Larry Bird Vs. Lebron James: Stats Don’t Mean Jack

As Lebron James climbs ever higher in the NBA record book more comparisons inevitably get floated around on TV and online. One just recently discussed on ESPN’s Numbers Never Lie  was if James is a better player than the Hall-of-Famer (and household name)  Larry Bird.

This comparison was brought up as James recently passed Bird on the all time playoff scoring list. As with an comparison between players of different eras, this one is fundamentally flawed.  In the NBA today a player’s skills are judged almost exclusively by on what they do on paper. The only thing that matters is offense and scoring. Also in the league today, many would argue there is no defensive play whatsoever. In my opinion, this is the only way James is considered one of the “best” defenders. James also plays in a league where there are flagrant fouls that are basically called on every intentional foul. When Bird played there was no such thing as the flagrant foul so no matter if someone tackled you it would just be two shots.

I believe that Bird is the better player. He dominated the NBA with the Celtics, holding his own in a league with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and the famed “Bad Boys from Detroit.” He could out shoot anyone as where James relies totally on dunks and the occasional lay-ups and where Bird had a genius-like ability to pass the ball, James has often been called a hog even by his own teammates. Which leads me to discussing Bird’s basketball IQ which is off the charts he could see things on the court that no one else could. His mental toughness is amazing; he played his last four seasons with back problems.

Overall, it seems the league today is a lot softer and not as talented as it was in the 80’s and 90’s.  Therefore the whole argument is probably irrelevant, but c’mon, can you see LeBron James ever being a head coach or team owner?  Bird coached the Pacers and is now President of the team.

Pacers team President Larry Bird, watching his team drub the Magic.
Indiana Pacers team President Larry Bird, watching his team drub the Orlando Magic.