And just like that, we’ve got our answer: The Last Dance won’t be the last word on the Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James GOAT debate.
We’re still going round and round and round.
On Sunday, ESPN aired the first two episodes of The Last Dance, its 10-part docuseries chronicling the 1990s Chicago Bulls dynasty, which culminated with their sixth title in franchise history at the conclusion of the 1997-98 season.
And of course, any time you talk about Michael Jordan – at least in today’s day and age – you have to mention LeBron James.
Since Sunday, the GOAT debate between Jordan and James has only run more rampant. Many believe that The Last Dance will serve as a reminder to the basketball public that Jordan is the greatest to ever lace ’em up, while those firmly in the “LeBron is the new and improved GOAT” camp have seen no reason to waver.
And the off-the-court rivalry only intensified when reports surfaced that James’ 2016 championship run with the Cleveland Cavaliers sparked Jordan’s desire to finally produce The Last Dance.
For two decades, footage from the Bulls “Last Dance” sat in a vault in Secaucus, NJ. Michael Jordan controlled the rights, and wasn’t ready to make a documentary. But on the day of the Cavs championship parade in 2016, he finally said yes. https://t.co/AhmRU7ttfA
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) April 18, 2020
Coupled with Sunday’s airing and Ramona Shelburne’s report, when Monday arrived, the GOAT debate was once again hot and heavy.
Skip Bayless started his argument in favor of Jordan on Sunday night.
I hope all those who believe LeBron is better than Michael Jordan are watching this documentary … and these highlights. Lord have mercy. Never been anything like the one and only 23.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) April 20, 2020
Say good night, LeBron.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) April 20, 2020
On Monday, Bayless pointed out that not only did The Last Dance remind of Jordan’s on-court greatness, but it allowed fans to see what he was dealing with when it came to the Bulls’ front office, further solidifying him as the greatest player in NBA history due to his ability to overcome his constant battles with Bulls GM Jerry Krause and owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
“The emotions got pulled from people last night, as they saw what Michael actually went through with that little scoundrel Jerry Krause. And it made you feel for Michael and even elevate him to a higher pedestal, that he was having to deal with that, and that owner, Jerry Reinsdorf. I do think that this is going to have supreme impact on younger people.”
“I tweeted: ‘Say good night, LeBron’ and I meant it. Say good night to the GOAT debate. Trae Young called this even before he watched the documentary. This is going to have supreme impact on young people who weren’t even born in 1998.”
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) April 20, 2020
Stephen A. Smith agrees that Jordan is atop the list of the greatest to ever do it, but to go even further, he takes issue with diehard LeBron fans, many of whom he believes should be happy that LeBron is even in the conversation for one of the greatest players of all-time.
“There is no debate … I believe Michael Jordan to be the GOAT. I do believe LeBron James is on the Mt. Rushmore … This generation is just softer. You can sit up there and talk about LeBron like he’s the No. 2 player in the history of basketball, and folks close to him … and those that just love him will treat it like you said the man can’t play.”
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) April 20, 2020
And to bring the debate to modern times, current NBA superstar Kevin Durant weighed in – kinda.
This is a different era.@KDTrey5 says it doesn’t matter.
Jordan would still be at the top. pic.twitter.com/nMbohW4E2Y
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 19, 2020
An indirect vote for Jordan? Possibly.
Max Kellerman weighed in on Durant’s quote, saying he believes Jordan would average 40 points in today’s NBA.
“[Jordan would average] over 40, easy. He has the all-time highest scoring average per season. That includes Wilt Chamberlain, James Harden, and everyone … When you’re just looking at Michael Jordan, there’s no one more athletic than him in basketball, today or probably ever … He was the most competitive, the most skilled, the most athletic.”
.@maxkellerman says Michael Jordan would have averaged “over 40, easy” in today’s game.
And yes he brought up a physicist on this show ??? pic.twitter.com/wEJ7jPGmmP
— First Take (@FirstTake) April 21, 2020
Still, while the calls for Jordan to be once and for all crowned as GOAT have grown louder over the past 72 hours, the section of people that have already crowned LeBron has upped its own volume.
