LeBron James & Michael Jordan: Comparison of Era, Not Player
A constant comparison is made in basketball between two players – Michael Jordan and Lebron James. The comparison is made in every single way from statistics to personality to championship rings. Although this issue is a major piece of the basketball media and fan base, it is not the two players that should be compared, but the two eras being played in.
James is playing in the era I like to call, “The Super Star Era.” In this super star era we have begun to see a new pattern form. This pattern and executive decision is the aligning of the stars, basically the notion of bringing a few high profile players together and surrounding them with minimal pieces. This notion began when the Boston Celtics added Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join forces with their franchise player, Paul Pierce. Ultimately this notion paid off and the Celtics won a championship.
This notion has continued stemming from The Decision in July 2010 when James chose the Miami Heat, joining forces with Dwyane Wade and soon after Chris Bosh. The problem with this, era wise, is that the competitive balance is nonexistent. What we have started to see are teams, for lack of better terms, taking years off to get their salary cap in check. Once these teams get out from financial trouble, they make their “pitch,” to the free agent super stars.
The aligning of the stars has paid off for teams like the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, but has put teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks even further back in the big picture. The majority of the league is just waiting for their time to make the pitch to the big talent. Half the league has become non competitive. Case and point, the Eastern Conference has sported a team only .500 or below in every year, except once, in the playoffs in the past eight years. Miami simply went cruise control coasted and played their “B level basketball,” all season.
Basketball has also become less competitive, due to the way the game is played. Note, players have always complained about officials, but nowadays the whistle is heard at an alarming rate. Since this has become a constant in the game, we now have players faking being fouled (flopping) more often. We are also in an era where the art of the big man is gone. Right now in the NBA, partly due to the international game, big men are more of perimeter shooters. The NBA, in this era, has three big men in my eyes that could play in Jordan’s era. Those three are Roy Hibbert, Dwight Howard, and a HEALTHY Andrew Bynum.
This is not a knock on James, because he is simply phenomenal, but the era is simply less competitive because of the aligning of the stars notion and the way the game is played.
Michael Jordan played in the era of players staying in one place for a long time and competing for it all. Jordan and Scottie Pippen were pretty much life time Chicago Bulls. Reggie Miller was a Pacer, Patrick Ewing was a Knick, Karl Malone and John Stockton were members of the Utah Jazz. I could go on and on with different franchise players.
This era sported the hardnosed competitive attitude. The era did not worry about, “flopping.” This era let the players play, and let the big men bang underneath the basket. Not to mention the fact that every single team pretty much had a, “big” which had major skill. These players would dominate the big men of the current era, and it isn’t even up for debate.
The competition in the 90s was fierce every year. Although Jordan and his Bulls won 6 titles, you saw a variety of teams fighting in the postseason every year. In the current day, many experts/analyst on record, Only 4 teams (Spurs, Thunder, Pacers, and Knicks) had a realistic shot at dethroning the Heat. The Jordan era was simply more competitive, and in my eyes tougher to win. It had a feeling every night that each game meant something.
Comparing James and Jordan is simply unfair based on the eras they played in. In my eyes Jordan dominated a tougher era to play in, but by no means do I think James should be looked down on because of the era he plays in.