Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James has been compared to Michael Jordan since he first entered the NBA directly out of high school, and 17 years later those comparisons haven't stopped. If anything, James' vast success over the course of his career has intensified the conversation, and on Friday, Jordan himself weighed in. Unsurprisingly, Jordan didn't relinquish the title of G.O.A.T. to James, but he did give the four-time MVP plenty of props.
"We play in different eras," Jordan said of the comparisons at a press conference in Paris. "He's an unbelievable player. He's one of the best players in the world, if not the best player in the world. I know its a natural tendency to compare eras to eras and it's going to continue to happen. I'm a fan of his, I love watching him play. As you can see, our league is starting to expand on very talented players. I think he's made his mark, he will continue to do so. But when you start the comparisons, I think it is what it is. It's just a stand-up measurement. I take it with a grain of salt. He's a heck of a basketball player without a doubt."
No one expected the notoriously competitive Jordan to say that James has had a better career, but there is clearly respect there. James has said repeatedly that he grew up idolizing Jordan. He wears the number 23 because of Jordan and he has previously credited the Bulls legend with globalizing the game.
"MJ made the game global," James said in December of 2018. "He made people all over the world want to watch the game of basketball because of his marketability, because of the way he played the game of basketball, because of who he was. He kind of transcended that era. We needed [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson] when they came into the league. It was fitting. It was perfect timing for Magic to be with the Lakers and Bird to be with the Celtics and all the battles that they went through.
"And then when M.J. came in in '84 and started to do what he did, he made the game global. And obviously that '92 Barcelona run that the Dream Team had, it just solidified why he was the best athlete in the world to do as such. And then between M.J. and David Stern, they turned it into what it is today, and guys like Adam Silver and myself are just trying to keep it going."
A lot of kids grew up idolizing Michael Jordan, but very few go on to be mentioned in the same sentence as him when it comes to career quality, especially to the point that Jordan is forced to answer comparison questions. And considering the fact that James is still producing at an extremely high level and could go on to add more hardware to his already gaudy collection, it's safe to say that the comparisons aren't going to stop any time soon, if ever.