MJ Trophy

An emotional Michael Jordan clutches his first NBA Finals trophy. 

Former Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan was a man among the boys on the basketball court. Upon the conclusion of “The Last Dance,” which showed incredible detail about the Bulls’ dynasty in the ’90s, it’s clear that there isn’t a player with as much competitive drive and skill as Jordan.

In the final two episodes of "The Last Dance," more is revealed about the final season of the dominant Chicago Bulls, including the wish to play one more year.

Jordan was different on the court. No, he doesn’t have 11 rings like former Celtic center Bill Russell, and he doesn't have the most career points in NBA history, but he impacted the game like no man has before.

He was a five-time NBA MVP recipient, six-time NBA champion –– never lost in any finals appearances –– six-time Finals MVP, 10-time NBA scoring leader, 10-time All-NBA first team, nine-time All-Defensive first team, 14 All-Star appearances with three All-Star MVPs, two-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion and two-time Olympic gold medal recipient. He averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists during his regular-season career with 33.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.7 assists in his playoffs career.

The path Jordan took to achieve his greatness wasn’t a walk in the park. He was the rock that held his team together. The sweat, blood and tears he endured for his teammates were like none other. 

The era Jordan played in had a different level of physical toughness that varies greatly from today’s NBA. Players were pushed around and “hit in the mouth” as they drove to the basket.

Jordan competed against some of the most talented teams of that generation, such as former point guard Magic Johnson’s Lakers, former point guard Isiah Thomas’ Pistons, former power forward Charles Barkley’s Suns, former small forward Larry Bird’s Celtics, former center Karl Malone and John Stockton’s Utah Jazz, former shooting guard Clyde Drexler’s Trail Blazers and former center Patrick Ewing’s New York Knicks; The list goes on with more and more talent. As Jordan went up against these teams, his performance stayed superb.

The primary opponent to Jordan in the “greatest of all time” debate is current Los Angeles Lakers star, Lebron James. From 2003-17, James’ career had been with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference up until 2018, when he joined the Los Angeles Lakers. While playing in the East, he went up against mediocre teams, such as the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, the Orlando Magic, the New York Knicks and the Detroit Pistons. He flew by and dominated these matchups. 

James’ success in the East led him to 13 playoff appearances. He only got three rings out of it, while Jordan with the same amount of playoff appearances has six. James lost six times in the finals, while Jordan won all six of his appearances. Time is ticking for James. He’s 35 and still only has three rings. The NBA is getting younger and better, while James is getting older and weaker in physicality.

Many argue who the greatest player of all time is. There’s a case for players like James, former Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, former Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and so on, but the answer is clear.

 It’s Michael Jordan.

Contact Andrew Oliveros at oliverab@dukes.jmu.edu. For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.