Posted August 15, 2012

Jim Boeheim: LeBron James might be better than Michael Jordan

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It borders on basketball heresy to make the suggestion, but perhaps the comment carries more weight coming from Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, a longtime assistant on world championship and Olympics teams for USA Basketball.

In an interview on Colin Cowherd’s radio show on Tuesday, Boeheim lavished praise on James, particularly his ability to defense all five positions. Asked how good James is, Boeheim invoked the hallowed initials MJ.

“I’ve always thought Michael Jordan was the best player that I’ve ever seen,” Boeheim said, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. “I always have and and I didn’t think it was close. I’m not so sure any more. And I love Michael Jordan. I’m not so sure anymore. This guy is 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, and he’s getting better. He works on his game. His shooting is getting better. He’s a phenomenal, phenomenal basketball player. I love this game, I love the history of this game. I know we’ve had great, great players through the years. He’s like Magic Johnson with Michael Jordan-type skills as well.”


43 comments
Jim S
Jim S

Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever, but not because he performed at basketball better than every player that ever was in the NBA. Sure he was one of the best ever at playing the game and belongs next to all the other top performers (LeBron is there as well), but MJ's influence transcended the game. He was so much more than any of the modern players could ever hope to be because Michael paved the path for all of them that came after him. The work has already been done, so today's players can "shine". I work in China now and basketball is by far the most popular sport here and it was because of Jordan. Yao Ming played b-ball because of Michael Jordan. When I tell the people here that I am from Chicago, 75% will reply with the name "Michael Jordan". His influence on all of society during his playing years was enormous. As a general fashion at that time, players in NBA (and everyone else, for that  matter) wore short shorts and socks to their knees till Jordan came and changed all of that with his baggy pants and low-cut socks. There were not even big time endorsement deals for the players in the NBA nor were there shoes named for players (unless Chuck Taylor was a player?) before MJ arrived on the scene. One didn't even see young men with shaved heads much till Michael played. I am not saying that Jordan started all these trends, but he sure did influence people into these types of behaviors that still exist today in our world. Remember, LeBron is a product of the NBA that Michael Jordan shaped. Michael Jordan was not only the greatest basketball player, but one of the most influential people in the world during his time as a player. LeBron James, not so much.

WayneDequer
WayneDequer

Lebron might become better that Jordan.  His physical skills are evident.  But, can he regularly elevate his game when needed like Jordan, Magic, and Bird (as well as West and Robertson)?  He seemed to do so this year.  Can he do it year after year?  Can he continue to win rings against a maturing Thunder and/or a renewed Lakers?

glenn5
glenn5

It always amazes me that Oscar Robertson's name never appears in the discussion for greatest player.  Averaging a triple double for an entire season is most impressive.

JessicaElswickWedlake
JessicaElswickWedlake

Either way Lebron is still an arrogant annoying spoiled turd, who needs to get over himself and learn the definitions of humble and humility.  As far as I'm concerned until lebron dominates all the way through his career and gets at least 4 or 5 titles you still cant compare him to michael jordan... part of what made Jordan so great was his total body of work, lebron is nearing like the halfway point of his career so until he finishes it out this a stupid argument, and you lebron lovers should realize this, on top of just because he is the best player of your era doesnt automatically make himt he best player ever it seems most of lebrons hype comes from young people who arent even old enough to watched the game before lebron was a pro which is WAY too small a sample size to pretend like you got it all figured out.

fasham
fasham

Bahaha Jordan wasn't arrogant?  I hype the hell out of Lebron and I've been watching basketball since before MJ won his titles.  Lebron has a higher ceiling than Jordan, remains to be seen whether he ends his career better or not.

Francois-XavierThibodeau-Gagnon
Francois-XavierThibodeau-Gagnon

Jordan had Scottie Pippen, a predecessor to LeBron in his game but more defensively oriented, making him the perfect fit for Jordan's all out attack and ball dominating game. The first two years LeBron played with a player of that calibre - Dwyane Wade - his team reached the Finals and won the next.

 

The argument can be made that Wade's game is not as suited to LeBron's as Pippen's game was perfectly fitted for Jordan's. Some might argue that Pippen was not as good as Wade is, but that is a lingering underrating of Pippen who demonstrated throughout his career that he was an all-star and dominating player, especially during Jordan's hiatus when the Bulls finished a full season with a winning percentage of .671 relying on Pippen.

