(Note: This is an older post that I never completed until recently.)
The clip below features Colin Cowherd rebutting the claim that Michael Jordan faced tougher competition than LeBron. Before I say anything else, I’m wondering if you guys agree or disagree with this. I disagree with Cowherd, and I want to address, or more like attempt to rebut, Cowherd’s argument. I’ll do that after the clip.
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) May 23, 2018
Let’s begin with a short version of my rebuttal–namely, Jordan played in era of great centers. I might be going too far, but I feel like that fact alone comes close to proving that Jordan faced tougher competition–or played under tougher conditions, which is really the main point. As I hope to show below, that one detail, if true, could almost by itself mean that Jordan faced tougher competition–or at least tougher challenges than LeBron. There is a huge difference between a league with a few great centers and one with barely any centers at all, let alone a few great ones.
I’m going to flesh this out, but I want to address Cowherd’s approach of listing the teams Jordan faced in ’93, which I assume is one of Jordan’s best years. Cowherd lists the teams and then points out how weak they are offensively, but that’s a very narrow way of evaluating the quality of the teams. The Knicks never had great offensive talent, but they were a great defensive team (although I’m not sure if Riley transformed them into that team by then). I wonder if Cowherd thinks LeBron would dominate against the Knicks or if he’d struggle, particularly with the rules back then. I think the latter is more likely. And while Ewing was a tier below the all-time great centers, if he played now I think he’d dominate. Who would stop him? Add Oakley and Mason and they would dominate the boards on both ends.
Now, Cowherd points out that the all current teams have players, at all positions, that can shoot the three. Fair point. Whether this means LeBron and his teammates played better teams or not is another question (one I wouldn’t agree with), but Cowherd goes on to compare LeBron’s numbers to Jordan. I fail to see how an opponent with good three point shooters would adversely affect LeBron’s numbers. On the other hand, I definitely believe playing against a good defensive team with a good center, especially with the rules in the 80s and 90s would hurt one’s numbers. Could you see LeBron’s numbers if he had to play against Riley’s Knicks, the Detroit Bad Boys, Magic and Kareem’s Lakers, and Parrish-McHale’s Celtics? I definitely could, and I would guess that it would. What if Jordan played against the teams LeBron faced? Would you expect his numbers to go down? I wouldn’t–I’d expect to go up, especially with the current rules.