Honest to God, I just found this image in our library and had to use it here.
…Anyway, last night LeBron James surpassed Michael Jordan in career points, becoming the fourth-highest scoring person in the NBA. There has been and will continue to be plenty of ink – print and digital – spilled on the subject of which of the two are better. What’s important to recognize, however, is that it’s a bad comparison.
Professional sports changes over time and in a relatively short amount of time players/coaches/teams/etc. will change their approach to their sport. Not too long ago, the three-point shot was a new thing and people were wary of it. You really only went for it on rare occasion. Now, it’s become an almost effortless task for the top players, all of whom love to drop a handful per game.
Likewise, the approach to defense and offense has changed. We’ve gone from set plays to motion offenses to a mix of both to whatever else an insane mind can think up, and defensively we go back and forth from zone to man to zone to man to matchup zone (if you’re an indecisive lunatic who can’t make up his mind).
The game has changed quite a bit since Jordan’s era, and James is the epitome of what the modern era looks like. He is a commanding presence on the court, he can hit a shot from anywhere he wants to, and he’s got the body to go against virtually anyone inside. He also started playing professionally right out of high school. He’s had more minutes on an NBA floor at his age than Jordan could dream of having.
There’s no comparison, really. I like Jordan, and I begrudgingly accept James.
The only people who really benefit from the comparison are sports commentators, who I am convinced are (on the national level) only a half-step above video game journalists: Many in their ranks are almost singularly focused on taking issue with someone or something rather than reporting on the goings-on of their beats. They love to stir up the controversy in lieu of substantive analysis.
James was a frequent target of criticism – rightly or wrongly – for years by sports profilers, commentators, and even general reporters. The only reason he is not so frequently targeted now is that his team isn’t doing so well and you never really know when LaVar Ball is going to pop up and steal a camera again.
I don’t think the comparisons between James and Jordan are really worth anything. It’s a cheap, clickbaity topic (I mean, even on a political/conservative news and opinion site, you’ve clicked on this, haven’t you?) that is only good for the people who write it. At the end of the day, they are different players with different styles from different eras. There is really no comparison between the two.
Besides, the greatest personality in basketball is Charles Barkley and that’s all that matters.