In the dark days of social media
and instant gratification, everything is under the microscope and over-examined by everyone who watches games. Topics comes and go with the wind. And with sweeping drips of curiosity the question has popped up about LeBron James and Larry Bird. Who is the better overall player?
LeBron James is a great basketball player.
27ppg, 7rpg, 7apg, and 15 of 16 seasons scoring 25+ ppg – that kind of career production can absolutely confirm that statement.
Larry Bird was a great basketball player.
24ppg, 10rpg, 6apg and 11 of his 13 playing seasons shooting over 47% – his resume can absolutely confirm that statement as well. Also top 5 in free throws and 3-pt shooting during his playing days.
But to some of the younger generation, I think they get confused and lost with a few actual facts. I think some of the young kids should go revisit some of that old Larry Legend footage. What he did on the courts was simply awesome, he was able to dissect and decimate an entire team with his smooth skills and smarts. As he routinely destroyed more “athletic” players with his deadly skill set.
If just being the best athlete on the court meant players were the best basketball player – guys like Vince Carter, Shawn Kemp, and Steve Francis would be top 10 all time players. Even the extremely athletic Dwight Howard might even be top 5. All of whom were tremendous athletes, and good players, that nobody has ever attached the words “greatest of all time” to, for a reason. So that plainly shows, it is much more about other things than athleticism. Basketball skill is more important than athleticism.
Bird was better scorer, rebounder and could pass better. Larry wasn’t the most athletic, but his basketball IQ was way higher. In this generation, Larry would have likely been tossing up 5-6 deep balls a game, opposed to his 2-3 that he would shoot back in the 80’s. Which based on his shooting ability, he would have probably scored another 7-8 pts or more /game in this day and age, along with no bodying up and far less physical play. Fans would be talking about nonstop on all avenues if he was playing today.
Larry was also far superior to LeBron James in the clutch game. Larry would look his opponents straight in the eye, and tell them, he was going to knock down the shot, and then go and do it. LeBron has a hard time grasping the gutsy notion to take the big shot when needed. As well as the fact, his free throw game is lacking, he seems to be at times, scared of getting fouled and having to step to the line with :03 seconds left on the clock. Because at that time, it is no-one but you and your heart beating. James doesn’t seem to like that kind of intense pressure on his shoulders. Larry would get the foul, and smirk, with his lethal free throw shooting ability, teams never wanted to send Bird to the line.
The games today is much different and far more gentile than it was in the 80s and 90s.I have a hard time thinking some of these players today would struggle to hold down a bench in the 80’s or early 90’s. The NBA of today is a soft and fragile shell of what it used to be. When Barkley, Moses Malone and Rodman came at players with elbows and shoulders there was no smiling, and chatting during the games. They played a different, much tougher era. I understand rules change, and there is nothing that us as fans can do about it. But, it is certainly a softer league – but that’s the way the game has sadly evolved.
What I don’t truly get is the rings hunt – Robert Horry has 7 rings. Kurt Rambis has 4. These are players that are nothing more than a blip on the NBA history or a side note. Granted in the game of basketball – it is looked at with more scrutiny due to there only being 5 guys on the court at any given time, so the load is higher on an individual players shoulders, but to say that players like Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Dominique Wilkins weren’t great players, is simply idiotic. I would take Barkley, Malone, or Wilkins still over Draymond Green, or Dwyane Wade who have their “rings.” And the fact that players jump ship when the going gets tough, is cowardly and weak. It shows fear and a “me first” mentality that is frowned upon by purists. Younger generation of fans don’t have true respect for players anymore, and quite honestly seem to have little knowledge past 5 years of the NBA.
James’s load has always been very heavy with no actual PG. LeBron has had to carry the load as the ball distributer, scorer, and rebounder on the majority of his teams. Having led the majority of his teams in assists at the SF position is really pretty impressive. It also goes to show how far that position has developed. But James also is the primary ball handler on his teams as well, basically playing PG. Larry got 7 dimes/game by not even being the primary ball handler. Bird wasn’t taking the ball up court like James does, and was still carving up teams with great passing skills.
LeBron can also check 1’s through the 5 – Larry could honestly only really check 2 positions in the 3 and 4. But that also comes back around to do with size and athleticism, which goes back to the earlier statement, athletically, LeBron is far better, but basketball player wise, Bird still has it handled.
Comparing James to Bird is not easy to do, as the banning of hand-checking drastically changed the game. The thought that LeBron is better than Larry is ludicrous. If the game was tougher and if they allowed even hand checking now, no-one would even be bringing this up. James wouldn’t have lasted 2 quarters in a game back in the 80’s or early 90’s. Imagine him driving to the hole with Kevin Willis or Laimbeer lurking in the paint?
I understand sometimes, it can be hard to see James’s greatness because he’s still playing, and that is a very valid point. But, the huge difference in eras, speaks volumes to me. Also as some numbers show – at 30 years old, Larry scored more ppg, rpg, and more apg than James. Larry was putting up 28.1ppg to James’s 25.3ppg, 9.2 to LeBron’s 6.0, 7.6 to 7.4. He also lit up the season with a higher FG%, at 52.5 to 48.8 – a far better 3 pt FG% with 40.0 to 35.4 and a higher FT% at 91.0 to 71.0.
Are you serious?
Larry was a tough, gritty player just like the handicappers at 10StarPicks
. Regardless of Lebron’s athletic advantage if they played today, taking on Larry would not be easy. Larry is one of the best shooters in NBA history. A quick thinker and was very aggressive under the boards. He was a savvy ball handler – LeBron would have far more trouble than many may think if he was stuck guarding him.
I’ll take Larry Legend. James is far too soft. Larry could truly beat a team all by himself. I’ll take Bird’s gritty toughness to do whatever it takes to get the W. Whether it was sticking the jump-shot with a hand in his face, diving on the floor for a loose ball, or taking a charge from Barkley – Larry Legend laid it on the floor, every single night. In game 3 or game 65 on the season – Bird played his guts out. LeBron doesn’t have that cold and calculated killer instinct consistently enough.
I can say, with confidence – Larry Bird was a better basketball player than Lebron James and hit a ton of game winning shots during the season and in the playoffs. James is definitely more athletic than Bird. His muscle mass, speed, and brute physicality are all far better than the blond haired legend from French Lick.