The Michael Jordan versus LeBron James debate is perhaps one of the most polarizing dialogues in sports for some. Those on one side of the argument aren’t going to be shaken. James is undoubtedly the player with the most longevity in NBA history, as he has been elite for nearly two decades and has broken just about every statistical record.
As great as James has been, critics have brought up his NBA Finals losses, including an epic collapse during the 2011 Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. When comparing Michael Jordan’s overall success as a winner, including an undefeated six rings in the Finals without ever allowing a Game 7, Jordan didn’t have the same longevity, but he was able to accomplish more in a shorter period of time.
The argument for whether Jordan retiring twice had a role on him potentially adding more titles to his legacy should be viewed as irrelevant. While it may be true, we can’t determine someone’s greatness based off what could have happened.
While Jordan doesn’t have the most rings in NBA history, the reason he is the popular favorite as the greatest of all time is because he was able to maintain and command the game unlike anyone else. His success is what alters the needle in his direction.
However, what if James were to tie Jordan in the rings chart? Although Jordan was able to accomplish the feat in a shorter period of time, it wouldn’t really matter. Would a General Manager rather have 20+ years with a player who will break the majority of personal statistical records while delivering six rings, or would they prefer a player who reached won the same amount of championships, but provided relevance towards your franchise for a shorter period of time? That would potentially alter the debate towards LeBron James’ favor.
Cementing yourself as one of the greats is a difficult task. James may slightly regressed over the last few years, but he has a built a high cliff for himself. There is a possibility that James is viewed among the top five players in the NBA over the next four seasons, and it’s not a reach to argue he could secure two more Championships before he announces his retirement.