May 30, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James celebrates with teammates against the Indiana Pacers during the second half in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NBA Finals: Miami Heat and LeBron James Could Be Best Ever


The Miami Heat have made it to the 2014 NBA Finals, which marks their fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals and could be their third straight NBA championship. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have already created quite the legacy in the NBA, with Wade having three titles and James having two — which is why winning this one would make them the best in the modern era.

We have to sneak that “modern era” in there because there were some truly dominant Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics teams back in the 1960′s, when the Celtics won eight consecutive titles and the Lakers appeared in five of those series. We’ll define the modern era as post-merger, which would be the 1976-77 season until today.

HISTORICALLY DOMINANT TEAMS

Dec 21, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan unveils the new Charlotte Hornets logo at halftime during the game against the Utah Jazz at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Since then we’ve had some tremendous teams that have imposed their will on the world of basketball. The Boston Celtics teams headed by Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish won three titles (1981, 1984, 1986). The Los Angeles Laker teams with Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won five titles (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988). Later Laker teams headlined by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant won three titles in a row (2000, 2001, 2002) and then when Shaq left town, Kobe headlined two more wins (2009, 2010).

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the San Antonio Spurs, who have won four titles (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007) and lost in last year’s finals to Ray Allen‘s heroics and a healthy dose of Game 7 LeBron. They’ve got a chance to make the finals this year, which would be their sixth trip in 15 years. Tim Duncan is generally thought of as one of (if not the) best power forward in NBA history and combined with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, they can stake their claim to the best dynasties in the modern era.

However, the gold standard when we talk about dominant players and a dominant dynasty would be the Chicago Bulls in the 1990′s. Michael Jordan led them to three straight championships two different times (1991, 1992, 1993 and 1996, 1997, 1998). As with any dominant squad, Jordan had his Hall-of-Fame sidekick in Scottie Pippen and a litany of valuable role players to step up and do their jobs when asked.

WHERE DO THE HEAT STAND

Jun 20, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James addresses the media after defeating the San Antonio Spurs in game seven in the 2013 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. Miami Heat won 95-88 to win the NBA Championship. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As of this very moment, it would be difficult to put the Heat ahead of those Magic Johnson Lakers teams or the Spurs squads and there’s no way we can put them ahead of those Michael Jordan-led Bulls teams. With that said, even Jordan never made four consecutive Finals appearances (though his baseball sabbatical probably prevented it).

With that said, if the Heat are able to defeat either the Western Conference Champions, they’ll be able to boast about their accomplishment of winning three straight titles (done by just two franchises in modern era) and consider this for a second — LeBron is still just 29 years old and has plenty of time to continue his chase to be the best player of all-time.

STATS AND SUCH

James has four league MVP awards and two Finals MVP’s. If he were to win the Finals MVP in a third straight season, he’d join Jordan and Shaq as the only players to win three in a row. Jordan has SIX of them to his credit, which is something Bulls faithful lean on when talking about who the best player to ever play is.

As far as looking at specific stats, it’s really difficult to compare Jordan and James because they’re two completely different players. However, we’ll go ahead and satiate your thirst for numbers by showing you what each player has done through their 11th season (James is 29, Jordan was 32). These are regular season averages.

Player G MP FG% 3P% 2P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
LeBron James 842 39.5 .497 .341 .535 .747 7.2 6.9 1.7 0.8 3.3 1.9 27.5
Michael Jordan* 766 38.6 .512 .332 .525 .844 6.4 5.7 2.6 1.0 2.9 2.9 32.0
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/31/2014.

Now, let’s take a look at their playoff numbers per game.

Player G MP FG% 3P% 2P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
LeBron James 153 42.7 .479 .325 .522 .754 8.5 6.5 1.7 0.9 3.4 2.3 28.0
Michael Jordan* 139 41.7 .495 .363 .509 .831 6.4 6.2 2.3 0.9 3.3 3.2 33.9
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/31/2014.

