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Bill Laimbeer: 'There's no question I would take LeBron James' over Michael Jordan

Bill Laimbeer: 'There's no question I would take LeBron James' over Michael Jordan
Published On: Fri, May 29 | Published By: Ball Don't Lie
First off, can we just agree that player comparisons – especially player comparisons that transcend eras – are pretty dumb? [Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] Michael Jordan retired, for the third and final time, two months before LeBron James was drafted into the NBA. He plays around the same position as James, in a lot of ways the shooting guard and small forward slot are interchangeable, and both players (eight years for James, seven for MJ) took a long and tortured route to their first championship. They dunk a lot, and unless LeBron is working out of Miami, they wear the same number. They’re one of just five players on the court at a time, and they do a lot of similar things in a team game that can be dominated by a lone individual. This is why we compare them. It’s silly, but we do. And on Thursday, possibly motivated by decades-long enmity toward Michael Jordan, Bill Laimbeer went on the Dan Patrick Show to not just compare LeBron and Michael, but to cast a vote for the younger model: There's no question I would take LeBron James. He can do more. Michael Jordan could score and make big shots and look spectacular at times with wild flying dunks, but LeBron can get you 18 rebounds, get you 15 assists or score 50 if he wants to. The triple threat that he poses is just phenomenal, and the size, he just physically dominates. It's impressive. Look at what LeBron has in the Finals right now. Could anybody else in the world have led this team of role players to the Finals right now? I don't think so. Jordan could not have led this team to the Finals. LeBron came into the league knowing how to play basketball and involve his teammates. Jordan had to learn that, and they had to assemble some great teammates around him in order for him to win. (Transcription courtesy Ananth Pandian at CBS Sports.) This is infuriating. This is biased. This is scheming. This is self-serving. This also might be right! The current, ball-dominating version of LeBron, despite his advanced age, distinctly reminds of the Michael Jordan that led the Chicago Bulls in 1989 and 1990. That second season, ostensibly, featured Michael working within the triangle offense, but he and his emerging teammates were still figuring that structure out, and Jordan had to act as a big-point and big-assist guy for his growing team to merely compete against great outfits. Those teams fell twice to Laimbeer’s Detroit Pistons, a Pistons team that would go on to win the championship in both those years. LeBron’s 2015 Cavaliers had no such championship team (or even championship contender) in the postseason bracket, so it’s more than probable that Jordan’s colt-legged Bulls could have made it past this year’s Celtics, Bulls and Hawks and into the Finals. In taking LeBron over MJ, Laimbeer only heightened the similarities between the two. With Kevin Love out for most of the postseason and Kyrie Irving either out or hobbling in these playoffs, James has put up brilliant box score numbers. His usage rate, however, is through the roof and his efficiency has shot down from its typical heights as he’s had to force every possession (even the clangs that turn into Tristan Thompson put-backs) through his hands. Comparing LeBron and Jordan isn’t sacrilege. They both have their faults – Jordan would look off teammates and hurt his team, LeBron has lost playoffs series’ on his own by declining to take over Jordan-style – but it’s just fine for even an obvious dung-stirrer like Laimbeer to do so. LeBron James entered this league with the game’s express written consent to finish his career as The Greatest Ever, and in a lot of ways it will be a disappointment if he doesn’t reach that status. Jordan pushed himself to maddening heights before, after three years of hinting at burnout, he retired in 1993 because he badly needed a break. LeBron has taken no such break, and yet he’s still the subject of taunts and dull internet memes for cramping up deep into May and June despite playing deep into May and June for 10 seasons now. Jordan “only” went that long from 1988-1993, and made the Finals three times before having to step aside. LeBron is about to play in his fifth straight Finals, and sixth overall. From there, the comparisons (especially daft ones that include points per game and the like) have to take a breather. Jordan spent his late teens and early 20s playing 30 games a year at North Carolina. James spent the same space of time averaging 40 minutes a night playing against grown men in the NBA. Jordan played international ball just once while working in the pros and credited it for part of his burnout, while James has toured with Team USA in the summer five different times. On top of that? It’s a team game. One can rule above all, but context matters. Bill Laimbeer is acting the roll of the buffoonish troll yet again. Still, it is perfectly acceptable to name both Michael Jordan and LeBron James in the same sentence. It’s not acceptable to list Bill Laimbeer in the same sentence, however, which is why we avoided it in the previous sentence. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

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