 

That being said, there are too many circumstances involved to determine who was better than the other. Their team, the era they played in, their opponents, luck, injuries, teammates and opponents perception and respect toward the player, the way the player is depicted by medias, etc. all have too much of an impact to be excluded from the equation in order to isolate one player's performance and its impact on the results of his team. This is not baseball where most of what a player does can be isolated from other factors. This is game like soccer or hockey where the interactions between players and elements have such a big impact on the outcome that it is extremely difficult to precisely determine the impact of one player.

 

It also brings forward the question of the so-called intangibles, a question that would be better answered by psychologists, but one can argue that the never say die and win at all costs attitude of a player like Jordan has an influence on the performance of his teammates and opponents, either positive or negative and that LeBron’s more laid back attitude also has an impact. The difficulty is to measure and quantify all of that...which makes the debates all the more interesting!

 

Diego05
Diego05

Somewhere, somehow, Skip Bayless is now trying to argue Jim Boeheim is overrated as well...

buffalo_markley
buffalo_markley

 @Diego05 Boeheim is overrated.  For all the talent that's gone thru that university, he should have 4 banners, not just the 1.

doublejtrain68
doublejtrain68

LeBron may be a better physical specimen, but he still couldn't carry Jordan's jock strap. He doesn't make his teammates better like Jordan did. I'm glad he finally got his ring and all, but as soon as he wins five more, then make the comparisons.

jventura
jventura

 @doublejtrain68 try telling mike miller, shane battier and mario chalmers that.... why do you think Ray Allen joined the Heat? Lebron is a shooters wet dream... who else can draw three defenders on every play and find any open man on the perimeter?

 

Bob4
Bob4

 @doublejtrain68 Whether James is better than MJ is always up for debate, but you can't get away with a BS statement like, " he doesn't make his teammates better." Seriously? He makes every player on every team better, including a team of NBA all stars. This is borne out by stats and results.

edgarmejia001
edgarmejia001 like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @doublejtrain68 ok i agree that he is not better than jordan as of now, but did u seriously just say he doesnt make his teamates better??????? jordan doesnt even come close to lebron in that department! and on another note, i dont believe he needs the same number of rings as mj to be in the conversation, but i would say he needs at least 3 or 4... i dont remenber anyone saying that jordan will need as many rings as bill russel to be considered the greatest.. rings dont tell the whole story. horry has more rings than mj and that doesnt make him better than jordan. 

langdon1975
langdon1975 like.author.displayName 1 Like

I love Lebron, but we live in a society where everything is "the best ever", as soon as it happens. MJ was the mark for consistency who always came through during playoff time. We are one year removed from a Finals series, where KIdd gave Lebron room to shoot and Chandler covered the paint, and he looked like a deer in the headlights. Similar issues rose up again in the Olympic final, when Spain went man to man and gave Lebron a free outside shot, while Pau and Ibaka tried to stay in front of him. 

 

A physical specimen he is, but the flaws in his outside game when the lane is full (which will come out against LA next year) can still cause him trouble. There was no way to attack MJ in similar manner, as he didn't have any similar issues in his game. But this all comes down to the "best ever" society: Kobe went from not being able to get into the playoffs to getting Pau giftwrapped, and then to Jordan comparisons even though he was an afterthought in the 3-peat. Can't wait for next year if LA stops Lebron and he struggles, and these same "journalists" will write how Lebron is missing the killer instinct, completely ignoring the issues in his game and what happens when he can't get in the lane. 

Diego05
Diego05

 @langdon1975 We actually live in a society where everything "used to be better".

JessicaElswickWedlake
JessicaElswickWedlake

 @Diego05 depends on who your talking to... and when it comes to young people everything new always seems to be the best ever now i fully agree with langdon, and its especially stupid given the fact those same young people claim greatness from the only small spectrum of basketball they have seen.

MathieuDallaire
MathieuDallaire

scoring, and  clutchness always will be on mj side as will be winning and outside shooting for at least quite a while..defensively, its almost a tie..mj was nba defensive player of the year once, was on the nba all defense team and one of the nba leading stealer  almost every year during his prime...lbj, cause of his size, is a more versatile defender, and a better shot blocker but  id say once everything is said and done, they were both bonafide defensive forces...i give lebron the edge on passing, rebounding and, again cause of his physical attributes, versatility in his overall game. that being said, its very difficult to compare those 2 since they were 2 very different players...at the end of the day, lebron is a more complete player but jordan was a better scorer and, especially, a better clutch scorer...so i guess its a matter of what you value more...scoring vs an overall game.

