David Blatt is hardly an unbiased observer in the greatest of all-time debate between Michael Jordan and LeBron James. He coached James for a year-and-a-half with the Cleveland Cavaliers before being surprisingly fired midway through his second season. He then had to watch Ty Lue lead the Cavaliers to a championship against the very Golden State Warriors team that denied him of one a year earlier.
But it wasn’t his tumultuous time in Cleveland that has Blatt leaning towards Jordan. No, in an interview with Israel Hayom (as translated by Euro Hoops), he chose Jordan for reasons that made even less sense.
“Michael Jordan is greater than LeBron James,” Blatt said. “He won the most championships with one single team and did not focus on the ‘I’ but on the ‘us.’ But surely, in terms of ability and influence, they are both included in the top five best players in history.”
These arguments, barring something getting lost in translation, are ridiculous. First of all, there is no added value in winning championships with a single team. Blatt should know that having coached 11 teams during his career, but if that’s his barometer, Bill Russell should top his rankings having won 11 with the Boston Celtics.
In a purely literal sense, the notion of Jordan focusing on “us” instead of “I” makes little sense considering Jordan’s own opinion on the matter. In a well-known bit of verbal jousting, Bulls assistant coach Tex Winter would often tell Jordan that there was no “I” in “team,” to which Jordan would respond, “no, but there’s an ‘I’ in ‘win.’ ”
Taken more broadly, LeBron has a skill-set far more conducive to team play than Jordan. James has averaged 7.4 assists per game for his career, a total Jordan reached in only one season, the 1988-89 campaign that forced him to finish the season at point guard. Phil Jackson implemented the triangle offense in an effort to force Jordan to share the ball and empower his teammates. James has never needed such compulsion.
There are plenty of valid reasons to prefer Jordan to James. The ones Blatt listed aren’t among them. Perhaps he was alluding to things he learned while coaching LeBron, but on paper, his reasoning makes very little sense.
Courtesy: CBS Sports