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By TED SILLANPAA

People who follow the NBA want to wait to see how many championships LeBron James wins before they even consider acknowledging him to be in the same class at the great Michael Jordan. I’ve heard some respected media members and former players who still want LeBron to win more titles before they’ll consider him in the same class as Kobe Bryant.

I see no need to wait for LeBron to try to win five or six championships before admitting, I’d be more than happy to start my NBA team with LeBron James. He’s bigger, faster and stronger than MJ or Kobe. He can defend all five positions on the court and those two could not. He’s a better rebounder than they were because he can mix it up with the opposing center and power forward.

And, I don’t need the greatest player in the NBA to be a hard-nose … a donkey who punches and verbally abuses his teammates. Maybe Jordan and Kobe won championships because they did some pretty heinous things that pushed teammates to greater heights. I tend to think James gets his teammates to play their best because he’ll always pass to the open man, always gladly take on the toughest defense assignement and blames the other guys after a loss.

I couldn’t disagree more with those who insist that LeBron is more interested in his brand and becoming the first billionaire athlete. Of course, I’m not a mind-reader and don’t pretend that I am. James seems to be as interested in winning as MJ and Kobe ever were.

It doesn’t matter how I rank those three, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Magic Johnson. Give me LeBron James to start my ultimate all-time NBA team and I’ll be really happy. There’s nothing the guy can’t do — and he gets better all the time.

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23 Comments

  1. Loneraider78

    Well, I guess this is an instance where you could play the “without MJ there is no Lebron or Kobe” card.

    The bottom line is, all three are in the top ten historically, so you can’t go wrong with any of them to build around. But MJ is my generation so that’s the guy that can never be supplanted in my mind.

    Once you’ve seen Halley’s Comet every other star is just a star.

    February 15th, 2013 5:29 pm

  2. Jacques levy

    Nonsense. These guys don’t stand up to the past greats. A game played with dominant defensive presents. As Oscar Robertson said Jordan might average 20 a game in his day. If he drove on Wilt or Russell he would be digging leather out of his teeth. No sir if you did not seethe game with great defensive presence in the paint then you have not a clue what great ball looked like

    February 15th, 2013 7:52 pm

  3. Marco jepson

    Durant may be the best of them all. He reminds me of Bird, who is along with Magic far better then the prima Dona’s overtime seeks to glorify. Jordan and Kobe score. Neither passes nor rebounds. James is a better all around player but he to relies on abilities which are exploited in a league absent any great centers. Durante is a pure scorer, a seven footer with the skills of a point guard. He does not monopolize the ball or hoist up voluminous shots to pat his apt.

    February 15th, 2013 8:02 pm

  4. overtime

    Marco…Hey! I didn’t seek to glorify anybody. I just said I think LeBron’s the best player going…I think his play and athletic ability speaks for itself. Your view of Durant is on the mark…although he shoots way more than LeBron and isn’t nearly the passer and … hey, your opinion is as viable and legit as my opinion or anybody else’s opinion. Durant…you can’t go wrong with that kid. TED

    February 15th, 2013 8:13 pm

  5. overtime

    Raider…I’ll yield the floor to you and Jacques…and, you got the point…you can’t go wrong with any of them, but in my opinion I’d be thrilled if I wound up with LeBron as he’s beginning to peak. … The NBA changed at various points but I don’t think Jordan brought us LeBron…the argument I wouldn’t make very clearly is that Bird and Magic changed the game and everybody came after them. Ted

    February 15th, 2013 8:15 pm

  6. overtime

    Jacques….Thanks for reading. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s when Russell and Wilt were still playing. I followed the Bucks’ championship season with Robertson and Kareem together. And, you hit me with how I don’t have a “clue” because I didn’t see the game with great defensive presences? … LeBron is 6-foot-8, 260 pounds and he can jump out of the gym or carry the gym on his back. Bill Russell is listed as having been 215 pounds, but most who knew him said he was more 6-foot-7 than 6-foot-9. (IBy comparison, Warriors second-year guard Klay Thompson is 6-7, 208.) Russell and Wilt did some damage against Walt Bellamy, Zelmo Beatty, Darrell Imhoff, etc. Robertson was a guard who could probably have handled Jordan, but I can’t think of many others who could have. Feel free to share your opinions because I like to hear from folks who remember the game I grew up with. But…you don’t have to bring the angry…your opinion is valued here. TED

    February 15th, 2013 8:27 pm

  7. Jacques Levy

    On point re bird and magic, but never forget the original league personality formation. Elgin Baylor was unique, Wiltt Chamberlain the most dominant force to ever take the court, Bill Russell a defensive genius, the Big O unstoppable. To underestimate the ability and contributions of these players sells the game short. Only two players have a 30 point career average, and only two have a , 20 rebound a game average, and only one averaged a triple double for a year. Check it out

    February 15th, 2013 8:27 pm

  8. Tess MAlone

    Here’s my take. I will give you every player who entered the league on FEb.1 1970 or after. I will take all who entered prior to that date, and my team will dominate yours.

