I'm a 90's kid, so there is a certain hallowed ring to the name "Michael Jordan."
Even growing up as a New York Knicks fan and watching His Airness destroy the title hopes of my hero Patrick Ewing year in and year out, to the point in which I abhorred the man, there was no denying that we were watching the greatest player in NBA history.
So when I woke up the night after Jordan hit that famed game-winning step-back jumper in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz, six-year-old Joe made the realization that there would never be a baller greater than MJ.
Well, six-year-old Joe is on the cusp of being wrong because I'm ready to classify LeBron James as the new G.O.A.T (Greatest of All-Time).
On one condition.
If it wasn't already impressive enough, James has to extend his streak of consecutive trips to NBA Finals to eight. That means getting his Cleveland Cavaliers past the Toronto Raptors and either the Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers as the headliner of his team once again.
It will prove once again that James can will a team to the heights of the Eastern Conference despite having little to no support around him. It's been an issue that has plagued him during most of his career with the Cavaliers.
Before I get into that, let's just look at the numbers one more time just to see how close these two really are.
Jordan (15 years)- 1,072
James (15 years)- 1,143
POINTS PER GAME
NBA FINALS APPEARANCES
Four of LeBron's last seven Finals appearances came with the Miami Heat alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, winning two of them, so you can't say that he's had no help during his career. But just take a look at this combined list of players that received substantial playing time when James carried them to a Finals appearances:
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao, Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith, Matthew Dellavedova, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson
That's an awful lot of moving (and not very good) parts in just four years.
Sweep it under the rug all you want, but Jordan had Scottie Pippen, another Hall of Famer, for 11 years. That automatically trumps what LeBron has had in Cleveland.
Put two Hall of Famers together in the Eastern Conference like that today and you'll get, well, LeBron and Dwyane Wade in Miami.
Take Pippen away from Jordan and the Bulls wouldn't have made six finals and MJ certainly wouldn't have more Finals wins than "The King." The Utah Jazz, Seattle SuperSonics, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets would have made it a Western Conference-controlled decade.
But let's talk about what we definitely know. We've watched a man for the better part of 15 years carry a franchise and city that was on the canvas not just to relevancy, but to an elite status solely on his back.
That's good enough for me to tab him as the greatest to ever play.