According to some of the loving talking heads at ESPN, LeBron is clearly a top three to five player, maybe one, and with this latest championship, definitely the best small forward ever, over Larry Bird.
Here are two ways to talk about the best ever and demonstrate why the lovers are wrong:
- One, if you were to start a team with one player, who would it be?
- Two, if you could put together the best starting five, who would it be?
The difference is the best five ever can have two people playing the position, best starting five asks for the best at each.
So, who is my best starting five? At the point guard I am going with Magic Johnson. At power forward, Tim Duncan. At shooting guard, do I really have to say it? Okay, Michael Jordan. With respect to Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlin who I didn’t see play, I’ll take the underappreciated Kareem Abdul Jabbar at center.
Now before I say why I will take Bird over James at small forward (the title of the blog was kind of a spoiler), let me ask you, as great as my starting four is, what is one glaring weakness in this lineup? Ding ding ding, three point shooting! Give all the readers who got it a prize. Given the other starting four, Bird is simply a better fit in this all-time lineup.
Just to show the lovers that I am not a hater, if Steph Curry continues on his trajectory and manages to somehow supplant Magic as the starting point guard, then there becomes a better argument to put James in the starting five over Bird. I’ll get back to you after Curry retires on that one.
Okay one part down. As far as who I would want to start a team with, first let me say as far as talent goes, and from what I have seen, LeBron is top three of all time. However, to use the often used Batman/ Robin metaphor, he has Batman talent but Robin mentality. If I was guaranteed to have a team with two alpha dog stars there is a good chance I would want LeBron to be one of them. For example, I think a young LeBron would have done better with an in his prime Shaquille O’Neal than Kobe Bryant. Conversely, if I was guaranteed to have one star, there are others I would take before him. Larry Bird being one, and Kobe Bryant another.
I can hear the lovers screaming about LeBron’s back to back 41 points in the finals and other pretty statistics. I’m not saying LeBron can’t be clutch or can’t ever close, I’m saying those are skills just like passing and rebounding, and when compared to the best of the best, others do it better. His former teammate Dwyane Wade being among them.
Between Bird and LeBron, both are all-time great passers, but I’ll give an edge to LeBron. Both can rebound the ball, but edge Bird. Both can score, but three point shooting, foul shooting, and late game foul shooting, big edge Bird. LeBron is a much better defender, ball handler and driver to the basket. As far as being clutch, leadership (can’t imagine Bird writing “sub-tweets” about teammates) and intangibles (such as more likely to make a steal versus turn it over) solid edge Bird.
So, it is not a landslide or anything but after reviewing the tale of the tape, as of now, I’m sticking with Larry Legend.