Jordan or LeBron? Or someone else?

Jordan or LeBron? Or someone else?
February 13, 2013, 10:15 am
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It's  a hot topic today so I figured I might as well weigh in on it, too.

If you were building a team and had your choice of any player in NBA history, and could get him at a young age, who would you take? The argument these days seems to always come down to Michael Jordan and -- because of his terrific recent play -- LeBron James.

Let me just say right off the top that if you're just choosing between those two, I've still got to take Jordan. There's a lot of fuss over LeBron's last seven games but really, as great as that is, it's not a career. I want to be fair here to all concerned, so I've got to see more of LeBron James to say if he compares to Michael. And I'm not one of those "count the rings" guys, either. LeBron hasn't played for Phil Jackson or Pat Riley. He hasn't had the benefit of great players around him until the last year or two and even then, you could make the case that many of the game's greats had better supporting casts than James does now.

I just want to see a body of work that compares with Jordan's -- which includes all that winning, of course, but also features a career .497 shooting percentage while averaging 30.1 points per game. Yeah, LeBron's impressive and there's never been an athlete like him in the league that I've ever seen, but let's wait a while.

And while we're waiting, let's please include some other players in the discussion.

If you ask me the original question about who I'd take to build my team around, I'd probably tell you I want a young Wilt Chamberlain. There's never been anyone as dominant as Wilt and he'd be even more so now because, quite frankly, there just aren't any real powerful centers left in the NBA. I smile when I hear people assume that Chamberlain played in an era when there weren't many big men, or that they weren't high quality. My goodness, he played in the era of the center. He averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds in 1961-62, when he was playing against Walt Bellamy, Wayne Embry, Bill Russell and Bob Pettit. A year later he was playing against Nate Thurmond. All of those men are in the basketball Hall of Fame.

There are others, too. Magic Johnson had the unique ability to impact a game as much as anybody I've seen. Michael Holton told me that Magic would be the guy he'd pick to build around -- "He could take four games named Joe and beat you," Holton said.

And how about Oscar Robertson? The guy averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists for an entire SEASON. Yeah, 12.5 rebounds out of a guard position.

It's a fun argument and the obvious thing is that each generation speaks up heartily for its own players. I will enjoy watching LeBron's career play out to see where his ultimate spot ends up. And I will be looking for your comments below.