Posts Tagged ‘Best player in the NBA’

Is LeBron Better Than Kobe or Jordan

Since last night’s Miami Heat Championship, this is one of the most common questions being asked by NBA fans. The debate once again rises on who’s the greatest NBA player of all time. These were the same talks that Kobe Bryant had when he won his first ring at 22 years old. By 24, Kobe already had three of them, while Jordan won his first at 29, and LeBron at 28.

Fans and critics of the league love to jump to conclusions regarding the greatest of all time but we all have different thoughts on what elements of the player’s game are the most important criteria. Is it the number of rings, the coach they won under, most points scored in a single game, poise, confidence, leadership, work ethic, student of the game, fight, courage, marketing, sportsmanship, breaking records, the era of the game, chip on their shoulder, competitiveness, drive, desire, how they made their teammates better, best closer, or pure God given talent?

Let me revisit the argument on these three players and whether each can be considered them the greatest of all time.

LeBron James:

Let me start off by saying that neither Jordan or Kobe had the God-given genetics that LeBron James was gifted with.  LeBron is a combination of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Magic Johnson. Both Jordan and Kobe had to work extremely hard to put on weight while LeBron stopped being carded when he was 12 because he already looked 30. We also have to consider the fact that LeBron hasn’t been coached by the greatest coach of all time, Phil Jackson. LeBron was coached by mediocre to good coaches who were just getting started and never experienced winning a championship first-hand. And we also have to consider that LeBron is probably the best at making his teammates perform better because of his ability to get a triple double on any given night like he did in the final championship game. I would also give the sportsmanship nod to LeBron because he’s really a good person who feeds off of helping others. His 2010 season was the most difficult year of his career because of the amount of criticism he got. But he also learned that year that being a villain isn’t his natural self. He’s a nice guy by nature.

A year ago I wrote a blog titled “Top 10 greatest NBA players without a Championship ring since 1980” and LeBron and Dirk Nowitzki were both on that list.  Dirk came off a week later after winning the Championship, and now LeBron who was ranked number one on that list, is officially removed from that list.  Congratulations to him for winning his first championship.  Well deserved.

Kobe Bryant:

Kobe has done things that neither Jordan nor LeBron have ever done before. As far as putting up numbers that are insane to think about, his 81 points in a single game is without a doubt a much tougher feat than Wilt Chamberlin’s 100 point game where he was flat out bigger than anyone else on the floor.  Kobe’s had five, 60-point games. He played his game from the beginning with a chip on his shoulder — always like he had a point to prove.  I’m not quite sure if he’s the type of player that makes his teammates better, but you couldn’t find a better student of the game.  Kobe treats basketball like law students at Harvard treat their education. The best student the game has ever had.

Kobe’s career is an example of a constant improvement he made season after season. He picked up moves from Jordan, Hakeem, Dirk and many others but made them better than the original. I would also rank him above LeBron in work ethic which LeBron learned from after playing with Kobe in the Olympics. Kobe is by far a better shooter than both LeBron and Jordan.  Kobe has had three games where he made nine 3-pointers or more. He still holds the record of making 12 threes in one game. Some will point out that LeBron and Jordan shot over 50% in their career, but Kobe didn’t have the inside game like LeBron and Jordan which effected his field goal percentage. But if you really want to compare a shooter, Kobe was a better free throw shooter than LeBron or Jordan, which is the best way to gauge pure shooting skills. But even as a Kobe fan, I myself couldn’t ever put him ahead of Michael Jordan.

Michael Jordan:

From November 28, 1990 which was the first day we arrived in America, I became a Lakers fan.  I clearly remember my sister and I watching the game where Jordan made the shot over Sam Perkins when he switched to the left hand. One thing I remember about Jordan is that whether you were a Jordan fan or not, you were very disappointed when he decided to retire and walk away from the game after his father passed away. The difference between Jordan or any other athlete in our era is that he became a Worldwide Icon.  Aside from the fact that he has more rings than Kobe or LeBron, there are many other reasons this athlete seems like a comic book superhero that belongs in the Avengers, Fantastic Four, or one of the X-Men characters. Some even say that he is the closest any human being has ever come to being able to naturally fly.

I believe Jordan is someone who would’ve done well in life even if he hadn’t played basketball. He is more than his God-given abilities, and more about a drive and desire to prove to the world that he’s better than you think.  You can’t teach desire or pure competitiveness. Neither Kobe nor LeBron will ever come close to the level of poise that Jordan possessed.. His confidence was, bar none, the best among any NBA player. There was also no one better at expecting and getting more from his teammates.  He dominated his opponents not only physically, but emotionally and mentally.  The more his opponents tried to get under his skin, the more they made him want to beat them. He was someone you just didn’t want to push around. Jordan had the eyes that saw through your soul. He is still the greatest of all time.

So bottom line, it’s way too early to consider LeBron as the greatest, but I do believe he’s just getting started.  He could end up shocking the world with things we have not yet seen. Only time will tell.

