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Dan Bickley

Ten reasons LeBron James will never be G.O.A.T. over Michael Jordan

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (23) holds the trophies as he celebrates with his teammates after the Lakers defeated the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

LeBron James will never be the Greatest of All Time.

Here are 10 reasons why he’ll never top Michael Jordan:

1. James took the easy way out. He orchestrated super teams with players he’d otherwise have to beat. He’s joined forces with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Anthony Davis. He started a terrible trend in the NBA, a movement steeped in fast lanes and personal gratification, a movement focused only on the destination and not the journey. He spawned a generation of players who want to short-cut their way to the mountaintop.

That strategy will get you the ring. But it will never command universal respect, a consequence that haunts James and Kevin Durant to this day.

Do you know how many players would’ve tripped over themselves to play with Jordan in the 1990s? Do you know how good Jordan would’ve been as a recruiter if he didn’t find the notion so despicable?

2. And did you hear what James said after winning his fourth title?

“We just want our respect,” James said. “(General manager) Rob (Pelinka) wants his respect. Coach (Frank) Vogel wants his respect. Our organization wants their respect. Laker Nation wants their respect. And I want my damn respect, too.”

Jordan would never utter those words. He never had to demand his damn respect.

3. The 2020 NBA Finals were a television ratings disaster. That would never happen if James was the G.O.A.T. sports fans would’ve dropped everything to watch him play basketball, just like we did with Jordan.

But we don’t need to see James play anymore because there’s nothing all that compelling about his game. When things get tight, he bull-rushes his way to the basket, overpowering defenders with his size. He’s never had a match for the artistry of Jordan. His palette is far more brutish and intellectual.

4. A 10-part documentary of Jordan averaged 5.6 million viewers. Or not that far from the number James and the Lakers posted while clinching the NBA title.

5. James gets too much credit for losing six times in the NBA Finals. Former teammate and Sun Devil great Eddie House accused him of quitting on his team during a Finals loss against Dallas. James also recklessly punched a whiteboard following a Game 1 Finals loss to the Warriors, suffering a bone contusion that helped lead to a Golden State sweep.

He made nine appearances as the Eastern Conference finalist, during a time when most of the elite teams were located in the West. Spare me the value of second place.

6. James is a physical behemoth thriving in the softest era of basketball on record. In Jordan’s heyday, you could physically assault an opponent and not even draw a flagrant foul. In 2020, you might get arrested.

7. Jordan has a scrapbook full of transcendent, highlight-reel moments in the Finals: The mid-air, switch-handed layup against Magic’s Lakers, the shrug against Portland; the pose after his game-winning shot against the Jazz.

James has a pivotal blocked shot against the Warriors in the NBA Finals. The title-winning shot belongs to Kyrie Irving.

8. Supporters say James deals with more distractions and obstacles. He is a polarizing figure, to be sure, surrounded by haters and constantly baited by Skip Bayless and Jason Whitlock, two high-ranking members of the sports media. Still:

Nothing motivated Jordan more than his critics, real and perceived. The social media climate in 2020 would’ve spurred him to even greater heights. Just imagine what he would’ve done to mute the Twitter trolls and torch the entire cesspool.

9. Forget the playoffs. Jordan never took a play off. He understood his responsibility to the NBA and the game of basketball, and he never managed his load or took a night off. He never gave a regular-season audience anything less than his best. I know this for a fact, having sat courtside for most of his career.

Jordan is also one of three players to win Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. James is not on that list.

10. Jordan averaged over 40 points per game in five different playoff series. Only four other players have done that before Jordan, and they only did it once (Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Rick Barry, Albert King).

James has never done it because he’s never had a carry a team on his back, up the mountain, all by himself. That was by choice. His choice. One that will forever carry enormous consequences.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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Bickley & Marotta

Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier