First off, I don't want to try and discredit the guy, he's a great player, an all-time great already. That said, I think a lot needs to be said about the competition these guys played against, and the rules they played under. Jordan's comments about LeBron being able to play in his era, but not being as successful in his era, and rolling his eyes and almost getting mad when LeBron was compared to Oscar Robertson, got me thinking. Again, I think LeBron is great, I'm not taking away from his ring, a ring is a ring, but when you start saying LeBron is getting close to Jordan, that he could pass him someday, that he's better than Kobe even, I have to shake my head and say something. I think LeBron would still be great in the 80's and 90's NBA, but not THIS great, not this dominant, and a lot of that has to do with competition.
I think competition matters, and who has LeBron beat that's as impressive as anyone MJ and Kobe beat? Some teams he's been through in the East in his runs to the Finals wouldn't have even made the playoffs if this were the era Jordan played in, or even the early 2000's teams Kobe and Shaq went through. Not talking about record, talking about talent, a lot of these teams are crap compared to the all time great teams Jordan went through and the teams filled with quality vets that gave Kobe and Shaq all they could handle 2000-2002. Competition matters, which is why I'd say without hesitation that Kobe's 2010 title is better than his 2009 title. 2009 we didn't play a ton of great teams, we played Utah, we played a way undermanned Houston team that took us to 7 games, and we played Denver, then we beat a Magic team that really wasn't that impressive in the Finals. 2010, we beat the up and coming Thunder, a bit better Jazz team, and a really good Phoenix team, and then of course got our revenge on a great Boston team. The early 2000's though, no comparison, ridiculously tough veteran teams that were smart, played ball the right way, played defense, that was oldschool stuff, teams like Portland, Sacremento, San Antonio, those teams blow away any team LeBron has faced, maybe ever. And this is when defense was allowed, hand checking was still allowed, big men still ruled the game and they were skilled and battled.
Then you have Jordan, the guy faced Bird's Celtics teams, Isiah's Pistons, Magic's Lakers, Drexler's Blazers, Chuck's Suns, Payton's Sonics, Stockton and Malone's Jazz, some of the best Knicks teams over year after year, some of the best Pacers teams ever, the competition blows away anything LeBron has faced. These are all time greats, this is when defense was played and allowed and could be fierce, when players were men and they were smart, at the peak of the league and fundamental greats IMO.
Now we come to LeBron, and again, I'm not trying to take away from the guy, you can only play who you play, but I'm pointing out why I think it's ridiculous to say he's reaching Jordan, or even Kobe. Who has LeBron had to play? What defense is really played in this league anymore? HIs scoring stretch with ridiculous shooting percentages was super impressive, but do you honestly think this happens in the 80's against real defense, or even the 90's or early 2000's when handchecking was still allowed? The league is garbage overall right now, a handful of actual title contenders at BEST, a bunch of nobody players on crap teams that literally aren't allowed to touch anyone on the perimeter or bang in the post on D, especially on guys like LeBron. So if you have that combo, of course you're going to have a guy as good as LeBron, a guy so much more talented than all but a few, head and shoulders above the majority of garbage nobodies in the NBA today, young players with games based on nothing but athleticism and jacking up shots, lacking so much fundamentals and defense like Jordan himself said.
Back to my original LeBron question, who has he really played. He got through a good Detroit team in 2007, no question, he beat a really tough Thunder team in the Finals last season, he beat a good Celtics team in 2011 to get to the Finals. Other than that he's played laughable competition for the most part, a lot of young teams full of a lot of real nobodies and a few borderline all-stars. Last season, The 76ers, please that team never had a shot, another team that doesn't even make the playoffs in the good days of the NBA. Having avoided the Bulls dude to Rose's injury, the Pacers, young team with zero real stars, got pushed to the edge by them, wow so impressive. An old as hell Celtics team with some bad injuries, got pushed to 7. Year before that they lose to a Mavs team with 2 hall of famers, one is Dirk, the other was old as hell and way past his prime in Kidd. These are not impressive teams. These are not comparable to what Jordan had to go through, what Kobe played through and freaking dominated putting up 40 point games against the Queens, tearing up some of the best Spurs teams.
I realize this all can make me come off as a hater, though I'm really not anymore, LeBron is great, he is, his shot has dramatically improved, he's playing in the post, he plays D now, he's a leader, always a great passer, and he got a ring, I can't say anything about the man's actual game, only his competition. That's all I'm saying, before everyone goes nuts and starts saying LeBron and MJ can start to be compared now, before you start saying LeBron is better than Kobe now than Kobe was in his prime, think about the competition these guys played against, who did what against who (whom?). LeBron's competition doesn't stack up right now, maybe when these teams and players grow up and turn into stars and all time greats, but so far nope, when he did face a lot of the all-time greats of Kobe's era in the playoffs, he'd lose (though I suppose that part is not unlike early Jordan). Jordan played in the league at it's peak. Kobe played and won when there were still teams full of men that knew how to play the game the right way and real defense was still allowed. That to me says more than a nice streak of scoring at a high shooting percentage, or how many stats a guy averages vs another guys stats, or even how many media voted on MVP's someone has. Finals MVP's are one thing, regular season, meh. That's all I wanted to say, getting kind of tired of the hype machine and LEBRONSPN right now brushing aside the greatness of Jordan even while celebrating him nonstop for his birthday, and getting tired of Kobe being disrespected at the expense of elevating LeBron, because you can call me wrong, but I am not going to say LeBron is on Kobe's level, or that he's better, not yet, sorry.