OT - Team LeBron or Team MJ?

Submitted by trueblue262 on May 10th, 2018 at 10:59 AM

Reading up this morning on the GOAT debate over at ESPN, and was just curious to which camp you are all in? It maybe a generation thing, but I think MJ's path to success was more....."un-artficial" 

MJ didn't have "decisions" and hop around to teams to chase championships. He made his teamates better, not his situation better. What do you all think? 

Go Blue!



May 10th, 2018 at 2:06 PM ^

The Jazz were just mediocrity that won out because the rest of the conference got worse.  Had the Suns been able to keep that core healthy, then absolutely they would have been a tough out.  But Johnson couldn't quite stay healthy, Charles started to give up a bit, and it was gone that quickly.


May 10th, 2018 at 1:42 PM ^

The two finals won vs the Jazz were the most competitive Jordan played in.

The others:

‘91: Kareem-less Lakers. An old Worthy hobbling around on a busted up ankle

‘92: Brainless Blazers team, famous for choking, pissed away 15 pt 4th qtr lead in game 6 AGAINST THE BULLS BENCH

‘93: the all-offense no-defense Suns

‘97: the no-rebounding Sonics


May 10th, 2018 at 1:13 PM ^

MJ voters: Those who have been around long enough to see both MJ and Lebron and also live anywhere but Cleveland

Lebron voters: Didn’t see MJ play and/or live in Ohio.

Magic: Lansing residents and retired folk

Kareem: Dead people

Kobe: Weinstein and friends


May 10th, 2018 at 2:09 PM ^

I love Kareem.  The point was sarcastic in that most people on this thread weren't born yet when Kareem was in his prime.  So he's not gonig to get any of the votes he deserved.  My favorite player is Magic.  Unfortunalty his forced retirement takes away from his standing.  We could have had some great MJ vs Magic NBA finals.  Finally, I was a Pistons fan growing up.  So I hated Jordon and I don't own a pair of Nike's.  But I have to admit he is the GOAT.  



May 10th, 2018 at 1:19 PM ^

Generational thing for me, but team MJ.  

He could do it all and had a maniacal desire to win that resulted in some crazy dominant teams that showed up in the Finals.  Can't say that about all of Lebron's teams.


May 10th, 2018 at 1:28 PM ^

Lebron is probably a bit more of a physical talent (bigger and stronger), while MJ is more ruthless. I would rather play with Lebron, a natural facilitator who can guard every position on the floor. 

Lebron is only 3-5 in finals appearances, but it is a team game and he has not had nearly the supporting casts that MJ had. Pippen was an all-time Top 50 player and those Bulls teams had other strong role players (Rodman, Kukoc, Grant, etc.). Also MJ played for Phil Jackson, one of the best coaches ever. 

Off the court, Lebron has spoken out numerous times on social issues, while MJ was famously averse to politics. Also MJ was owner/president of the worst team in NBA history (2011-12 Bobcats).


May 10th, 2018 at 1:46 PM ^

The 2nd group MJ won titles with had three players on the NBA all defensive team in the same season (MJ, Pip, Rodman). Ron Harper was also a lockdown defender. So if you were playing the Bulls back then, you pretty much knew that your guards and forwards aren’t going to score. If you have a good center, Rodman will guard him.

LeBron hasn’t ever had that level of help


May 10th, 2018 at 1:40 PM ^

I think Jordan's tenure is incredibly romanticized by oldtimers. He struggled mightily against the Celtics and Pistons until those dynasties aged and fell apart. The Lakers were similarly winding down just as Jordan was reaching his prime.

Compare that to today, where the Warriors are clearly an all time great dynasty. Lebron would be aiming for his 6th straight if not for that. Warriors-Cavs is today's Celtics-Lakers. Jordan lucked out in that there was a big void (for whatever reason) of grade A dynasties. The '90s Knicks and Jazz are a clear step below today's Warriors.

As for defense and hand checking, it's overstated. The rule changes since then have made it immensely easier to defend the lane and shut down isos. MJs style of play was ideally suited for the time.


May 10th, 2018 at 2:00 PM ^

Good points.

Except two.  The rest of Jordan's team wasn't that great.  They sucked without him.  Look at their record.  Also it wasn't the fading Pistons and Celtics that led to Jordon's rise.  Jordon struggled against the Pistons and Celtics only when he tried to carry his team the way Lebron does today.  Once he became a team player that's what changed the dynamic and led to the dynasty.  Pippin is not a HOF or all star without Jordan.  

I agree that Jordan didn't have to contend during his prime with the great Laker or Celtic teams like the Warriors of today.

Also, the game has changed.  You can't really compare their skill sets.


May 10th, 2018 at 1:40 PM ^

I think it comes down to how they won their championships. LeBron and MJ are both amazing players who no doubt are 2 of 3 greatest players of all time (Magic is the the 3rd, order is up for debate). 

However, MJ had a team built around him and won 6 straight championships (with the obvious 2 lost years). LeBron has never had a team built around him win a championship. He won 2 in Miami when he chose an all-star team and 1 in Cleveland after they turned 3 #1 picks into Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love (both all-stars). I get the arguement that MJ had great players around him too - but those teams were built around MJ. 

Throw in the fact that the east has been absolutely laughable the last 7 - 10 years and you cant really win with the arguement that LeBron has been to 7 straight finals. Even if the east was bad with MJ, he won the title 6 straight years when he played full time. 

Imo, MJ is the GOAT and LeBron is a close second with Magic being a somewhat distant third. LeBron may never be able to overtake MJ though because he's now too old to have a team really built around him vs. a team assembled by all-stars taking pay cuts. 


May 10th, 2018 at 2:08 PM ^

I've watched both their careers pretty much fully and the answer is MJ.  LeBron is amazing and might be # 2 but Michael is the greatest. 

He terrorized the league and might have put up 8 straight titles in his prime if not for the baseball experiment (gambling suspension?)  Could have been more on the back end if not for Crumbs and Reinsdorf.



May 10th, 2018 at 2:26 PM ^

I struggle to be convinced either way. If you watch games from the 90's now you'll see the defense is NOT NEARLY what people make it out to be.  Couple that with the fact that Lebrons physicality would have been more of an advantage in the 90's and I start to lean towards Lebron. He also has had trash teams and has had to play against the Warriors who are much better than anyone Jordan faced in his prime, and to me that's undebatable. 


That being said, Lebron has some serious shortcomings. There are a lot of factors as to why LeBron doesn't have as many rings, but at some point rings DO matter. I like that Jordan was basically playing for 1 team(I get the whole Wizards thing but barely factor that into this conversation) and LeBron has played for 2 and will likely play for 3 teams in trying to match what Jordan did. Other than rings and emotional reasons, I don't think I can say Jordan is better than Lebron but I struggle to say the opposite as well. 


Something I don't think a lot of people take in to consideration is that Kobe is basically MJ lite...BUT he was likely a better player. Kobe is MJ if MJ could shoot threes, from a talent only perspective. I think what Kobe did is what happens to MJ if he is reinvented in a different era. 


At the end of the day though, I strongly believe Kobe is not in the GOAT convo, and like MJ as the GOAT but think LeBron is probably the Most Unstoppable player there ever was, regardless of era.


May 10th, 2018 at 2:50 PM ^

It’s a fruitless debate. I would pick MJ because I like his style of play, and liked the game of basketball much more how it used to be played. Every rule change for 20 years has favored the offense and scoring 50 points in a quarter isn’t unheard of, soon enough people will get free Arby’s when the Warriors break 200! The thing is I think the talent and skill set of most modern teams and systems would blow the doors off the old NBA but to me it’s not as fun to watch.


May 10th, 2018 at 3:15 PM ^

LJ is bigger and stronger. But MJ was more competitive.

I realize you have to partially look at the other guys on your team, and the style of play, and officiating, and rules, and the quality of the rest of the league. But imhe, whether LJ was playing 25 years ago, or MJ was playing today, I would take MJ, and whatever he would do with his supporting cast.

(As an aside, I especially hate the way free agents work to create super teams. Maybe I need to just get over it, but I don't like what happened in Miami, and Cleveland to some degree, and with the Warriors. Just doesn't seem fair. If MJ had been able to stack a team like that? Sheesh.)


May 10th, 2018 at 3:30 PM ^

First, today's NBA is way better and way more physical than the 80s and 90s NBA.  It's not even close.

That being said, Jordan is still better, he was a more explosive athlete over all and a much better defender and a better pure scorer.Lebron is a better passer and is bigger and stronger.  Jordan is quicker and overall more ahletiically gifted.  Jordan was more competitive and had a better killer instinct, he also got more out of his teammates because he was a better leader.

WHo has accomplished more?  6-0 in NBA Championships for JOrdan is far great than 3-5 for Lebron as Lebron rarely beat a great team to reach the title.  Jordan had better sccoring stats, Lebron has better all around stats.  Both were the clear best player in the NBA for over a decade.

