James started his NBA career wearing Jordan’s No. 23, but switched to 6 later and suggested that no one in the league should wear 23 again out of tribute to MJ. The plan never stuck.
And while establishing his own identity, James still finds himself dodging Jordan’s impressive shadow.
“I always say you can’t compare guys until both guys are finished playing,” Durant said. “You’ll see when Kobe Bryant’s done playing how you can compare him to Michael, Magic Johnson and LeBron, stuff like that. But while they’re playing, I don’t think you can really compare them.”
This stretch of proficiency is just another phase in James’ ascent. Where he’ll end up, whether he’ll ever approach all those titles James, Wade and Chris Bosh predicted upon their creation in Miami, is still to be determined.
“Every year, he’s come back a better player for 10 years now. That’s remarkable in itself. Not a lot of guys can say that. I’m not so sure he’s at his peak, which is frightening,” said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks, a Jordan contemporary. “He’s one of the best players in the game’s history, not just the current generation of players, of all the players.
“What he is able to do at the level that he does it on both ends of the floor, you usually don’t see. You don’t see it often.”
Wade said he believes James’ transformation to an even better version of the NBA’s top player started last season after a difficult transition from beloved star in Cleveland to the league’s most-hated man in Miami.
“Once last year came and he was able to bring his family down to Miami and really get comfortable in the surroundings, the new environment, he started getting back to being the LeBron James that we all became accustomed to,” Wade said.
“It’s not saying the year before that he wasn’t special. Any time he puts on the jersey and he steps on the court, he’s a special player, but now he’s just even more confident. He’s at that age, at 28 years old, where everything just comes together.”
Remember that Jordan, although he hadn’t been in the league as long after playing college ball at North Carolina, was 28 when he won his first championship in 1991. Wade would caution that this is only the start of James’ very own, unique story.
“MJ’s legacy at 50 years old is still going strong,” Wade said, “and LeBron James’ legacy will be the same.”
This week Michael Jordan said he would choose Kobe Bryant over Lebron James.