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LeBron James vs Michael Jordan: Let's Have a Debate That Can't Be Won

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Just in case you haven't been paying attention to NBA Basketball this season, LeBron James has been impressive, to say the least.

How impressive?

On Tuesday Night against the Portland Trailblazers LeBron put up 30 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. That line is impressive, but it is even more impressive when one takes into account that he shot 11 of 15 from the floor and 7 of 8 from the free throw line.

It was the sixth straight game that LeBron scored 30 or more points and shot better than 60 percent from the floor.

That puts LeBron in a class with... no one.

Yes, LeBron stands alone. No NBA player, not Kobe, not Magic, not Larry, not MJ, not West and not Wilt. No one has ever shot better than 60 percent while scoring 30 or more points in six consecutive games.

Over his past six games LeBron has shot a combined 66 for 92 from the floor, that's 71.7 percent. It is a stretch of staggering accomplishment and LeBron deserves all the credit he is getting for his on-court brilliance.

What he doesn't deserve is to be thrust into a silly debate involving an unrealistic comparison with Michael Jordan.

Spare me all the arguments, they're all bunk.

Want to compare rings? Sure go ahead. We all know, Jordan has six, and LeBron has one. That's nice, but Jordan's career is over, he's at six, and he's not getting anymore.

LeBron?

LeBron is still playing, and as already noted he's playing at an absurdly high level. James is only 28 years old, and when Jordan was 28 he had only one ring as well. Jordan turned 28 on February 17, 1992. Four months later his Bulls would defeat the Portland Trailblazers, and he would have his second ring.

So while LeBron is not yet Jordan, he's does seem to be on a familiar path.

Here's the real issue though. These men are both top-flight competitors. They both made adjustments to their games as they advanced in age.

James has become more physical, improved his low-post play, and as his recent streak has shown, he's also improved his shot selection.

Jordan honed his outside shooting, developed a turn-around jump shot that would become nearly unstoppable, and continually upped his insatiable drive to win.

This nation is obsessed with rankings. We constantly debate them. Who is best? Who is number one? Who should be number one? Who will be number one? Was that number one better than the current number one?

So it should not come as a shock that there are a lot of people who have decided that now is a good time to conjure up a Micheal Jordan vs. LeBron James debate.

Even less surprising is that there is no shortage of people willing to take sides.

ESPN.com had a nifty little comparison column on Tuesday.

They're far from the only media outlet getting involved in this.

There's no real right answer, and here's why.

Both players were, or currently are the most intense of competitors. We can compare the eras they played in, and then try and surmise how each player would have performed in the other's era. That's a flawed debate because it assumes that each player would have played the same way they do or did, even if confronted with a different set of opponents and rules.

Yes, when Jordan played there was a lot more hand-checking allowed on defense. Are we really to believe that LeBron James who is one of the most impressive physical specimens in NBA history would not have made other adjustments to his game if hand-checking were allowed?

What about the centers?

The NBA is currently in the midst of an era in which there really are no great centers. If the debate about who the best center in the NBA is involves Brook Lopez, Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler then let's face it, the position is weak.

Jordan squared off against Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Robert Parish, and Hakeem Olajuwon. Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutombo were also in the league.

James has not had to deal with that, but James has had to deal with something else, an unprecedented level of all around athleticism throughout the league.

The point guard position is deeper than at any other point in league history. Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, and Russell Westbrook are all exceptional athletes. That's not even mentioning players such as Jrue Holiday, Steve Nash, and Tony Parker.

Whether it is Paul George, Kevin Durant or James Harden, LeBron deals with better athletes on a night-to-night basis than Jordan did.

Before people get all up in arms over this perceived slight, keep this in mind. None of this is anyone's fault.

James and Jordan had nothing to do with any of this. They were both born when they were born, came of age when they came of age, and they both dominated the NBA, but in separate eras.

What is LeBron supposed to do, ask the NBA to develop better centers and allow hand-checking so he can more accurately be compared to Michael Jordan?

The debate is patently absurd.

NBA fans should be enjoying this. They should be enjoying what LeBron is doing, not preoccupying themselves with needless and impossible comparisons in hopes of determining an imaginary and inconsequential ranking.

If Jordan were playing today he'd have made adjustments to his game and he'd be every bit the player he was during his peak years.

If James came of age in the early 1990's he'd have dealt with the hand-checking, and he'd have posterized a few of those future hall of fame NBA centers along the way as well.

One person who seems to realize the futility of all of these debates is LeBron James. That's probably why on Wednesday morning he tweeted "I'm not MJ, I'm LJ."

For real basketball fans, that should be enough.

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