s” losses are far more impressive than they entail. 

LeBron’s historic 2018 season somehow did not end with an MVP, even though he finished with more points, rebounds, assists, better FG %, and played more games than the winner, James Harden, even though he was on a much less talented team. His regular season feats, however, do not amount to his historic playoff run through the east. On a team, who without LeBron, would be close to a bottom 3 team in the league, averaged 34 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists. The run was capped off by the Golden State Warriors, which is the most talented NBA team ever assembled, basically playing against 1 player. This has happened to LeBron many times in his career, as his team around him wasn’t good enough to beat the certified superteams that plagued the 21st century for some time. 

This, however did not stop him from completing the greatest comeback in all of sports, as he magically led his Cavaliers back from a 3-1 series deficit— which happened to be against, in terms of record, the best team ever, the 73-9 Warriors. In this run he averaged 26.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.6 assists. Not to mention his victories in 2012 and 2013 over 2 big 3s. The Thunder had three players that all went on to win their respective MVPs, Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook, and James Harden, while the Spurs had all time great Tim Duncan, as well as Kawhai Leonard, and Tony Parker. His recent 2020 finals also adds to his legacy as he proved even in the later stages in his career, as at 37 he is still at the top of the league. 

When asked about Jordan or LeBron and the current state of skill in the NBA these BHS students had some opinions: 

Jake (interviewer): Is LeBron better than Jordan? 

Katie (interviewee): Yes  

 

Jake (interviewer): Wouldn’t you agree that players today are more skilled- and the players from 30 years ago are more plumber-esque? 

Robbie (interviewee): Yes 

 

When broken down, LeBron’s legacy and career is more impressive and tops Jordans career despite the stigma that surrounds Jordan being the “goat”. LeBron James is the greatest basketball player ever, and it will take a lot of time for someone else to take the crown.