It right now is impossible to compare Michael Jordan and LeBron James right now.
Not simply because Jordan has set the bar ridiculously high — using arguably the best player ever and his six rings as a measuring stick is not fair because even other all-time greats fall short of that mark — but also because we don’t know LeBron’s legacy yet. There are no shortage of commenters on this site who seem to miss my overall point about LeBron:
We can’t define his legacy yet, he’s 27 and just entering the prime of his career. He’s the best player in the game today, what we will think of him a decade from now is impossible to say.
But, LeBron vs. Jordan has become a thing. And even Phil Jackson got sucked into it during his discussion on ESPN radio in in Chicago recently (via Sports Radio Interviews). Here is what Jackson said about LeBron.
“He’s got all the physical attributes. I think we all question the prepping that went into LeBron. His defense was shaky when he was a younger player and finding his way through that direction. He is a player that can play four positions. Except for perhaps the center spot, which he hasn’t given a shot at yet, he can play those other four positions quite well. This is unique; Michael could play three and was very good at all three of those, but as a power player that LeBron can become, I think he has an opportunity to explore and advance some of the status that he has already gained. Winning six championships is an elusive thing out there and they haven’t won two yet. But he’s kinda got the smell of it and even the Olympic experience this summer, he was the granted leader of that team and was the critical player when they needed something to happen in the final games. I think he’s there, I think he’s at that position. He’s got good things ahead of him and a lot of it depends upon if he’s gonna be healthy for the remainder of his career.”
Or, to put it another way, we don’t know what LeBron’s legacy will be. Could he steamroll five more rings in the next six or seven years? How will that change how we perceive him in a decade? One ring already changed that for a lot of people.
Jackson is right, LeBron entered the NBA pompous and not mentally ready to really win or improve his game to the point he could quickly. (Considering he was one the cover of Sports Illustrated at 15 with them calling him the chosen one, combined with his family situation, I’m not sure what other outcome anyone could expect.)
But right now he has mentally matured, and that could allow him to start to use all those physical gifts in the best way to lead a team to rings. Could. We will see.
And maybe we should wait until LeBron is through is prime before we try to cement his legacy.