T0_Dd
T0_Dd

LeBron's physical attributes and his versatility make him different than anyone who has ever played, including Jordan. Jordan was certainly a better scorer and a more intense competitor, but he couldn't pass, rebound or play five positions (offensively and defensively) at the same level that LeBron can.  If LeBron is not as good as Jordan he is close and he may still get there. I watched Jordan throughout his career and he was amazing, but he has become such a legend that people forget that he missed plenty of 4th quarter shots and got bounced out of the playoff for many years before he started winning championships. LeBron is locked in right now the way Jordan was in his prime. We'll see what happens, but if LeBron stays healthy he is going to legitimately complicate the Greatest of All Time debate. 

langdon1975
langdon1975

 @T0_Dd You are right, he did get bounced. But he also won tons of series as an underdog, something someone like Kobe Bryant has no idea about. And in those losses even, the man put up video game numbers. Which also seperates him from Lebron and Kobe. 

Craig
Craig

I suspect that at least part of this conversation is colored by something other than on-court skills.  MJ, with very rare exceptions, was a completely likable player.  He seemed friendly, outgoing, and a real person.  He wasn't, or at least didn't seem to be, self-centered.  Now, I can't personally attest to any of that, but it was the feeling I saw when I watched him play and when I watched him off the court.

 

LBJ, on the other hand, has wonderful skills on the court, maybe quite comparable to MJ, maybe even better.  But, when I see him play, and when I look at the way he handles himself off the court, I struggle to like the guy.  His exit from Cleveland, regardless of the reasoning behind it, was nothing less that abysmal, and he certainly seemed to go out of his way to offend everyone he could.  I haven't really followed his other antics since that time, largely because I was completely turned off by his attitude at that time.

 

In short, skills on the court aren't the only measure of  man, and LBJ doesn't, in my opinion, seem to have much else going for him.  MJ...yeah, he seemed like a real human.  Therein is the difference.  Whether that's a fair way to measure them I'll leave to others.

MichaelCook
MichaelCook

 @Craig I don't think I remember the HOF speech the way the other two commenters do. I recall Jordan explaining the things that got him fired up, which frankly was probably everything. We all know about his fierce competitive spirit. And to that end, elliott32spurs is right, Jordan could be brutal to his teammates.....on the court. He pushed them and pushed them, and if he thought they weren't up to task, we all remember the game commentator announcing "it's Jordan time". To me, that's the most damning and compelling piece of the Jordan mystique. He was willing to make the decision on his own when it was time to take the game over. And you'd love to hate him for it, except that he succeeded. He was literally able to win games almost by himself. To me, it is that all-around greatness and ability that makes him the best. He wasn't the biggest, or the most skilled at every basketball element, but when he needed to get the job done, he found a way.

elliott32spurs
elliott32spurs

actualy craig jordan was brutal on his teamates lebron is a great teamate that everyone loves playing with the total opposite of your perception.  did you see jordams speech for his induction into the hall of fame?  he is bitter towards everyone, hios high school coach, dean smith, he thinks everyone disrespected him which is of course crazy.  he tells everyone he got cut fropm his high school team when the truth is he made the jv team as a sophomore and was not put on the varsity.  his high school coach still takes grief for that lie.   then he ridicules the player they put on varsity instead of him at his hall of fame speech @Craig tha  player was the only big man at the school so the coach he ridicules  did the right thing.  he is a bitter man for no reason(sports illustrated article about high school coach he still ridicules  to this day and how that coach is not doing well)

Craig
Craig

 @elliott32spurs I don't necessarily disagree, elliott.  I really think for many people the issue is one of perception.  Jordan was tough on his teammates, but for the most part I really think it was "tough love."  He knew what they could do, and really wanted them to perform.  I can't speak personally for how they saw that, but to the public he generally came across as a team member most of the time, yet unafraid to "take over" when it seemed necessary.  His more recent issues, especially what we're hearing about his HS coach, are hard to reconcile with the person we thought we knew, and I'd really love to know the "whole story."  I'll bet there's more than we know.  The same likely goes for his thoughts on Smith and the others.  I don't claim to know him well enough to really understand where he is today, or even where he was then.

