Michael Jordan’s flawless NBA Finals record saw him crowned the Greatest Of All Time… but after LeBron James became the first EVER to win three Finals MVP awards with different teams, has he now taken the Chicago Bulls star’s crown?
- LeBron James won his fourth NBA championship ring by defeating Miami Heat
- It was the Los Angeles Lakers first title in a decade and LeBron delivered it
- The debate for Greatest of all Time with Michael Jordan just got even more fierce
- Jordan won a total of six titles with Chicago Bulls while LeBron is now up to four
- LeBron continues to break new ground in his 17th year in the NBA and he is the first player ever to lead three teams to glory and be Finals MVP in each of them
The first thing to note is debate for the Greatest of all Time debate will never truly end.
It drives TV debate shows, keeps people hooked on social media late into the night and, by its very nature, is a totally subjective question.
But one thing is now clear: LeBron James’ case to rival Michael Jordan just got a whole lot stronger. Now it is just those two. Jordan and James standing alone to be crowned as the greatest.
LeBron James claimed his fourth NBA championship by winning with the Los Angeles Lakers
His case to be crowned Greatest Of All Time against Michael Jordan has been strengthened
The two have long been aligned and neither has publicly conceded GOAT status to the other
Some older fans cite Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird and Shaquille O’Neal as among the finest players the sport of basketball has ever seen.
Each of them believed their own greatness, believed they were the GOAT in their own right. But it is foolhardy now, after LeBron clinched championship ring No 4 on Sunday night, to debate this as anything more than James v Jordan.
The two have been forever linked since LeBron emerged from high school as a prodigy in 2002. He was splashed across the front of Sports Illustrated as ‘The Chosen One’.
Soon after Jordan and LeBron came face-to-face at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The moment felt iconic, even then. A short embrace as one of sport’s most accomplished athletes flashed a smile as he prepared to, perhaps begrudgingly, hand over the baton.
No player in basketball, and potentially all of sport, has suffered the scrutiny that LeBron has. Every interview dissected, every Instagram post psycho-analysed, every shot ripped apart after the fact.
And yet ‘The Chosen One’ never buckled under the weight of expectation; in fact, he relished it so much that those three words eventually came to be tattooed across his back.
The case for Jordan has been his flawless NBA Finals record. Six appearances and six wins. To those that covered him at the time, it was perfection in a Chicago Bulls uniform.
Contrastingly, LeBron’s latest trip was his 10th to the NBA Finals. Before sealing victory against Miami Heat in Game Six, the Cleveland-born superstar was 3-9 when it came to winning championships.
Park the losses for a second and think about the magnitude of what is being played out in front of our eyes.
MICHAEL JORDAN ACHIEVEMENTS
6x NBA Champ
6x NBA Finals MVP
5x NBA Season MVP
3x NBA All Star MVP
14x NBA All Star
10x All NBA
2x Olympic Gold Medalist
LEBRON JAMES ACHIEVEMENTS
4x NBA Champ
4x NBA Finals MVP
4x NBA Season MVP
3x NBA All Star MVP
16x NBA All Star
16x All NBA
2x Olympic Gold Medalist
His work off the court for social justice is something Jordan never engaged in as a player
The Lakers star has campaigned for voter rights and also helped lead Black Lives Matter fight
LeBron is now the first player in NBA history to lead three teams – Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers – to the Finals and win a Finals MVP with each of them.
LeBron has now passed former Laker Derek Fisher for playing in the most NBA Finals games in history.
LeBron is a 16-time All-Star and a two-time Olympic gold medallist. Jordan was a 14-time All Star with two Olympic golds.
And so when LeBron took the microphone to toast his fourth title, he was right to aim at critics that refuse to consider him a credible threat to Jordan as the GOAT.
‘I want my damn respect,’ he said, with no prizes at guessing what conversation he was referring too.
‘He’s the greatest player the basketball universe has ever seen,’ Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. ‘If you think you know… you don’t.’
For team-mate Kyle Kuzma, he could only gush over ‘one of the greatest leaders in sports’ and on and on the praise went, deep into the Orlando night.
Jordan has a flawless six from six titles in the NBA Finals and is widely seen as the best ever
But LeBron, in his 17th year in the NBA, continues to enhance his case to surpass Jordan
Dwayne Wade, a former team-mate of LeBron, believes ‘his legacy is still being written’
One edge LeBron unquestionably holds over Jordan is his impact off the court, his willingness to speak out on issues of social justice.
Watching Netflix’s hit docuseries ‘The Last Dance’, viewers too young for the Jordan era were left stunned at his unwillingness to dip his toe into politics, something LeBron has done throughout his career.
Currently driving the ‘More Than A Vote’ campaign – which focuses on encouraging African-Americans to vote and fight against voter suppression ahead of the forthcoming November presidential election – LeBron has used his platform as well as any athlete in sports history.
Jordan, for all his immense talent and grace on the court, clammed up on social justice as a player and even his biggest supporters concede that ground to LeBron.
He has since joined the fight by pledging $10million a year for the next 10 years to be given to various social justice organisations. But as a player, Jordan was all about hoop to hoop.
‘His legacy is still being written,’ tweeted Dwayne Wade, LeBron’s team-mate when he won his first titles in Miami. And this was as much about on court legacy as it was about off-court legacy.
Both Jordan (left) and LeBron (right) won Finals MVP in all of their respective successes
LeBron delivered his home of Cleveland their first ever NBA championship back in 2016
One of the biggest criticisms of LeBron is that he didn’t win organically like Jordan. LeBron has moved around, formed a Big Three in Miami with Wade and Chris Bosh before returning to his home in Cleveland to deliver that franchise a first ever title in 2016 in perhaps the most impressive Finals in history.
Down 3-1 to a Golden State Warriors team that had won 73 of 82 games that season, the Cavaliers would have to do something no team in NBA Finals history had done. And they did. LeBron willed a team without many household names over the line.
When he left the Cavaliers in 2018 they went on to win just 19 games from 82. Without LeBron, it all fell apart.
Take Miami, a brilliant franchise run by owner Pat Riley with a focus on drafting young stars who have been overlooked. But, ultimately, they have not lifted a trophy since LeBron wore the Heat uniform. They proved this time round they are close but ultimately a familiar friend gave another reminder that he remains in a league of his own.
And he is not done yet. Preparing for season No 18 is truly historic in a sport as taxing as basketball. He wants titles No 5 and No 6 and this Lakers team has no reason to suspect it cannot deliver with LeBron in their ranks.
Whatever happens from here LeBron could toast his cigar inside the NBA bubble on Sunday with the knowledge that, now more than ever, his case for GOAT honours has never been stronger.
LeBron ended the Lakers’ 10-year wait for a title and was their star player in doing that
The streets of Los Angeles turned purple and gold and LeBron will now eye a repeat in 2021
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