HOUSTON — LeBron James on Friday said he is aware of Michael Jordan’s recent comments in which the NBA Hall of Famer and six-time world champion said he deems Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant as a more successful player, in large part because Bryant has won more NBA titles than the Miami Heat star.
However, James, in addressing reporters during the Media Day sessions in preparation for Sunday’s All-Star Game in the Toyota Center, contends he isn’t fazed by Jordan’s comments and that winning championships doesn’t necessarily supersede a player’s body of work during the course of his career.
Jordan, the Charlotte Bobcats’ majority owner and chairman who played 16 seasons in the NBA between 1984 and 2003, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper recently that, “If you had to pick between the two, that would be a tough choice, but five beats one every time I look at it.”
Jordan was referring to the five world championships Bryant has won during his 17-year career with the Lakers. James, now with his second team in ten seasons, won his first NBA title in three tries last year when the Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games of their NBA Finals best-of-7 series.
“Yeah, I heard them,” James said of Jordan’s comments. “I heard them. You know, I don’t have a take on them. He said he’d take Kobe over me because five rings are better than one and the last time he checked, five is better than one. But that’s his opinion. At the end of the day, rings don’t always define someone’s career. If that’s the case, I would sit up and here and say (Bill) Russell over Jordan. But I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t take Russell over Jordan. Russell has 11 rings and Jordan has six. Or I would take, I don’t know, Robert Horry (seven-time NBA champion) over Kobe. I wouldn’t do that. But it’s your own opinion.
“Jud Buechler (three-time NBA champion with the Bulls from 1996-1998) has multiple rings. Charles Barkley doesn’t have one ring. He’s not better than Charles Barkley. Rings don’t define a person’s career. Rings don’t define a person’s career. Patrick Ewing is one of the greatest of all time. Reggie Miller is one of the greatest of all time. You know, sometimes, it’s the situation that you’re in and the team that you’re in, but it’s also about timing as well.”
While Bryant, who will be making his 14th consecutive All-Star appearance (15th overall), said the conversations surrounding Jordan’s comments involving him and James are mostly media-driven, he said he understands why Jordan had drawn such a comparison.
“I think the message is winning is above everything else,” said Bryant, when asked to assess Jordan’s statements. “I think we all know that. LeBron knows that, and that’s what drives him, to win as many championships as possible…same thing that drives me and the same thing that drives me now, to win as many as you can, and it’s that simple.”
Whether Jordan’s comparisons of James and Bryant have fueled James’ record-setting play of late is up for debate. That’s because the three-time league MVP has manufactured the best offensive efficiency in NBA history during a seven-game stretch (at least 30 points and 60 percent shooting) for a Heat team that has won a league-best seven straight and boasts the league’s third-best record (36-14) following Thursday night’s decisive 110-100 win at the Thunder.
“I don’t think it inspired him over the last seven games,” Bryant said of James, last year’s reining NBA Finals MVP. “I think he just goes out and plays his game and plays to his strengths. I mean, you hit one of those patterns where the hard work and the physical talent all kind of come together and you just hit one of those hot streaks. Some of us have been there before. It’s just no feeling like it.”
Chris Bosh, James’ teammate for the past three seasons, believes all of the talk this week surrounding the Bryant-James comparisons is being blown out of proportion.
“You know, everybody has an opinion,” said Bosh, who will be making his eighth All-Star appearance. “You know, (Jordan) takes (Bryant) and that’s fine. I don’t think it really means that much to LeBron. I mean, there’s inspiration all around us. I think, of course, he can use that specifically as inspiration any way he wants to.”
Asked if Jordan’s recent remarks will serve as bulletin board material, James said, “What I need bulletin board material for? My inspiration is the game I love. I don’t play the game to try to define who I am over what guys say or how they feel about me. I go out and I play for my family. I play for my teammates. I play for my coaching staff and I play for my fans.”