Every time LeBron James steps on the court, he continues to widen the gap between himself and the second greatest player of all-time, Michael Jordan.
James passed his childhood idol, Jordan, last night on the list of all-time points scored in NBA history. This only adds to the undeniable body of work that James has put together as the greatest player of all time.
After the game last night, Jordan released a short statement congratulating James on his achievement.
“I want to congratulate LeBron on achieving another great milestone during his amazing career,” Jordan’s statement read.
This is James’ 16th year in the NBA and he’s still widely regarded as the best or second best player in the league. In Jordan’s 16th year, he was sitting at home on his couch. Granted, it was probably better for him to do that, than come back and try to play another season with the Washington Wizards where he looked anything but magical on the court.
The thing that sets James apart from Jordan is longevity. James has been a freak of nature for almost my entire life. He’s been the best player in the league since I started watching basketball and he’ll probably be the best for a few more years. Jordan couldn’t keep up with the NBA. In his 15-year career, he retired twice and played less than 20 games in two seasons. Jordan purists will always say, “The league forced him to retire the first time because of his gambling!” to which my reply will always be, “Well I guess he should’ve laid off the slots and cigars and stayed on the court.”
Jordan purists will also try to knock James for sitting out games during the regular season. James typically plays around the mid-to-high 70s amount of games per regular season. Then after that, for the past eight years, he’s played a minimum of 12 high intensity, mentally and emotionally draining playoff games during his streak of finals runs. Jordan retired in the middle of his three-peat championship run with the Chicago Bulls which gave him an entire season to rest before coming back to play 17 games in the 1994-1995 NBA season.
This year with the Los Angeles Lakers, we’ve started to see some weakness in James. He looks like he cares as much about playing defense as Donald Trump cares about the wellbeing of immigrants. He’s shooting a career low in free throw percentage and shooting his lowest field goal percentage since his first season with the Miami Heat in 2010. The sports community has jumped at the opportunity to criticize the man who has held the throne in the NBA for 16 straight years, but he’s not close to being done yet.
James’ slump in productivity can be traced back to his unfamiliarity with his teammates in Los Angeles. James saw a slump in his productivity in his first season in Miami because he had to adjust to his new role with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. This is close to being the same situation, however, it’s hard to not be concerned with James’ future in Los Angeles, as we’ve seen how this season has played out.
The Anthony Davis situation could be a defining part of the James era with the Lakers if they don’t end up getting the big man this summer or next summer. The Lakers were ready to trade the franchise to the Pelicans for Davis before ex-general manager Dell Demps stonewalled the trade due to perceived tampering between James and Davis. Following the trade deadline, the Lakers have been worse than Kevin Spacey’s reputation as they have a less than five percent chance of making the playoffs.
The Lakers have plenty of cap room to make runs at free agents this offseason and there are plenty of great targets to go after. Kevin Durant is the biggest star to look out for during free agency this summer, but Durant has made it clear that he is very interested in the New York Knicks as his destination. Klay Thompson is another name that would interest the Lakers, and Thompson said if Los Angeles were able to snag Davis, he would consider leaving the Golden State Warriors. The Celtics are the favorites to get Anthony Davis this summer so I don’t think the Lakers have a great chance to sign Thompson. One free agent that I think the Lakers have the best chance to sign is Kyrie Irving.
Irving has been a hot topic of discussion this year as the Celtics have underperformed in the weaker Eastern Conference after James’s departure. Irving has been outspoken about his relationship with James this year and how he should’ve appreciated James’ leadership skills when he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers. After a tough loss to the Orlando Magic in January, Irving revealed he called James.
“I had to call ‘Bron, and tell him I apologize for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips,” Irving said. “I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that.”
As it stands right now, the Lakers need to make some serious changes to their roster if they want to even make the playoffs next season. James can only carry so much on his shoulders and it’d be a colossal waste of the greatest player of all-time to not make the playoffs for two seasons in a row.