Why It's Not Too Early To Call LeBron James One of the Greatest Players Ever

Mark HauserCorrespondent IIMay 9, 2010

CLEVELAND - MAY 03: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers holds up the Maurice Podoloff Trophy after being named the 2009-2010 NBA MVP prior to playing the Boston Celtics in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 3, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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I suppose I could start this article with why LeBron James is such a great basketball player, however, that is not the point of this article. Rather the point of this article is this: That while 99 percent of the time it is “premature” to compare a young athlete who still may have much of his career ahead of him to the all-time greats, it is okay in rare circumstances to do so with truly exceptional athletes.

In fact, I would argue that it would be silly and illogical not to start the comparisons once they demonstrate that they are playing at a level above everyone else that is currently playing and above almost everyone (say, all but a couple) in the history of the sport.

Now, if you think that LeBron (or any other great young athlete) is not playing at a high enough level to warrant the exception that I articulated above, fine, then YOU don't have to participate in the discussions.

But, please don't tell those of US that see LeBron that way that is too early for us to have these discussions because his level of play right now makes it ripe.


People are saying that it is too early to compare LeBron with the best players of all time because he is too young and he has not won a championship. One person commented that LeBron cannot even be considered the best player in the league because he has not won at a title. Sorry, basketball is a team sport and this argument is just plain stupid.

One writer asked us to stop calling him one of the all-time greats until his career is over! Poppycock. There is no such precedence or rule that suggests this, and I would argue that throughout sports history just the opposite is true.


Putting the possibility of a major injury and championships aside for a moment, let me demonstrate to you that the people who are asking us to stop the “premature” comparisons have not thought this through, have not looked at history, and are just plain wrong.


Put yourself in a time machine and go back in time to 1920 when Babe Ruth was 25 years old—the same age as LeBron. Ruth was tearing up the major leagues to the tune of 54 homers (he also had a .376 BA and led the majors with 137 RBI), which was 35 more than the second best player in major league history!

He also, amazingly, hit more home runs that year than every team in the American League and all but one team in the National League.


I could go on about Ruth, but it is not necessary because his career is very well documented and he is seen almost 100 percent universally as the greatest baseball player ever. Now, judging from what I read, the sports public and sportswriters were not saying, “gee, let's wait till his career is over and only then will we compare him to the all-time greats.”

No, they were saying, he is the best player in the game, the best player that we ever seen (much to the dismay of Ty Cobb and his fans), and even the best baseball player in history. Yes, he was only 25, but he was an exception. Can't you see the difference?


I could go through several other examples, all of whom established themselves as possibly the best ever at the age 25 (or shortly thereafter), such as Jim Brown (running back), Muhammad Ali (heavyweight), Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Usain Bolt, Micheal Phelps (the last two at the tender age of 22) and, of course, Michael Jordan.

In these isolated examples, do we really have to wait until their careers are over until we begin to contemplate their place in sport's history? I don't think so. Nor did most sports fans wait that long in these examples.


In my over 40 years of watching basketball, I think that LeBron, right now (5/9/10), is playing better basketball than anyone in history other than Jordan at his peak. Yes, his playing better than Kareem, Magic, Kobe, Shaq, and Bird at their peak. Hence, for me NOT to compare LeBorn right now to the greatest players in history—when he is already better than them and he is only going to get better—is moronic and nonsensical.


I remember thinking that Jordan was the best player that I ever seen midway though his fourth season (around January 1988, a month before Jordan's 25th birthday) and considering that I was convinced that Kareem was slightly better than Wilt and Russell (still am), I already thought that he was possibly greatest ever.

At that point, I had been watching basketball for only around 19 years; however, my friend, who was 15 years older than I was, had been watching basketball since the mid 50's and he also thought that Jordan was already the greatest player that he had ever seen.


The lack of championships did not bother us because we felt certain that the greatest player we had ever seen would eventually get some rings and MVPs (he won his first MVP Award a couple months later, along with the Defensive Player of the Year Award)—we just didn't know how many.

LeBron already has two MVPs and as one the two greatest players in history (at least in my opinion), I feel confident the rings are inevitable (his first one is probably only a month away provided his elbow holds up). And to demonstrate the strength in my conviction (on both his playing abilities and his ability to win a title), I am writing this now before he has won a single championship.


And if you want to play that silly “he has no championships yet game” (the same one that Magic and Bird fans played with me 22 years ago and they lost miserably), fine, we will both put $1,000 into an escrow account (provided that you are not a millionaire and can just throw money away) and if LeBron never wins a ring than you win and if he wins a ring than I get your $1,000.

No takers? Okay, how about three rings? Maybe one or two silly LeBron doubters. You get the point—we both know that, barring a major injury, LeBron will win some championships and it is really only a question of how many he will win.


If your argument is that LeBron may get a major injury and end up zero championships, well, yes it is possible, but extremely unlikely. And why should LeBron fans and believers have to withhold 10 years of good sports discussions because you want us to wait?

Sorry, your request is moronic and we will continue our discussions about LeBron's place in basketball history because it makes sense to us and sports fans have doing it for almost 100 years in special exceptions like LeBron. And besides, what gives you the right to tell us what the rules are for our discussions?


Just because you don't have the basketball insight, or you are too bias, or both, to see how great LeBron is already, that is not my problem. I was 100 percent correct about Jordan 22 years ago, I have the same feeling about LeBron right now, and I am confident that history will prove me (and other LeBron fans) correct. So stop the nonsense because the LeBron discussions are not going away—nor should they.