ESPN’s Marcus Spears spent Tuesday morning reaffirming his belief that James is the GOAT, noting that when the time comes, James’ story will be told the way Jordan’s is being told now.
“I can see why everybody says Michael Jordan’s the GOAT, because it was the first time that the NBA had seen that type of athleticism, that type of fire, and a skillset like that. I just don’t think it’s uncommon anymore. I think this is the first time the NBA has seen LeBron James as well … There will be stories told about LeBron in the same way and our kids will say the same thing: how can somebody watch this and say that LeBron James is not the best basketball player ever?”
“There will be stories told … about LeBron in the same way.”
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) April 20, 2020
Shannon Sharpe – going back to the idea that Jordan created the documentary in response to LeBron’s last NBA title in 2016 – took a different approach than Spears.
He believes that The Last Dance serves as an admission, from Jordan, that LeBron is getting close to his GOAT label.
“For the very first time, he heard those footsteps. They had been asking Michael to do this for an extended period of time and he kept rebuffing their offers … It wasn’t until the parade in Cleveland in 2016 … because for the very first time we had a guy who beat a 73-win team, one more win than the ’96 Bulls. [The Warriors] had a guy who was unanimous MVP and [the Cavaliers] were down 3-1. We started to hear the swells, something we had never heard before.”
I absolutely think Jordan is worried about GOAT James pic.twitter.com/ZAF0v2czHr
— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) April 20, 2020
When lining up their accomplishments, side by side, it’s easy to see why there is such a spirited GOAT debate between Jordan and James.
James is a 4-time NBA MVP, 3-time champion, 3-time Finals MVP, 16-time NBA All-Star, a 12-time All-NBA First Team selection, 5-time NBA All-Defensive First Team player, and won one scoring title (2008).
Jordan is a 5-time NBA MVP, 6-time champion, 6-time Finals MVP, 14-time NBA All-Star, 10-time All-NBA First Team selection and 9-time NBA All-Defensive First Team player. He also won a Defensive Player of the Year award (1988) and won 10 scoring titles.
One thing is for sure: The Last Dance is at least giving those who didn’t see Jordan in his prime a bit more context on the guy that LeBron looked up to during his ascension into one of the game’s greats.
Several current and former NBA players weighed in on the debate this week.
A few of them are in Jordan’s camp, including James’ former teammate and close friend, Dwyane Wade, who is also a close friend of Jordan’s:
Man MJ had it! He had that “IT” He was chosen to be the GOAT
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) April 20, 2020
Michael Jordan’s Last Dance was fantastic and I loved all two hours of it!! Young fans that never got to see Michael play now understand why he’s the ? of basketball!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 20, 2020
I feel like this documentary gonna make me put MJ #1, instead of #2…
Can’t Wait!!! #LastDance
— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) April 19, 2020
Mike from another planet lol… #TheLastDance … Pip slept on like a mf too smh
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) April 20, 2020
A few others are riding with James:
Nahhhh bron having 90 every game that series no cap ???? thats on everything im sorry
— Mikal Bridges (@mikal_bridges) April 20, 2020
For me it’s Lebron. I watched him the most out of Kobe and MJ. Imagine seeing that 63 point game MJ did in person or on TV. Or Kobe in that Indiana series live or in person! Love all 3 though! https://t.co/ycCOcBZC7B
— Eric Paschall (@epaschall) April 20, 2020
And some just want the debate to end:
Why is it that The Last Dance has brought on so much unwarranted, unnecessary hate on @KingJames??
Why cant people just enjoy the greatness of both guys. I think MJ is the ?, but @KingJames is on Mt. Rushmore EASY!!!!
— Chauncey Billups (@1MrBigShot) April 20, 2020
We’re sorry to inform you, Chauncey – we’ve got 8 more episodes of The Last Dance and a few more seasons to watch LeBron.
The end is not in sight.