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Five legends not named Michael Jordan who are better than LeBron James

LeBron James has recently been compared to Michael Jordan in regards to the greatest NBA player of all time debate. While it is still commonly believed that Jordan is the better of the two, many fans are quick to point out that LeBron James is behind Jordan as the de-facto second best player in NBA history. This is an incorrect assumption and it’s even unfair to the NBA legends that rank along with Michael Jordan as the best in league history.

The Cleveland Cavaliers superstar is still an amazing player, but there are five NBA legends that are still better than the 3-time NBA champion.

5. Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O’Neal is still one of the most dominant forces that the NBA has ever witnessed. His size and speed captivated fans and destroyed his opponents throughout his 19-year playing career. He is a 4-time NBA champion, 3-time Finals MVP, 15-time NBA All-Star, 2-time scoring champion, and the 2000 NBA MVP. He is widely believed to be the best center of all time, and one of the best players to ever play. Has LeBron James surpassed Shaq on the all-time great list? Of course not.

James is many things, but he is not as dominant as O’Neal ever was. In his prime, Shaq dominated the post with his size and quickness. Bullying centers and power forwards, there weren’t many players who could deal with the husky big man. O’Neal has also dominated the NBA with Kobe Bryant, winning three straight NBA titles from 2000-2003. During his prime, he was the most dominant force in the NBA. It’s obvious to say that James never achieved the offensive capabilities that made O’Neal a freak of nature. While there is time for him to surpass Shaquille O’Neal, Lebron James isn’t there yet.

4. Larry Bird

larry bird

Dick Raphael/Getty Images

Larry Bird is often forgotten as an NBA legend in this present generation. Many forget that Bird is a 3-time NBA champion, 12-time NBA All-Star, and a member of the legendary 1992 Dream Team. He also won the NBA MVP award three consecutive times from 1984-1986. Needless to say, Larry Bird dominated the NBA scene in the 80s. He was a driving force in bringing NBA to the forefront of American culture. However, let’s discuss how Bird is better than James.

According to NBA.com, Bird is the better player offensively, boasting three 3-point contest awards, while shooting 37 percent from deep over his whole career. He is arguably a better defender, joining the All-NBA Defensive Second team three times in a row from 1981-1984. He is even a better clutch performer, a title that has eluded LeBron James during his entire career. Simply, Larry Bird is a prototypical small forward. He may just be the best small forward to ever play, especially if we consider James to be a point forward. Larry Bird’s majestic game on both ends of the floor will never be duplicated, so it’s a bit unfair if LeBron James gets the nod over him this soon in his career.

3. Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson

Dick Raphael/GettyImages

If Larry Bird was the most dominant player in the 80s, then Magic Johnson was the star. Johnson revolutionized the entire NBA with his pass-first, flashy play style that is somewhat similar to LeBron James. According to ESPN, Magic Johnson was the best point guard to ever play the game, and he could have been even better than Michael Jordan. If you are still having doubts, take a look at his impeccable resume.

  • 5-time NBA champion
  • 3-time Finals MVP
  • 3-time NBA MVP
  • 12-time NBA All-Star
  • 1992 Dream Team
  • 4-time NBA assists leader
  • 2-time NBA steals leader

Although Johnson’s penchant wasn’t for scoring, he impacted the Los Angeles Lakers in ways never seen before. Granted, James is another all-around great who can impact the game without shooting. However, Magic Johnson created the fast-pace “Showtime” brand of basketball that exists today. He deserves a lot of credit, rather than being sidelined to the growing popularity of LeBron James.

2. Kareem Adbul-Jabbar

kareem abdul-jabbar skyhook

The Associated Press

Kareem Abdul Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leader in point scored (38,387), games played (1,560), minutes played (57,446), and blocked shots (3,189). ESPN ranked Abdul-Jabbar as the greatest center of all time, and the second best player of all time, only behind Michael Jordan. Abdul-Jabbar is a 6-time NBA champion. He has played 20 full years for a variety of dynasty NBA teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, Adbul-Jabbar was largely responsible for making the Lakers unstoppable during their championship run in the 1980s.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was known for his famous “sky hook” shot. It was virtually unstoppable. In regards to his prowess on the offensive and defensive end, Abdul-Jabbar outclasses LeBron James in every way. He is the all-time leader in points, and he is a 5-time All-NBA Defensive team member. Abdul-Jabbar is one of the most complete NBA players in history for his dynamic post-game play.

1. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant and Gordon Hayward

Harry How/Getty Images

Love him or hate him, Kobe Bryant is one of the best NBA players of all time. His offensive capabilities make him a player that can simply score over any defender. His killer instinct and clutch-time performance have heralded him into the same category as Michael Jordan. In no surprise, Bryant modeled his game perfectly after Jordan. You could arguably say that Bryant was the better scorer, mainly since he possessed a reliable 3-point shot as well. Kobe Bryant nonetheless proved that he is his own player, setting numerous scoring records, such as his famous 81-point game performance against the Toronto Raptors.

Yet, many fans place LeBron James ahead of Kobe Bryant on the way to the top of the NBA all time greats list. There are many reasons why this is an injustice to Bryant’s legacy. To start, Bryant is the better offensive player than the two. Secondly, you can argue that James is the better all-around player, but Bryant is a scoring shooting guard. In fact, his shooting guard prowess is on par with Michael Jordan. Therefore, in terms of merit and skill, Bryant surpasses James with his five NBA titles, his clutch-gene, and his complete bag of offensive tricks.

All in all, LeBron James is a great NBA player. He is climbing the charts and time will tell how far he can go. Though, let’s not get hasty and forget that there are still five NBA legends ahead of the NBA’s best player.