LeBron James changed his jersey number, won an NBA championship and still gets inevitably compared to Michael Jordan at nearly every opportunity.
With James producing at a record-setting clip that no one in league history had reached, just as Jordan turned 50 today, classifying James’ place in the league couldn’t be a hotter topic.
James wants no part of it, posting on Twitter that he’s “not MJ.” And his peers say it’s time to back off all the comparisons.
“It’s simple. There will never be another Michael Jordan,” said Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade, who grew up in Chicago watching Jordan’s games on WGN. “He was the first to do a lot of things. Whenever you’re the first, there can never be another.
“But you know what? That guy down there [James], he’s in the beginning of starting his own path.”
And just because LeBron is adding to his own lore doesn’t mean that it has to come at the expense of Jordan’s greatness.
“I think those two guys are different,” three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant said. “LeBron’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of player. I think people really were waiting for him to win the championship to compare, just like any other great player. ... It’s not a knock on LeBron or taking anything from him, because the stuff he’s done is unreal as well, but it’s kind of hard to compare anybody to Michael Jordan.”James started his NBA career wearing Jordan’s No. 23, but switched to 6 later and suggested that no one in the league should wear 23 again out of tribute to MJ. The plan never stuck.
And while establishing his own identity, James still finds himself dodging Jordan’s impressive shadow.
“I always say you can’t compare guys until both guys are finished playing,” Durant said. “You’ll see when Kobe Bryant’s done playing how you can compare him to Michael, Magic Johnson and LeBron, stuff like that. But while they’re playing, I don’t think you can really compare them.”