Those paint interesting pictures. It’s obviously slanted in Jordan’s favor, but is it a landslide like some make it seem? The bottom line here is that James is near Jordan’s level, but he’s not on it nor past it just yet.

James falls short statistically, he falls short with his team accomplishments and he falls short with his individual accolades. With that said, he’s also three years younger than Jordan was with these numbers. He’s got a healthy portion of his career left and could approach Jordan’s six Finals MVP’s and six championships.

A win this season would put James in heady company (as if he isn’t already), but it doesn’t make him the best of our era. He’s the best of THIS era if you want to consider the 2000′s as a new generation, but with the player-friendly rule changes and the lack of true superstars in the league, it’s too hard to call James anything but slightly under Jordan at this time.

Get back to me when he wins two more championships.

 

Tags: 2014 Nba Finals Lebron James Miami Heat

  • s young

    Man, I usually agree with your posts. I definitively disagree with this argument, mainly because it irks me we always undermine the physicality Michael Jordan had to endure in the 1990′s. And, the weakness of the Eastern Conference in today’s world. With LeBron’s playstyle, I imagine the Bad Boy Pistons would have limited LeBron even more than they did Michael, because James isn’t a great 3-point shooter. Neither was Michael, but I’d still take his outside shooting touch any day.

    I know you are significantly older than me and watched a little of Jordan play maybe, but we all probably know that if Jordan played TODAY, it would be nothing less than 40-45 points every game. That’s just who he was.

    Also, can’t get over the fact that everyone wants to throw LeBron over Kobe in terms of All-Time legacy. Sure, Kobe won some titles with a dominant center, but he wasn’t what you would call a “Robin” by any means. It was a perfect duo domination. I’ll tell you now, how can we even argue LeBron would have ANY titles if he didn’t team up with superstar Wade? The argument I would throw at you is: If Jordan teamed up with Isiah Thomas, Clyde Drexler, or Magic at the time …. how many would this man have won?

    The only reason Jordan didn’t 8-peat — yes, eight straight titles — is because he quit playing for two years and took some time to get back into rhythm when he returned. Jordan will always be the best player to ever live, even if LeBron wins 7 titles with 7 Finals MVP’s. Just how I feel. Fully believe Kobe is the best player from 2000 to 2013, because of the consistent scoring destruction he put on everyone. Sure, it’s LeBron’s time now, but nothing is more aggravating than people throwing his name into discussions he may not belong in.

    Good post, man

    • emfresh310

      Couldn’t agree more! Great points!

    • Manny Rouzard

      You should be a sport writer. I agree with you 100%. LeBron team up with 2 additional Superstars (Not role players). Jordan had all role players on his team, MJ made Pippen look like an Allstar but at the end of the day Pippen was an average player with great defensive skills and besketball IQ. If Wade, Bosh and LeBron played on 3 separate teams Bosh could score 25 pts easily, Wade could score at least 25 pts if he wanted to and LeBron could easily put up 25 pts.

      Not to mention the league is soft now. Back in the Bird and Jordan era there was no flopping. The game was way more physical. Also back then there were dominant big man (Centers, Power Forwards and etc). The NBA today is soft and no talented big man.

      If LeBron and KD played in the Jordan era they would score about 15 pts per game max because the players back then was bigger, physical, and skilled. There game wasn’t based on athleticism. If Jordan played in today’s game today he would average at least 45 pts per game, if Shaq played today in his prime he would too average 25 pts, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks per game.

  • http://hoopshabit.com Gerald Bourguet

    Excellent piece, Michael. The world needs more pieces like this that don’t teeter into “LEBRON JAMES, GOAT!” or “LEBRON JAMES SUCKS!” territory.

  • emfresh310

    “Which is why winning this one would make them the best in the modern era”…???? Lakers already have a 3peat under their belt THIS era. So how will that make the heat the best? Gtfoh

  • Greencar

    Bosh and Wade has not played like superstars the last four years, Wade bad knees and Bosh head case. Seven footer sometimes getting no rebounds and most of the time less than five rebs. LBJ is the GOAT, at least 3 times better than MJ the shooting hog.