Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals proved many things. The most important is that Lebron James is not Michael Jordan.
Off of a deflection by the left sideline, he flips the ball to Shumpert just before he stumbles slightly out of bounds. Quickly runs down the court and, as if possessing some type of remote control over Shumpert, has the ball perfectly flipped to him in stride for, what the crowd knows, is classic King.
He takes off one step inside the free throw line by the left block… outside of the jump circle. The 6’8” 270lbs “human” (resembling more like one of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons ) lifts his right arm in presumed triumph, cupping a basketball towards his goal. The crowd, everyone watching on TV, and basketball gods alike marvel at what they’ve seen time and time again… never gets old. WHAM! WHISTLE! A demoralized Hawks team attempts to regroup as the King parades in his court… Much to the delight of the people that look to him as their nation’s savior of sport.[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA1mxYzRLXM]
Over the years, LeBron James has been labeled everything under the sun:
Sports pundits struggle to try to find the best comparison of player.
- Oscar Robertson
- Magic Johnson
- (Dare I say it) Michael Jordan
Time and time again people try to put LeBron in a box. Yet the box never fits. The box never fits because the one comparison that is most apt has never been investigated. The fact is… The King… can best be compared… to a LEGENDARY BIRD!!!
Since high school the world knew (not thought, knew) that LeBron would be the best player in the league one day. Sports Illustrated had him on the cover of their magazine with the title “The Chosen One”. He was literally basketball Jesus. We saw LeBron go from being a scrawny, talented high school player into a video game like player that has 90 attributes at everything!!! Since his inception, he has been called everything from Magic, to the Big O, to Jordan! What about… Larry Bird…. YES!
THAT’S WHO HE IS!!! HE’S LARRY LEGEND!!!! “But Kip,” you say, “Larry Bird was a white guy, that could shoot the lights out, and could pass ok, what the hell are you talking about?” In LeBron James, what you are seeing is Larry Bird without the Magic Johnson archetype to keep him from winning every year… Let me explain. Below are the career stat lines for Larry Bird and LeBron James.
24.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG, .496 FG%, .886 FT%, .376 3PT%
27.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 6.9 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG, .496 FG%, .745 FT%, .342 3PT%
(silence while you look at that)
OK, so as you can see, both players (by the numbers) do pretty much the same thing. Both shoot .496FG%. Both average over 6 RPG and 6 APG. Both get 1.7 SPG and 0.8 BPG. LeBron scored more points per game (up to this point in his career), but Larry was a better free throw and three point shooter. He was also a MUCH better rebounder. Remember… Larry played with Kevin McHale at the 4, and Robert Parrish at the 5. These two were top 5 players at their respective positions and, from the 3 spot, Larry STILL grabbed double digit rebounds for his career! This along with dishing out over 6 assists per game and taking on the scoring load for the team! Defensively, he was no slouch. Almost 2 steals a game and 1 block per game from a white guy that was historically deemed as (not athletic). What Larry had was heart and a strong drive to win! That’s what fueled his defense, which spearheaded the 86-87 Celtics, one of the toughest defensive teams to ever play in the NBA.
LeBron? Similar position, similar output. LeBron, like Larry, was the main man on “Big 3” team that went on to win two titles and dominate the East. With Dewayne Wade and Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat reigned defensive and offensive terror on the league for 4 years.
LeBron and Larry both played the 3 in a way that the offense flowed through them. They used their teammates as weapons and extensions of themselves. Ainge, DJ, and other role players were enhanced by Larry being on the floor much like Chalmers and Cole with LeBron (or now, Shumpert and Thompson). Everyone’s job became easier. They both have no problem standing back and watching McHale go for 58, or Irving score 54. They don’t need the scoring spotlight and can kill you in so many ways on both sides of the floor[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0vwJlvB-Po]
Both are leaders that lead by example and trust in their teammates.
How are they different? The flavor of poison.
LeBron is a physical specimen. Capable of running faster than most point guards while being as big as most 4’s. His vertical leap is 40 inches off the ground. He can bench 365lbs. He runs faster than 20mph on the court (again, Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon) Where he loses to Larry is shooting touch, free throw clutch and rebounding ability.
Larry was notorious for his hot shooting. One season he joined the 50/40/90 club (FG%/3pt%/FT%), a rare feat for an all star that is required to do a lot of damage for his team. His passing ability was incredible; finding teammates in ways that could demoralize a defense. Larry was also a tenacious rebounder, arguably the best rebounding small forward in league history. Larry loses to LeBron in speed, athleticism, and ability to cover space. LeBron can guard and play positions 1-5. Larry could play and cover positions 2-5 (and not as effectively as LeBron). On the rebounds and shooting, Larry was much better than LeBron James.
All in all, LeBron James is one of the best players the world has ever seen. Whether you love him or hate him, cherish the time you can cheer/boo him because when he is gone, those dragon dunks will be remembered and missed. But before we go around calling LeBron the best ever… Let’s prove that he’s better than Larry Bird first. Because no one is calling Larry the best ever, and numbers, rings and legacy point to them being the same guy.
And to you LeBron fans that think he is better than Jordan…
30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG, .497 FG%, .835 FT%, .327 3pt%
These numbers include WIZARDS JORDAN! Just for reference. So LeBron isn’t Jordan and will never be. Larry though? I think so.