    February 15th, 2013 9:30 pm

  9. Brian Dempsey

    The beauty of bird and magic was the respect. Two great. Team players, each made their teammates better, each fundamentally perfect, competing in the most honest way possible. There is no such rivalry today. These two cut commercials together, pushed each other, respected the other not only as a rival but as a man. Today’s stars are egomaniacs,driven to maximize their their economic gains by diminishing their rivals. I have never read of Jordan,Kobe or Lebron helping another player. Certainly none is a JAck Twyman

    February 15th, 2013 9:45 pm

  10. overtime

    Tess…Thanks for reading and sharing your thought. I’ll take that offer and … with tears in my eyes as my childhood heroes get torched … watch Magic, LeBron, Jordan, Bird, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, et. al. just drub the guys I grew up watching. Of course…that’s my opinion and means exactly no more or less than your opinion…I think Rick Barry could hold his own in today’s game. TED

    February 15th, 2013 11:56 pm

  11. overtime

    Brian Dempsey…Hey, a Jack Twyman mention is right up my alley! Excellent. He was a great player when I first followed the NBA, then was the analyst on ABC’s Sunday televised games, as you probably know. … I appreciate your thoughts. I hope to hear from you again. Note: I’ve paid a great deal of attention to LeBron James since covering his first NBA regular-season game and I can’t say he’s not interested in making billions of dollars, but I’d not put him in the category of Jordan or Kobe in regard to being callous toward to his teammates. Ted

    February 16th, 2013 12:07 am

  12. overtime

    Jacques…I have only the highest regard for your opinion. The idea that I have dispute that the guys from my youth were the best of the best is actually painful. I’d really like to say, “You’re right! Bob Petit would be a great power forward today. And Elgin Baylor would still be magic in the lane at the rim at 6-foot-5.” I just … don’t believe that to be so. I’m not underestimating the contributions those great players (or Wilt or Russell…heavens, I grew up insisting Wilt was the greatest athlete, all-time, ever…) made. I think Rick Barry was a now sadly forgotten forerunner of the “point forward” who can shoot, handle, pass, etc. I heard a couple of former NBA coaches compare what LeBron does to what Barry could do … but, LeBron’s faster, bigger, stronger, a far better defender and so forth. Statistics aren’t necessary. I know the stats from the 1960s and 1970s. I just feel like … Wilt wouldn’t have averaged 50 points a game for a season in the modern NBA … or that Oscar Robertson would’ve had his way as freely against the league filled with similarly sized athletic guards. They would be great players … Barry, Wilt, Robertson … but, it’s my opinion that there are players today who aren’t at LeBron’s level who could defend them and bring them back to the pack. But … in my mind’s eye … nobody’s better than Barry and Wilt’s unstoppable! I hate have to face reality. TED

    February 16th, 2013 12:12 am

  13. coachaugie

    MJ: 30ppg, 6.3RPG, 5.3APG, 2.3Steals, 85%FT, .09BLK. LBJ: 27ppg, 6.5RPG, 6.2APG, 1.7Steals, 73%FT, .08BLK. Virtually the same stats over a career. There is NO way that James could guard Jordan. He is (was) way to quick laterally and 40lbs heavier. On the flip side, Jordan probably couldn’t guard James cause he’s too big and physical. My buddy Ryan Davis, played with James on his AAU team in HS, played NBA D league with Byron Russell. He asked Russell who was the hardest player he had to guard and he said Bryant (can’t remember why).

    Here’s another thing to think about: can you imagine if MJ played in today’s game, with no hand checking??? he’d average 5-8 PPG more. MJ also had to play in the years of the great centers: Kareem, Hakeem, Ewing, Robinson, Mutombo, Morning, and other guys who beat the crap out of him every time he went to the hole. LBJ has to play against howard, Lopez twins, Bogut…advantage LBJ.

    Are the players much more athletic today? Yes, but it was more physical of a game back when MJ played. Like I said, you can’t go wrong with either one of them. I don’t know if LeBron doesn’t want to take the last shot. I do know that LBJ passed up many shots early in his career (He got a lot of heat on ESPN and all the sports talk radio shows) where MJ took it and won in big games. Last year LBJ came into his own and took big shots and carried his team to a championship.

    I guess it comes down to personal preference. I want the guy who’ll kick his guys in the teeth if they’re not pulling their weight…

    February 16th, 2013 1:26 am

  14. Jacques levy

    You underestimate the import of dominant post play. The athleticism you so admire in today’s player is neutralized by an intimidating defensive presence in the lane. There is a wonderful story told about the famed Rucker league in the late fifties. Many legends were born there. Largely by players who predates today’s league, long on athleticism but short on fundamentals. Players with colorful nicknames who scored a boatload of points in a league not known for defense. One nite Chamberlain went up to meet one of these legends. Before the game he found a man full of himself, so Wilt informed him tonight he would not score. In the first half the big guy blocked every shot the legen took. The half ended with Wilt’ promise fulfilled. As the two retired for halftime Wilt informed the crest fallen legend that now he could score. Which he did to the tune of forty second half points. The moral being that today’s greats, Lebron, Kobe & Durant are exceptions, are not sound fundamentally. Many of the points are cheap, created by poor positioning and defense. Against formidable lane defense their production would diminish markedly

