Ever since Michael Jordan walked away from the game back in 1998 after winning his sixth NBA title with the Chicago Bulls, the league and avid fans have been on the lookout for the next greatest player to ever play the game. Even though Jordan briefly returned with the Washington Wizards, it was clear that he’d left his legacy back in the Windy City and that a new era had already begun in the NBA.
After winning three straight titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, rising superstar Kobe Bryant appeared to be the next in line to challenge Jordan’s status as the greatest player of all-time. Kobe continued his ascension to greatest with two more titles, an 81-point game and numerous records broken.
There was no question after winning his fifth title that Kobe was the closest the league and its fans had ever seen in comparison to Jordan. Kobe was hands down the heir apparent without much debate, but then in came arguably one of the most hyped rookies in the history of the league in LeBron James.
As a perceived hybrid of Jordan and Magic Johnson with a lethal combination of size, athleticism, scoring and passing ability, LeBron quickly entered the Jordan debate and has been constantly compared to Kobe and the six-time NBA champion ever since.
Now that LeBron has finally won his first title and has begun to shed the villain label, the debate has been kicked into high gear with many current and former players getting involved.
The latest NBA great to voice his opinion on LeBron’s potent to overtake Jordan is one of the Hall of Famer’s closest friends in Charles Barkley. The current TNT analyst had this to say about LeBron via ESPN.com:
“I do think he can be better than Michael,” Barkley said. “I thought I would never compare somebody to Michael Jordan. But this guy, LeBron James, he does everything well. Michael did everything well. LeBron James is just bigger, stronger, faster. That’s the only difference.”
The last line of Barkley’s quote is definitely on point. LeBron is without a doubt faster, bigger and stronger, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s better or ever will be.
LeBron’s potential has no bounds at this point in his career as he could very well go on to win as many championships, if not more, than Jordan. With the current Miami Heat squad intact, there’s no telling the damage that they can do over the next decade or so, but a lot can happen with the way players change teams on a regular basis with loyalty becoming a lost attribute amongst players in the league today.
The Jordan comparison with the best of the best in the league will continue for years to come. Jordan remains the best basketball player to have ever played in the NBA and that probably won’t change in the near future. LeBron, like Kobe, has the opportunity to change that distinction, but only time will tell if either one of these future Hall of Famers can step out of the shadow of the NBA legend when it is all said and done.