James or Jordan: Debate rages on

ORLANDO • The greatest of all time (GOAT) in basketball is a debate where people will not be swayed.

LeBron James on Sunday became the first player to win four National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals' Most Valuable Player (MVP) honours with three different teams.

Frank Vogel, his Los Angeles Lakers coach, believes he is "the greatest player the basketball universe has ever seen", while fellow All-Star teammate Anthony Davis also called him the GOAT at the championship ceremony.

But there will always be differences of opinion - coloured by personal preference - when it comes to who sits atop the pedestal, James or Michael Jordan.

With a haul of six NBA championships from six Finals with the Chicago Bulls, many still consider "His Airness" as the sport's defining player.

However, Vogel puts "The King" above him. He said: "And if you think you know, you don't know, okay, until you're around him every day, you're coaching him, you're seeing his mind, you're seeing his adjustments, seeing the way he leads the group."

Lakers teammate Kyle Kuzma agreed, insisting James was a force of nature both on the court and off it.

"He's one of the greatest leaders in sports, not just the NBA," said the forward. "He's always rallying the troops, talking in group chats and making sure everybody's fine. Holds everybody to a high standard. Makes everybody accountable. Everything you want in a leader."

One of Jordan's fiercest rivals, Detroit Pistons great Isiah Thomas feels the same way.

LeBron James embracing the trophies for the NBA championship and another for being the Finals MVP. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

As the Lakers celebrated by drinking his champagne brand Cheurlin 1788 at Disney World, he tweeted: "The best and most 'complete' player I have seen in my lifetime is James on and off the floor. He passed the eye test and the numbers confirm what my eyes have seen in every statistical category. Let it be known! #GOAT"

James did not get involved in the debate, but after his fourth championship in 10 Finals appearances, he demanded the sporting world put some respect on his name.

The 35-year-old, who recorded his 28th play-off triple-double - just two behind all-time leader Magic Johnson - and first of this series on Sunday, said: "We just want our respect. (Lakers general manager) Rob (Pelinka) wants his respect, coach Vogel wants his respect, our organisation wants its respect, Lakers nation wants its respect. And I want my damn respect too."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2020, with the headline 'James or Jordan: Debate rages on'. Print Edition | Subscribe