The King has now played the same number of games as his Airness. Is he the new GOAT?
Sports arguments are why bars were invented.
You gather some friends, you grab some drinks, and you argue about something unprovable. Would the Yankees’ Murderers’ Row beat Jeter and friends? How would the undefeated Dolphins match up against that Pats team that came within a fluky helmet catch of going 19-0? Is Daniel LaRusso’s crane kick really that hard to defend?
We’ll never know. And that’s half the fun!
One of the biggest arguments has been brewing for a few years, and last night, it hit a key milestone. Lebron James has now officially played in the same number of basketball games as Michael Jordan. Is he better?
Sports arguments can seem definitive because the ability to compare stats makes them superficially cut-and-dried. Now that they’ve played in the same number of games, it seems easy enough to pit their numbers against each other. Jordan scored more, Lebron passed and rebounded more. Lebron has more appearances in the finals, Jordan has more finals MVPs.
And of course there’s the one big number: championships. Jordan’s six give him one for the thumb and then some, while Lebron’s return home after back to backs with his banana boat crew only brought his tally to three. So far!
At this point, matching Jordan’s ring total is all but impossible. Jordan doubled him even though he left during his prime to play baseball! Plus, Lebron never faced Bird and Magic and Barkley and Hakeem. Would he have even gotten to three if he had?
Similarly, how would MJ fare in a league that has gotten more athletic, and stronger, while also getting less physical? How would MJ handle the hyper-athletic big men like Durant and Anthony Davis and Giannis and on and on and on? Would he have gotten to three, let alone six, against Lebron’s level of competition?
The fact that these are unanswerable questions is exactly what makes them so fun to argue about. Times change, circumstances change, rules change. Despite the level playing field that stats seem to provide, it’s not actually possible to accurately, honestly compare two players who played during different eras, against different competition, with different teammates. There is rarely a definitive answer.
For example, I’m a Miami Dolphins fan and I know for an objective fact that if Dan Marino had played his career under the same rules Drew Brees enjoys, or ever had a decent running back to hand the ball to like John Elway, or had a coach who supported cheating like Tom Brady, he’d have won 13 Super Bowls and passed for over 300,000 yards EVERY SEASON. It’s just science. But this bulletproof Marino argument is the exception. All the other arguments can’t be solved.
Is Lebron better than MJ? Of course not! Jordan won six! Jordan never deserted his team to play with the competition! Jordan didn’t have access to the quality of trainers and technology and fitness that keeps today’s players healthy for longer! His commercials were superior in every way! Space Jam!
Is MJ better than Lebron? Of course not! Lebron never had Scottie Pippin. Lebron never had Phil Jackson. He never had the benefit of playing in a more physical league where steam-rolling other players was allowed. He won his hometown its only championship! The Decision!
It’s an unsolvable argument and that’s why it’s fun. That’s why we ‘ll be arguing about it for the next thirty years. Lebron vs. MJ: Who ya got? Who really cares.
About the only thing we can say definitively is that they’re both better than Kobe.