The image of James sitting in what amounted to an ice tomb while being showered with praise by his peers may not do James' greatness justice. What he's doing at 33 years old is essentially uncharted territory for any kind of athlete—in any sport. "The sports-science community is just in awe of this guy," says Dr. Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic, one of the world's leading experts in human performance and physiology. "People should just recognize what they're watching in LeBron. It's different than Jordan. People need to get out of Jordan this, Jordan that. LeBron is different."
Joyner isn't alone. Dr. Marcus Elliott, the Harvard-trained founder and director of P3, has assessed the biomechanics of some of the best athletes in the world at his state-of-the-art lab nestled along the coast of Santa Barbara, California. Players from Andrew Wiggins to Andre Drummond to Dwight Howard to Luka Doncic have come through Elliott's lab to find out where they score on 3D motion-capture and force-plate technologies. While he has yet to assess James, he knows what he's seeing. "He's hit the quadruple lottery when it comes to genetics," Elliott says from afar. "Not just the physical side. You can't get to where he is without being head and shoulders above the competition from a mental standpoint. It's clear he just owns a different system than, say, Michael Jordan."
Joyner agrees that if there's a comp for James, it isn't Jordan. "People bring up the Michael Jordan and Kobe [Bryant] thing, but it reminds me more of Wilt [Chamberlain]," Joyner says. "There's this overpowering physical force. The way he gets up and down the court, pinning shots against against the backboard while playing well over 40 minutes a game. The sort of physical force is just wild."
JLEIII: Doing radio has allowed you to stay close to the game and watch LeBron at his absolute best. Where do you stand on the Jordan vs. LeBron debate? Rick Mahorn: I got to go with LeBron James. The reason why? LeBron James plays five positions, and that’s when it becomes really scary. Who can check him? He plays five positions. Jordan could play three, at best. … You have to respect what Jordan did. He’s a beast at what he did. Would he be able to play in this era of basketball? He’d probably get to the foul line more than these guys playing get to it now. To me, some guys revolutionized the game or changed the game, and I think LeBron is a game-changer. So is Jordan. Jordan was a game-changer. But if it’s me picking, you can’t find many people who are 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, and can play every position. That’s scary.
Pippen joined ESPN's "The Jump" on Friday to respond to Isiah Thomas saying last month on NBA TV that he'd pick James over Jordan. After calling out Thomas for "hating" on Jordan, Pippen explained why he doesn't like comparing James to his former teammate. "Michael Jordan is the greatest player to ever put on shoes and play in our game. No doubt about it," Pippen said. "I'm always asked questions to compare him to LeBron. I try to make the best of it, but really, the comparison shouldn't ever be made. They both play two different positions.
"The way LeBron James play - Michael Jordan was never asked to play that way, because I took that away from him. I was the point forward. I was the facilitator. Michael Jordan was a scorer. He was a defender. He played the game as complete as LeBron James did when he needed to, but he was asked to score the basketball and that's what he was great at." But if he had to choose between them, Pippen would go for Jordan every time. "There's no game that I would ever play in and pick LeBron James over Michael Jordan," he said. "Not if I'm trying to win."
We constantly hear about Jordan being a spotless 6-0 in the Finals, but we don't hear that Jordan was 6-7 in getting to the Finals in his 13 postseasons, while James is now 8-4 in his 12 postseasons. "This is my eighth trip to the Finals, and I've had some pretty good ones in my day," James said after his team bowed out in Game 5 Monday night.
LeBron James is now above Michael Jordan in one very important, objective area. On Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, LeBron passed Michael Jordan for the most playoff points scored in NBA history. James’ historic moment came in the third quarter of Game 5, with the Cavaliers up by double-digits.
Even though Michael Jordan retired in 2003, the debate over whether he was better than LeBron James still dominates NBA talking points seemingly every day. As a result, there are plenty of opinions to go around. Count retired Detroit Pistons big man Bill Laimbeer among those who thinks James is better than Jordan. "I'll take LeBron James, absolutely," Laimbeer said to Etan Thomas on The Rematch podcast (h/t Marlowe Alter of the Detroit Free Press, via USA Today).
February 27, 2021 | 9:03 pm EST Update
Adrian Wojnarowski: ESPN Sources: After missing 10 consecutive games in the league’s health and safety protocol, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday is likely to return to the lineup against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.