 

In any case, I still think LBJ suffers from an image problem, at least with a portion of the public.  It is true that Cleveland loved him from the get-go...for obvious reasons...and it is also true that Cleveland didn't do what was necessary to support him with other players.  I don't blame him for leaving...it's a business...but he could have left on decent terms with the locals...and for that I do blame him.

GeoffRogers
GeoffRogers

 @elliott32spurs Gotta agree with elliott32spurs on that point. Jordan fell many notches in my estimation with his I-am-the-Second-Coming HOF speech. What a complete tool. I just think he was probably a better basketball player.

eleetmag1
eleetmag1

Stats are a good indicator of ur skill level.  But ask urself one question, 3 seconds left in the game, one shot to win it all who do you want taking the last shot (Lebron or Jordan).

 

Nuff said (Jordon game 6... oney in the bank).  BTW I'm a Knicks fan

elliott32spurs
elliott32spurs

james is bigger, stronger, more devistating in open court with ball, Much better passer, better defender(can guard 5 postions) better defensively at closing out on shooters in defensive rotations.  better shot blocker, better at defensing the break, better rebounder.  Jordan was better shooter, better fall away jumper, and better body control around basket on half court drives.lebron hit every big shot and made hge big plays in every game of the playoffs but certainly hasnt attained jordans level of increrdible shotmaking late in games yet.  James won first title a year younger than jordan did, and jordan never played on the worst team in the league like lebron did his first seven years in league.  lebron was so incredible that a year out of high school; he took a team that had won 17 games and lost 64 to im prove so much they never got a good draft pick the whole time he was there.  seven years in cleveland and the best player he ever played with was mo williams.  you decide!

Duy Le
Duy Le

 @elliott32spurs I don't get what your point is, you said James won a title one year younger than jordan, well Lebron came out of High School...so how the hell does that make a difference? It actually took him longer to win a championship team. Jordan took scrubs and journeymen from other teams and made them winners. Lebron is a great player. But his legacy will always be tarnished because he left his team to join a big 3. Jordan had Pippen, but they DRAFTED Pippen in 1987. And they didn't suck in 1986 they went .500 and made the playoffs the year before they drafted Pippen. So if Lebron maybe would have worked his teammates harder in Cleveland maybe he could have won one then. Lebron is a hell of a player no doubt, but this compassion is moot, Lebron already ruined any chance of coming close to Jordan. When you have Dwade and Bosh and now Ray allen on your team, you are just another player on a stacked team. That's why the NBA sucks now. Jordan NEVER wanted to play with Bird or Magic, he wanted to BEAT them. That's the difference between them. 

eleetmag1
eleetmag1

 @Duy Le Lebron's legacy is  not tarnished because he left Cleveland. I'm so sick of this BS. Cleveland was not DRAFTING or TRADING any players to help him out.  WTF is Lebron going to do.. stay there and lose,  F that! Get over urself,

eleetmag1
eleetmag1

 @Duy Le Your young, so i'll excuse ur stupidity. Do you think Larry Bird was a great player (YES). How about Magic Johnson (YES). GO LOOK at starting line up. They were PLAYING with ALL-STARS and HOF players. Take a look the 1986-87 Laker team starring Majic (HOF) Kareem Addul-Jabbar (HOF) James Worthy (HOF) Kurt Rambis (ALL-STAR) Bryston Scott (ALL STAR), Michael Cooper. Great teams have always had great players.  What ruined the NBA was EXPANSION! You have guys who should be playing at all. I've been watch basketball since the Finals were on tape delay.  If you think that ANY player included MJ won the championship by themselves ur an idiot

Duy Le
Duy Le

 @eleetmag1 Yea ok, you get over yourself, anytime you join a team 2 other superstars, don't fking expect people to think you're great. It's that simple. And i am a Miami Heat fan and i'm telling you that. How is it not BS? Hey I am going to join a team with 2 other stars, and win a championship while i am still in my prime. That's called a sellout, and that is why this discussion is stupid, you don't join up with other superstars and expect to be the GOAT. I like Lebron, but he can't expect anyone to take him seriously after that. 9 of the 12 members of the 2008 USA team are on 3 teams now, LA, Miami and New York. Do the Math. The golden era of the NBA is over, why even have the smaller market teams? I like the way OKC built their team. I hope Durant wins it all next year. And I am a D Wade fan btw.

