LOS ANGELES — Perhaps no debate has captured the attention of sports fans over the past decade quite like these three words: MJ or LeBron?
James' agent and longtime close friend Rich Paul recently reignited this conversation during an appearance on the Gil's Arena podcast with Gilbert Arenas, where he said LeBron has had it tougher than Michael Jordan because he is the first superstar who had to deal with a 24/7 news cycle.
Locked on NBA hosts John Karalis and Jake Madison continued the debate on a recent episode, breaking down if Paul's opinion is a valid argument for James over Jordan.
"He's been under a microscope since he was in high school," Madison said of LeBron. "He had the cover of Sports Illustrated calling him the chosen one and the fact that he has lived up to that is pretty incredible. He's not wrong that this was a little bit harder, you've heard Steve Kerr say those teams would never have survived because of some of the off-court stuff and he's glad no one had camera phones back then."
The two superstars are widely considered the best to ever pick up a basketball, but debate has raged on about their respective careers and who is truly the greatest of all-time: Jordan and his six rings, 10 scoring titles, and nine All-Defensive Team nominations, or LeBron and his 19 All-Star games, 10 championship appearances, four titles, and 38,652 career points - the most in league history.
Paul believes LeBron navigating a constant barrage of social media posts, in your face news reporting, and everything else that comes with being a public figure in the past two decades is enough to give him the edge over Jordan, who had scandals that would have certainly painted his career in a different light had social media and, as Kerr noted, camera phones existed in his heyday.
How social media has colored the modern NBA is one of many reasons why comparing players across eras is a challenging and, in some ways, ultimately futile exercise.
But it won't stop this particular conversation from continuing on for years to come.