Withstanding the test of time
Michael Wilbon [ARCHIVE]
February 18, 2013
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against -- that if Jordan had come of age in today's game with no handchecking and no Pistons-style body slamming high fliers, he'd easily average 40 points on 55 percent shooting.

LeBron, if he stays healthy and keeps playing for contending teams, could conceivably dominate his era and win enough championships to force a legitimate comparative conversation down the line. Conceivably.

LeBron's set of skills is as unique as Jordan's. He seems to be as complete as Jordan, plus two inches taller and, oh, 40 pounds heavier. But we still don't know whether LeBron, or anybody else in the coming years, will play night after night with Jordan's infamous relentlessness and, yes, ruthlessness.

Tim Legler, the ESPN analyst and former NBA guard who played against Jordan, marveled during a radio interview with Mike & Mike the other morning about LeBron, but allowed that the Heat might only now, midway through the season, be growing interested in the season. LeBron and the Heat, Legler said very accurately, might not yet be playing with that championship edge, having already won a title in June.

And see, that's probably what helped take Jordan to a place LeBron hasn't yet found, Kobe either. Jordan never lost his edge when he was on a basketball court. After winning three titles, he led a team to 72 wins, the league's best-ever record. And after doing that, he led a team to 69 wins, tying the league's second-best record. And then after that, he won again. Games were more a concert than competitive contests. Jordan won whenever he wanted, scored whenever he wanted, took the opposing player's best perimeter player for 40-plus minutes, not at the end of games or here and there.

Jordan has been very quiet about this entire 50th birthday thing, a fuss I imagine he couldn't possibly want. But I'd love to be a fly on the wall when he hears that other fuss, over LeBron James' fabulous stretch of basketball and the comparisons to him, Jordan, at his best.

More times than I can count, when young 20ish LeBron was going through his postseason struggles, I got messages from Jordan that amounted to, "Hey, leave that kid alone & he's going to kick everybody's ass one day and you'll feel dumb for criticizing him!"

But now that LeBron is doing just that, as Jordan and most others predicted, and people are forgetting just how MJ terrorized every player and thrilled every fan for years, I imagine that if Michael Jordan could give himself the ultimate birthday present, anything in the world, he'd turn 50 into 35, pull out a pair of those old Air Jordans, walk onto the court and remind people just how dumb it is to forget.
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