Commentary: Is Michael Jordan’s Claim Anything More Than Jealousy?

Can he beat LeBron? Big deal … It’s a point that His Airness will not be able to prove.

Posted: 10/02/2013 11:31 AM EDT

So, Michael Jordan does live, eh? The NBA legend had been silent so long that you almost forgot he was whiling away his retirement transforming the Charlotte Bobcats or is it the Hornets again? into the East Coast’s version of the old Los Angeles Clippers?

But one thing you learn about retired superstars, their silence is never forever, and Jordan, the consensus choice as G.O.A.T., has always spoken freely, even though much of what the man’s had to say in recent years centers on tributes to his greatness.

Why should his latest 15 minutes of bluster differ? It doesn’t.

For you have to wonder what Jordan’s obsession is with comparing his talent to LeBron James’ talent. Doubtless, the comparisons do make good barbershop chitchat; they do little to settle the central point: Who is better Jordan or James?

Jordan offered his answer the other day: He is, of course. In his prime, he would beat LeBron in a one-on-one game, Jordan said.

His comments rekindled what has always been the sort of question without an answer. To judge athletes across eras is pointless. But no person who has followed his career does not know LeBron has done everything to be in people’s conversation about the greatest of all time.

He has long played coy, however, about where his game stacked up against Jordan’s, and for his part, Jordan has be reticent to get into a public give and take about how great LeBron is.

Yet who now can dispute LeBron’s greatness? In the NBA, LeBron, 29, has passed Kobe Bryant as its brightest star, and each season that LeBron can add another championship ring will bring him more acclaim, pushing his reputation and his credentials closer to, if not beyond, Jordan’s.

To think that prospect doesn’t weigh on Jordan is to not understand the most competitive athlete to ever step on an NBA court. He has always been grudging with praise, and to hear that some people might see LeBron as better had to frustrate him.

Jordan had to think to himself: Have basketball fans forgotten how marvelous I was?

Distance has a way of making excellence in the past not as memorable as what people see today. The NBA championships and late-game heroics that marked Jordan’s career are lost amid the adulation fans now bestow on LeBron, a man chasing his own NBA legacy.

They fuel the talk about which player is the G.O.A.T.

The conversation isn’t worth continuing. It’s like asking which running back was better: Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith or Adrian Peterson?

And the better player between LeBron and “His Airness”?

Jordan’s answer is himself. In response to Jordan, LeBron has weighed in with a bit of deference.

Does it matter? Does the fact that Michael Jordan thinks he could have beaten LeBron in a one-on-one game shape what the public thinks of LeBron?

Not one bit. OK, so you could win, Michael. But who cares, Michael. 

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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