Back in the mid 80’s and 90’s, being in the UK at the time when Michael Jordan dominated the NBA, I was unable to witness first hand just how great he was and although Jordan is largely perceived to be the greatest basketball player ever (Bill Russell & Wilt Chamberlain get some play here) unfortunately I am unable to make this choice for myself.
It may be for this reason why I am such a big LeBron James fan, this time I get to witness greatness at first hand, this is thanks to the internet and satellite television which I did not have access too during Jordan’s reign. Watching old footage on YouTube just isn’t the same as seeing something live. That said I somehow get the feeling that LeBron’s greatness is either currently being understated or just un-appreciated in relation to the accolades (rightly) thrown Jordan’s way.
Perhaps this debate, if there is to be one should be saved until LeBron has retired and we have a full body of work to review but the important thing here is don’t wait till James retires before truly appreciating what a true great he really is. Whether you are a Miami Heat fan or not, just like whether you were a Chicago Bulls fan or not twenty odd years ago you simply have to acknowledge the impact that a truly great player had and is currently having on the game.
LeBron James was drafted back in 2003 by a terrible Cleveland Cavaliers team whose last playoff appearance was in 1998, James, like Jordan was named rookie of the year. Two years later and the LeBron led Cavs were back in the playoffs, a feat they would achieve every year until LeBron’s departure in the summer of 2010. The Cavs would also double their division title total by winning in 2009 & 2010, their one and only previous title was back in 1976, all this because of one player.
While Jordan had Pippen and Grant or Rodman and Kerr and Kobe had Shaq, LeBron James had Zydrunas Ilgauskas. James came close by getting this team to an NBA Finals but the Cavs were outmatched by a good Spurs team back in 2007 proving that it takes more than one player to win a championship but in some ways proving LeBron’s greatness even more by getting an average team to the finals in the first place.
This is where LeBron’s testimony to be a true great or depending how the rest of his career goes the greatest ever, begins. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this Cleveland team would have got nowhere near the playoffs let alone the one NBA finals appearance without James. In 2008/09 the Cavs won 66 games, a franchise record.
Since joining the Miami Heat in 2010, LeBron James has a supporting cast and is about to appear in his fourth straight NBA Finals, winning the last two and going for the ‘Three-peat’ achieved on two separate occasions by Michael Jordan.
LeBron James is 29 years old, has five finals appearances (including 2014) and four league MVP titles but sometimes greatness is more than just numbers. Greatness is making everyone else around you better, it’s about lifting your team when they need it the most and being a true leader on and off the court. LeBron is all of those. He can also do something that perhaps no other player can do, he can play all five positions on the court and he can defend all five positions on the court and not just well enough to cope but exceptionally well.
This wasn’t meant to be a Jordan vs James argument or comparison although if Jordan is the best ever then comparisons will always come his way but the point here is this, in today’s NBA we are currently witnessing a true great someone who when it’s all said and done could turn out to be the best ever so do not let this moment pass you by because you don’t know when the next great player will appear, it could be five years or it could be twenty five.
So if you’re an NBA fan appreciate what is currently on offer from LeBron James so at least you can make the choice for yourself on who the greatest player really is.