    February 16th, 2013 10:28 am

  15. LeeRoy

    My personal #1 Pick would be Magic Johnson.
    Magic vs Bird was always a classic confrontation.
    LeBron reminds me of Magic more than any of the other superstars of the game.
    Lets hope LBJ will be the positive influence Magic is after he is done with the NBA. (and please no BS about HIV naysayers)

    February 16th, 2013 9:34 pm

  16. overtime

    LeeRoy…Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you again. For whatever it’s worth, I think one of the most positive influences that Earvin Johnson had was, sadly, showing us that HIV isn’t strictly a problem that haunts homosexuals, heterosexuals, etc. It crosses boundaries. The fact that he’s lived and prospered is groundbreaking, too, I think. Ted

    February 16th, 2013 11:28 pm

  17. overtime

    Jacques…Yeah…if some old-school bruisers just battered guys around, it’d change the game. Like I mentioned in another comment…those bruisers of the 1960s and 1970s were the size of lots of today’s shooting guards. … I don’t doubt that Wilt could’ve done anything he set his mind to, but I heard the basketball guy who said today’s players are afraid to challenge LeBron at the hoop say, “LeBron is Wilt…if Wilt had cared…” I realize Wilt’s desire and attitude were always questioned, but … man, talk about a rep that outlived the man! TED

    February 16th, 2013 11:43 pm

  18. overtime

    Augie…Thanks. Good stuff. Ted

    February 16th, 2013 11:51 pm

  19. jacques Levy

    Wilt cared, his classic line was ” Nobody roots for Goliath”.Consider the following facts, not conjecture when contemplating his effect on the game;
    He never fouled out of a game
    He is the only non guard to ever lead the league in assists
    The lane was widened from 6 to 12 feet tp move him further from the basket
    Offensive goaltending enacted to stop his creating a human backboard on corner shots
    In bounds passes from under ones backboard disallowed to stop a pass over the backboard which he would catch and dunk
    He scored 50 points or more in a game more then the combined rest of the league
    Kevin Love was celebrated, rightly so for his 30 point 30 rebound game. That mark has been reached approximatelt 100 times in league history. 70 of those times by Wilt
    He holds the league record 55 rebounds in one game. Achieved against Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics
    His career average s are 30 plus points and 22 plus rebounds a game. Achieved playing against, Russell, Bellamy, Thurman, Embry, Unseld, Kerr, Scott and Jabbar every seventh night
    He is third in triple doubles even though blocked shots were not an official statistic when he played. I personally saw him block 17 one night against the Syracuse Nationals.
    True current NBA play does not enthrall me. Most teams play dumb. But there are players whose brilliance I delight in watching. Among those are James, Durant, Love, Curry, Wade, Nash, Duncan, Ginobli and Gasol. Each plays with exceptional skill and intelligence. However I do not believe a perimeter oriented team can beat one with a strong inside presence. You appear to believe James can create that along with his exceptional ball skills. I do not believe he has the ability to do what Magic did to Malone. Assume the pivot and drop 46 points on a quality post defender. In a title determining game.

    February 17th, 2013 1:22 am

  20. overtime

    Jacques….LeBron has defended Derrick Rose and shut him down on the point in the postseason and I’ve seen him shut down a talented post player. I’ve seen him do both things and run the offense, then yielding the ball to set up as a power forward. If you don’t see his skill and intelligence, I suspect you made up your mind about James and that it can’t be changed even if basketball folks who worked and played in the NBA suddenly were unanimous in their acclaim for the young man.I find it curious that you question his intelligence. Do you mean court sense? He’s a brilliant facilitator for a bigger guy. TED

    February 17th, 2013 2:52 pm

  21. Jacques Levy

    He is everything you say. The only weakness I have ever seen was a tendency to drive headlong into four defenders with a game on the line. In the several instances in which this happened I wished he would pull up and shoot a mid range in the lane J.. He is an exceptional talent. Approaching the level of versatility seen only in Robertson and Johnson. And would excel in any era.
    But if Pop’s Spurs prove anything it is that inside out basketball is superior for winning championships over isolation pick and roll.
    This debate boils down to our divergent beliefs in t he ability of one era’s dominant big men to alter the way the modern player attacks the basket. For I agree absent these particular talents today’s player is bigger faster and more athletic

    February 17th, 2013 5:52 pm

  22. Jacques Levy

    Please read the comments of Chet Walker in The Chronicle today. He has true historical perspective. He supports the fallacious premise of the current man crush on LBJ

    February 24th, 2013 4:22 pm

  23. overtime

    Jacques…OK…I’ll write it…since I can’t find Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant to say it: When did Wilt, Thurmond and Russell ever have to protect the rim against a 6-foot-9, 260-pound athlete like LeBron James? It goes both ways, right? Walker and his peers naturally favor the greatest of their time. Kobe, Tim Duncan, etc. would have the same high regard for their peers. TED

    February 24th, 2013 7:03 pm

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