langdon1975
langdon1975

 @elliott32spurs I have to cut you down on one part: Lebron can guard 3 positions. He can't guard a single capable center or power forward and that's a fact. He can guard scrubs like Ibaka or David West, but he has no chance in guarding someone like Howard, Dirk or Pau if they have the ball in the post. Problem is, the power forward / center position is god awful in the NBA , with only a handful of players with offensive skills who can play inside. But good luck having Lebron guard someone like Zack Randolph, he wouldn't stand a chance. 

 

Oh and Jordan was drafted to one of the worst clubs in the league, and he joined a .500 team from his baseball hiatus, and won 72 games the year after, with the same team. Dickey Simpkins, Jud Buechler, Randy Brown,  Jason Caffey, Steve Kerr, Bill Wennington, Luc Longley. That's more than half(!!) of the roster of the 72 win Bulls, don't make it out like Chicago was a collection of talent when at most they had a decent PF, solid role players and Pippen (who is soooo overrated by the way, except defensively). 

bbyrne31
bbyrne31

 @langdon1975 He has guarded everyone from Rondo to Yao Ming and Dwight Howard. He locked D Rose down in crunch time last year in the playoffs and  did you watch the gold medal game? He spent most of the first half guarding Marc Gasol (an NBA all start center) and then switched over to Pau for a while. 

 

Lebron was also drafted to one of the worst teams in the NBA. And he took them from a 15 win team to a 35 win team his first season with Ricky Davis as his running mate. In fact Lebron was to successful to quickly in Cleveland. They only had 1 lottery pick while he was there (wasted it on Luke Jackson). 

Yulan1782
Yulan1782

 @elliott32spurs best player he ever played with was mo williams> shaq,jamison obviously better than williams nd snow s also beter than mo..

 

elliott32spurs
elliott32spurs

 come on yulan when shaq played with cleveland he couldnt even play anymore he was done, snow was a better defender than mo but not as good a player, mo made an all star team and snow was never close.  jamison is a good point but only played one year with lebron and had injuries and did n ot have a good year at all!@Yulan1782 

Souleater8147
Souleater8147

First I'm from Chicago and I hate to say this but athletically/ Physically LeBron has the edge. Jordan's post game was dominate when he got older and of course MJ has the edge mentally. Clutch ability goes to MJ. But Lebron is playing Jordan like and could very well end up getting to the GOAT level if he keeps playing like this. BUT I just can't see him sustaining this high level of play and come out with 6 rings. I think 2-4 rings somewhere in that range. But nah MJ is goat. 

GeoffRogers
GeoffRogers

Talk to me after there are five more rings.

Captain_Ownage
Captain_Ownage

LeBron has no turn around jumper, no fade away jumper, no outright jukes to the jumper. No crossover. He's got a very basic skill set for a professional player. The fact that he is 6-8", 260 lbs, and incredibly athletic is the only reason he's even being brought up in the same sentence as jordan. If LeBron was 6-6" 215 like Jordan as most of his career, this would not be a topic. Jordan's "skills" were and are second to none.

Duncan
Duncan like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Comparing players is almost always a waste of time — too many variables, too little discussion of terms... everybody just talks about their "feelings" and it quickly becomes really stupid.

 

Because, you guessed it, most people are really stupid. See: the guy who said Boeheim should be fired for suggesting LeBron's game is perhaps comparable to Jordan's.

JohnCyrilNoelke
JohnCyrilNoelke

This guy should be fired for saying stupid things like this...he probably thinks Carmelo Anthony is better than Jordan too

tanduay5years
tanduay5years

james got skills sets than MJ. But he's not as DOMINATING as Mj was. Period. 

MichaelRussing
MichaelRussing

This guy is insane...

elliott32spurs
elliott32spurs

 james is bigger stronger faster with the ball a way better passer than jordan.  james was more devistating on the break, jordan a more consistent shooter and jordan better body control around basket .  james a better defender better at closing out on shooters in defensive rotation.  james a beter sshot blocker on break.  @MichaelRussing