One of the common themes coming from LeBron James lately has been his desire to be the greatest player in NBA history. He doesn't name names and talk about whom he needs to surpass to become the greatest of all time, but we all know who the current GOAT is. So in his quest to be the best, James must eclipse his boyhood idol, Michael Jordan.
Last season, I spoke with two executives who told me they believed James is a better player than Jordan was. They wouldn't say it on the record, but privately, that's how they felt. One of them put it this way: "If you take winning out of the equation, LeBron James is the best player ever.''
At first, that quote might sound ridiculous because the point of any game is to win. But actually, it's a reasonable statement. Basically, the executive was taking teammates and opponents into account, and examining the player outside of any specific environment. Because of the way MJ's rings often tip the scales in any debate, in some ways this kind of thinking goes deeper than most observers care to. It's a fact: There is a strong tendency to equate titles with individual greatness.
The executives' opinions -- not to mention Scottie Pippen's infamous comment (at least before backtracking) about James being superior to Jordan -- made me curious to see how many other basketball brains would take LeBron over Michael. So I polled dozens of the league's coaches, executives and scouts and asked them this question:
"Is LeBron James better than Michael Jordan was? Not potentially, but right now?''
It wasn't close.