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Vindicating Jordan: Part 1

With the release of the highly awaited “The Last Dance” documentary featuring Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, one of the favorite debates amongst basketball fans has seen quite the resurgence: Who’s the GOAT? LeBron James or Michael Jordan?

Over the past few years, the debate has intensified due to the rise of a splinter section of basketball aficionados dubbed the “Bronsexuals,” or simply “Bron fans” for short. Similar to the Kobe stans, the “Bron fans” are a group of fans devoted to LeBron James, especially in the proclamation that LeBron is the “Greatest of All-Time.”

Bron fans will not listen to any argument in favor of someone else as basketball’s emperor supreme. But, that mindset comes at a cost: the reputation of Michael Jordan has been diminished. By-and-large, Jordan is considered the greatest player to ever pick up a basketball; it’s even on the NBA’s website. But with the rise of Bron fans, anti-Jordan propaganda has emerged in the form of phrases/tropes dedicated to knocking Jordan down a peg on social media.

In “Vindicating Jordan,” I am going to look into 10 of these tropes (over 10 parts, like “The Last Dance” documentary) that have been shared on social media and either show that there is merit to them, or debunk them as gross fallacies. Buckle up!

  1. Jordan played against plumbers!

Fallacy. The notion that Michael Jordan played against diminutive plumbers, although funny, holds no weight. This statement was perhaps the brainchild of a Twitter troll gone awry. “Jordan played plumbers” is often used to mean that Jordan didn’t play against high-level talent during his career, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Take the playoffs as an example…

In every playoff series except two (1990 vs Milwaukee, 1992 vs. Miami) Jordan participated in, each opposing team featured at least one All-Star that season. Why is that important? Because the notion of “Jordan playing against plumbers” implies that his playoff career was a cakewalk. It clearly wasn’t. Being selected to an NBA All-Star game means that a player’s performance that season was at such an elevated level, those close to the game of basketball deemed him as one of the best players in the league that season. All-Stars are not “plumbers”.

Let’s compare this with LeBron James.

Here is how LeBron measures up against Jordan regarding playing teams in the playoffs without All-Stars:

There are seven different playoff series in which LeBron faced a team without an All-Star:

2007 – Wizards (Although Gilbert Arenas & Caron Butler were both All Star selections, both missed the playoffs due to injury)

2009 – Pistons (Chauncey Billups was traded for Allen Iverson, who never played in this playoff series)

2011 – Philadelphia (no All Star selections that season)

2013 – Milwaukee Bucks (no All Star selections that season)

2013 – Chicago Bulls (Luol Deng was selected, but didn’t play in that series due to complications resulting from a spinal tap)

2014 – Charlotte Bobcats (no All-Star selections)

2015 – Boston Celtics (no All-Star selections)

What makes this even more remarkable, is the fact that five of these series were en route to a trip to the NBA Finals (and two of them were in the same playoffs – 2013).

In the case of Michael Jordan: the 1992 series vs. Miami is the only series en route to an NBA Finals trip that Jordan played in, in which the opposing team was bereft of All-Stars. This means that in five of Jordan’s title runs, he faced a top-tier player in the league in every series (including the Finals).

So let’s compare again…

In 5 of LeBron’s finals runs, he faced teams without a top-tier player.

In 5 of Jordan’s title runs, every team he faced had a top-tier player.

How’s that for plumbing?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Vindicating Jordan series…

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