On this blog we spend a lot of time studying “the great ones”, in business, of history and in sports.  I believe that there is a lot that we can learn from other people’s success and what they do to get there.

Sports is a great place to study greatness because we all get a front row seat to watch a player’s teamwork, hustle, and heart. We can see a player’s rise and fall, and analyze what they did to get there.

I have a group of friends in my life that every time we get together we end up debating the great ones throughout NBA history. One of my friends, Steve, was the star of his high school basketball team. He took the same drive that averaged him 28 points a game in high school and channeled that into business, becoming the CEO of a multi-million dollar company. When Steve and I get together we talk about faith and philosophy, business principles and sports, but ironically, it’s only when we talk about sports  that we get  into heated debates.

I decided to share  my thoughts on the best NBA players of all time, both those with and without rings,  and let the debate begin.  Athletes are our  modern day gladiators, and most of us love watching and discussing our sports  legends. We may not all agree on who’s best, but I hope we can find some common inspiration from these NBA warriors.

10. Isaiah Thomas– I had to choose Thomas over Dwayne Wade because it’s still too early to tell with Wade, but also because Isaiah made his teammates better.  He was a fighter and a competitor. He also has two championships plus a season where he averaged 21 points, 14 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. For these reasons, he makes my top 10.

9. David Robinson– Some of you may argue this one, but I put him on this list for a few reasons.  He was never the player who wanted a ton of attention.  He has two championships, an MVP award, and scored 71 points in a game (yes, I know it was the last game of the season and he was trying to beat Shaq for scoring champion). It’s still a ton of points. What I’m very impressed with is the fact that Robinson passed the torch to Tim Duncan in the classiest way.  He not only became a leader, but replaced himself when he left San Antonio to make Duncan the next name on this list.

8. Tim Duncan– He has four NBA titles. He was always dependable. Although he did it with no flash, Duncan always delivered when necessary.

7.  Hakeem Olajuwon– He had the greatest foot work for a seven-footer in the history of the NBA.  Kobe once visited Hakeem to improve his foot work.  He’s a two-time NBA Champion.  And he’s from my wife’s hometown, so I had to put in on the list to represent the great city of Houston.

6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar– He leads the league in points scored in his career. He’s also got six rings, and six MVP’s to go with that.  He’s a given on this list.

5. Larry Bird – He couldn’t jump more than an inch, couldn’t win a dunk contest with an eight-foot rim, and you couldn’t get a smile out of him, but Bird was one of the greatest fighters the NBA has ever seen. This man knew how to fight and he worked his tail off.

4. Shaq– Like Madonna or Prince, he doesn’t need a last name. He is simply SHAQ: the most dominant center in the history of the NBA.  If Shaq and Kobe could’ve worked it out, they easily could’ve had 7-9 championships together.  Ego got in the way.

3. Magic Johnson – Some will argue that Magic is the greatest player of all time because he made everyone else on the team better. Also, Magic could play all five positions.  Even though his career best points in a game was only 42, many times he almost averaged a triple-double in an entire season, which is an incredibly difficult thing to do.  Magic was a winner all the way from high school to college, to the NBA and to the Olympics.  This warrior was amazing.  On a side note, he definitely wins the award for “Best Smile in the NBA”.

2. Kobe Bryant – You can’t take anything away from Kobe.  His 81 points in a single game (1/22/2006) is by far much tougher than when Chamberlin scored 100; Kobe had to fight for it. Only two players in the history of the game have scored 50 plus points four games in a row (Kobe and Wilt Chamberlin). Kobe has five rings, which ties him with Magic.  He’s been a Laker his entire career. He’s had five, 60-point games in his career (Jordan only had four). He’s a much better shooter than Jordan. There once was a time where Kobe had a shot at fighting for the position of #1 greatest player of all time, but he lost it when he lost twice in the NBA finals (Jordan never lost a final). Kobe had Shaq.  Jordan had Scottie.  Jordan won six titles with Phil Jackson. Kobe won five. If Kobe would’ve won this year, and then won one more without Phil, then we would have room to argue that he should be #1 on the list.

1. Michael Jordan – The reason that I put Jordan first on the list is that he can easily be argued as the greatest athlete of the 20th century. Jordan also had an incredible drive to win. If there was a leaderboard for players who hated losing more than the rest, Jordan would be #1 on that list. What impresses me about Jordan is not his six rings (he would have had eight, if not for his break), or his five MVPs (he would have had 8 if the NBA
didn’t have to share the love with other players).  And it’s not the fact that he averaged 37.1 points per game in his 1986 season after coming off of a season-ending injury in 1985. All of these things are great accomplishments, but what makes Jordan #1 is that he became the new standard in ability and athleticism. That new standard extended to off the court as well. Jordan was the best at post-game interviews. He was the total package in the NBA.

Let the debate begin! I look forward to hearing who else you would suggest belongs on this list or who should be removed or put  in a different order, and why.