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As the NBA Playoffs Heat Up, the Great Debate Rages – Jordan or James?

It has become one of the most intriguing debates in sports and if LeBron James and Stephen Curry keep playing, the debate will rage even hotter. Of course, it gains fuel and fire come playoff time in the NBA.

Regardless of who wins the Western Conference semifinal series between James’s Lakers and Curry’s Warriors, the winner will be compared to the man many believe is the greatest basketball player of all time – Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

James is usually at the center of this debate and if he wins a fifth NBA title, he will be just one title behind Jordan. Should James also win MVP Finals honors it will also be his fifth, one shy of the King of Sneakers. James began the playoffs at +1800 to win a fifth MVP. LeBron has enjoyed a massive boost after leading the Lakers to the semifinals and is now +650.

Curry Makes Game 7 History

Curry has garnered some interest since leading the Warriors to the 2022 NBA Title. It gave Curry a fourth ring. Should he win Finals MVP, Curry would have bookends. Curry opened the playoffs at +1200 to win MVP. Curry dropped to +1600 although certainly not for a lack of trying.

He dropped a career playoff best 50 on the Sacramento Kings in Game 7 of their quarterfinal round series. It was the greatest Game 7 performance in history. Take that Air Jordan. Chew on that King James.

“For Steph to be the first player ever to get 50 in a Game 7, he’s sublime,” said coach Steve Kerr, who sent reporters scurrying to look up, “sublime.”

The 2023 matchup between Curry and James is their fifth in the playoffs. Curry’s Warriors are 3-1 but James has averaged 33.0 points to Curry’s 25.4. We’ll get back to the stats comparisons in a bit.

Right now, it’s playoff time.

Another Chance for James and Curry

The Milwaukee Bucks began the playoffs as the odds-on favorite to win it all at +240. The Warriors were +750. The Lakers opened at +2200. If you had taken L.A. at the end of the regular season, you can begin thumbing through yachting magazines, but don’t place an order just yet.

FYI: The sports figure with the most opulent yacht is Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, whose 357-foot mega yacht, the Bravo Eugenia, named in honor of his wife, Eugenia, cost a cool $250 million – cheerleaders not included, although there are two helipads so you can fly in a dance team or two.

So, who deserves to be called the great in NBA history?

No Debate in the NFL and NHL

The debate is all but settled for now in the NFL. Tom Brady, with his seven rings and five Super Bowl MVP trophies, is the leader in the clubhouse. But Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes hasn’t even gotten to the turn. Mahomes, 27, has two rings and two MVP trophies.

Wayne Gretzky is universally regarded as the greatest NHL player of all time. He won four Stanley Cup titles with the Edmonton Oilers and two Conn Smyth trophies, given to the playoff MVP. His 2,857 points are the most in NFL history.

Baseball is a muddle, far from a two-horse race. Some tremendously talent pitchers – Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson – played before television, no less social media. Others were remarkably successful, but arm trouble prevented them from enjoying even longer careers such as Sandy Koufax. And then there’s the PED factor (see Rogers Clemens)

Of course, many believe a pitcher can’t be the greatest baseball player of all time simply because they’re on the mound every four or five days. And what about relief pitchers such as Mariano Rivera?

Position players usually mentioned as the best of all time include Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, and Ted Williams. The sun will stop burning before this debate is settled.

The Jordan-James Decision

Where do we weigh in on the Jordan-James-Curry debate? First, let’s not forget Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Or Bill Russell if the No.1 criteria is titles.

We put Curry third in the debate because he is not a defensive stopper, something James and Jordan did. Now we’re down to two and we can spin statistics, quality of rosters, championships, MVPs until we’re blue in the face.

Here’s why we lean Jordan.

  1. He played an era in which hand-checking was legal. Defenders could all but handcuff themselves to Jordan. James was spared this abomination of basketball.
  2. Load management. It didn’t exist when Jordan played. James has not used load management very often to his credit. But it simply wasn’t an option when Jordan played.

We’d love to hear from you. Who do you think is the greatest basketball player of all time? Remember, James or Curry could have more hardware to add to the debate.


Bet Basics Team