Even Reverend Jesse Jackson, one of the most influential activist figures in history, has an opinion on one of the big NBA debates of the moment: who will have been better when the dust settles, former Chicago Bulls shooting guard Michael Jordan or who current Cleveland Cavaliers small/ Power Forward LeBron James?
Jackson, founder of Chicago’s international non-profit civil rights organization Rainbow PUSH Coalition, spoke with Bally Sports’ Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson on the Scoop B Radio Podcast and touched on a variety of pop culture topics.
At one point, Jackson spoke about his favorite elements of LeBron James’ game, preparation and performance.
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“Well, first he kept his body in shape. So many guys can’t take or endure the long haul. He’s an amazing guy. He didn’t go to college, but he sounds like a real man of peace with a master’s degree in authority; he’s a family man with a stable family, speaks with articulation and carries himself in a way that makes you proud. Some guys don’t know the difference between partying and clowning – there’s so much clowning in some partying; he does his little things with his powder and that’s it. I think we should never compromise dignity for the moment. When they touch down, they start circling; I don’t think it’s all good. We do ours best, and if you pass or drop the ball over your shoulder, act like you’re used to it or have done it before, you know what I’m saying? LeBron James is a solid gentleman to me.
When Robinson asked him to compare Jordan and James as players, Jackson didn’t hesitate, although he did try to diplomatically assess the greatness of each.
“C’mon man,” laughed Jackson. “Michael Jordan is the best. I’ve seen him win 6 straight titles and struggled to get that winning combo when he showed up. I’m a little biased though because I’ve seen Michael play so much and he’s such an omega man I’m “a bit” biased on that [laughs]. But I’m not sure if it matters. Bill Russell said, “How can you compare someone who hasn’t even played each other?” You’re comparing how much they’ve won. How can you compare [Wilt] Chamberlain to [fellow legendary Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar]? They played against each other. You have to compare likes. So Michael was the best player of his time. LeBron is the best of his time and both guys have done well on and off the court. Michael helps many people, as does James, building schools in Akron, Ohio; it doesn’t get any better.”
Although Jordan actually won six titles in eight seasons, he was retired for the entire 1993-94 NBA season and unretired only for the stretch run of the 1994-95 regular season. The Bulls fell with Jordan in the second round of the 1995 playoffs against future Laker Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic. The team then retooled, traded reserve center Will Perdue to the Spurs for Hall of Famer power forward Dennis Rodman, and then went on to win three straight titles.
James is a great player and will likely break all sorts of records the longer he plays, but Jordan was more dominant in his prime, although it didn’t last that long. This author believes that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell also belong to the NBA’s Mount Rushmore in some order alongside Jordan and James. However you splice it, you really can’t go wrong.