Right now Jordan is #1 all time, Lebron is #2, but Lebron is not done.  WIth the way Lebron trains he could still be the best player in the NBA in 5 years.  His longevity is going to give him all the records eventually.  Win a couple more titles and he'll pass Jordan IMO.


uncle leo

May 10th, 2018 at 3:52 PM ^

Was ridiculous. I know we all have this nostalgic love for how tough the old NBA was, but it was bleeping silly. Guys were punching other dudes in the face and getting called for a regular foul. Things had to be adjusted.

Go to an NBA game and tell me its not tough and physical.


May 10th, 2018 at 7:06 PM ^

I watched a lot of basketball back then. Your revisionist claims of over-the-top thuggery are like most things revisionist; untruths and exaggerations wrapped around a small kernel of truth and coated in a lot of drama. There were rules back then. Sure, some were unwritten, but there were rules. Not all hard fouls were by any means equal. For those of us who watched the game, the difference between a clean and appropriate hard foul and a dirty play or cheap shot was obvious. Admittedly judgment sometimes got blurred by the jersey the player was wearing, but that's all sports in every generation. If your passion doesn't negatively impact your objectivity from time to time, you're simply not much of a fan.

The NBA game went down hill quite a bit in the late 90s and through the early 2000s. It has largely recovered, but my Pistons-red colored glasses tell me that it has not come all the way back. I'm still an NBA fan and am watching a lot more now than I was 10 years ago, but the league hasn't gotten me back completely. Most of that is not the NBA's fault, I simply don't watch as much of anything as I used to.

uncle leo

May 10th, 2018 at 7:16 PM ^

Been a fan for as long as I can remember. And the game back then was extremly physical, to the point that it did not allow players be players. Trust me, Jordan is one of the best to ever play the game. But I get exhausted with the debate that it's not close, or that LeBron can't be there.

If LeBron existed at the same time Jordan did, he would have been just as great, if not better. The talent level back then was just not the same as it is now. Review some of the teams Jordan beat in the finals. You think he would have led that same Bulls team against what GS has put out the last 5 years? You think guys like Luc Longley and Toni Kukoc are slowing down Curry, Klay, Draymond? Not a chance in flipping hell. 


May 11th, 2018 at 10:42 AM ^

Watch the film,. they played almost no defense.  Guys just jogged down court and shot uncontested 15 foot jumpers all game. Way more contact is allowed now.  More cheap shots were allowed back then though.


May 10th, 2018 at 3:53 PM ^

Lebron rarely beat a good team to get a title? So a 73-win (most all time if you forgot) Warriors, and a dynasty Spurs team that won the title with the same group the next year aren't hard teams? I'm borderline going to mention his 3rd title, a 5-game series against a team with (soon to have) 3 future leauge MVPs. 

The only real blemish on his finals record (from my perspective) is the 2011 Mavs series. the other 4, 2 v spurs and 2 v warriors, both dynasties or in progress dynasties aren't a knock for me. 


May 10th, 2018 at 3:43 PM ^

It seems objectively the answer would be LeBron, but subjectively it seems the answer is Jordan. Most of the arguments you hear about Jordan are:  

-made his teammates better

-terrorized the league

-more competitive


The one objective measure Jordan is better at than Lebron is rings, but then the Jordan evangelists discount Bill Russell's 11 rings as the best player on his team.

As far as league competitiveness goes, I think the measure the article uses (returning players minutes) supports Lebron playing in a deeper NBA than Jordan. Also, this twitter thread (cherry picked but still) is hilarious. I think people tend to associate BIll Lambier laying people out with a higher, tougher level of defense but that doesn't equate to more difficult defense to play against.


Also, Jordan was 6-0 in finals and people will point to that and compare Lebron's 3-5 record but are you really saying if Jordan instead pushed to the finals and lost some (say he went 6-5 making 11 finals, that that would be worse than him being 6-0, with 5 losses before the finals?

As a subjective analysis of Lebron, i would say the 2016 finals is the greatest series a player has ever played. And I'll go to my grave feeling as if he should have been given finals MVP in 2015. 

The Maize Halo

May 10th, 2018 at 4:24 PM ^

Lebron is the best basketball player I have ever seen. MJ won all of his championships. MJ also had 33. That said, Lebron is objectively better. He is huge. He is fast. He can play and defend any position. If he played 1 on 1 with MJ, MJ would end up in a coma.