The MJ Debate Is Over After LeBron Gets Punked by Dillon Brooks in Humiliating Loss
One of the most enduring debates among basketball fans is over the greatest of all time (or GOAT) in the sport.
You’ll certainly get some goofballs who want to make the argument that Steph Curry or Giannis Antetokounmpo is the GOAT. You’ll also get slightly less goofy pundits who want to make the case for Magic Johnson, Larry Bird or Shaquille O’Neal.
But the debate often boils down to Michael Jeffrey Jordan and LeBron Raymone James.
Jordan has the “it” factor, a natural coolness that no NBA player has ever been able to replicate (Kobe Bryant came the closest), and that doesn’t even factor in his on-court success.
Jordan has five regular season MVPs, 14 All-Star selections, was a 10-time All-NBA selection, a nine-time All-NBA Defensive Team selection, a 10-time scoring champion, the 1985 Rookie of the Year, and won two of the most iconic dunk contests in NBA history.
Oh, and there’s also the significant fact that Jordan was a perfect six-for-six in the NBA Finals, with six Finals MVP awards to boot.
James’ GOAT case largely rests on the eye-popping statistical achievements of the current Los Angeles Laker. James has four NBA titles and four Finals MVPs, as well as four regular season MVPs. He is a 19-time All-Star, 13-time All-NBA selection, and five-time All-NBA Defensive Team selection.
But the biggest feather in James’ cap is the fact that he’s the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, a record he’s only adding to as his playing career continues. (Jordan is fifth all-time on the NBA’s scoring list.)
Now, there are certainly arguments to be made for either of these athletes being the greatest NBA player of all time. Jordan has the perfect resumé, while James has the statistical advantage.
But there is one other factor that differentiates Jordan and James — and that was made excruciatingly evident after James’ Lakers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
The Grizzlies beat the Lakers 103-93 to even their first-round playoff series at 1-1, but all anyone wanted to talk about was the tension between James and Grizzlies wing/goon Dillon Brooks.
One particularly chippy moment came in the third quarter, as Brooks was seen yelling and clapping in James’ face.
Dillon Brooks with the staredown on LeBron James 👀 pic.twitter.com/BYpfWzsOyv
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) April 20, 2023
When asked after the game about the wisdom of antagonizing an all-time great, Brooks didn’t mince words.
“I don’t care. He’s old,” Brooks told reporters. (For the unaware, James is 38 years old. While hardly “old” in any traditional sense, for a pro athlete, that is indeed quite long in the tooth.)
Classic Dillon Brooks on his confrontation with LeBron James: “I don’t care. He’s old. … I poke bears. I don’t respect someone until he gives me 40.”
And Brooks had plenty more to say. pic.twitter.com/uWLONrubPZ
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 20, 2023
Brooks then seemingly implied that James started the hostility.
“He wanted to say something when I got my fourth foul,” Brooks said, adding, “I poke bears. I don’t respect no one till they come and [score 40 points on me].”
In a separate clip making the rounds, Brooks did admit that he has “some respect” for James and called him a “legend” before adding that he’s “just another player to me.”
A lot has changed in the 11 years since Dillon Brooks sent this tweet. https://t.co/uYFctOrOT6 pic.twitter.com/iwoMOnUQF4
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 20, 2023
So… how does this all tie back into His Airness?
Simple: MJ would’ve ripped Brooks’ heart out of his chest “Temple of Doom”-style and proceeded to drop at least 40 points on him.
James, who performed admirably in the loss, does not have the killer instinct that Jordan had, and that is something no number of additional championships and MVPs can rectify.
Sports pundit Nick Wright perfectly described the difference between James and Jordan.
“Folks expecting LeBron to go out in Game 3 & try to prove something to Dillon Brooks are simply ignoring the entirety of his career,” Wright tweeted, with a whiff of a backhanded compliment. “Brooks’ hilarious wrestler impersonation is not going to impact LeBron’s approach 1%.”
Folks expecting LeBron to go out in Game 3 & try to prove something to Dillon Brooks are simply ignoring the entirety of his career.
Brooks’ hilarious wrestler impersonation is not going to impact LeBron’s approach 1%.
— nick wright (@getnickwright) April 20, 2023
And that’s really the difference between the two. James approaches basketball as a puzzle to be solved. He is incredible at solving that puzzle.
Jordan? Basketball was a matter of life and death to him. His maniacal competitiveness is well-documented (he has admitted to cheating at “Go Fish”) and there’s simply no way he would allow Dillon Brooks, of all people, to disrespect him like that.
A random 1993 game between Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers saw Pacers star Reggie Miller throw a slight elbow to Jordan’s back in a testy, physical game. It was likely intentional, but there was enough plausible deniability to pass it off as an honest mistake.
Jordan didn’t take it as such and immediately fought Miller. It’s worth noting that Miller was a far greater player than Brooks likely ever will be.
But truly, it is Jordan’s borderline-unhealthy competitive edge that gives him a general edge over James. That psychotic competitiveness is what allowed him to accomplish more than James despite having a fraction of James’ physical gifts.
Jordan would have never let someone named “Dillon” blatantly taunt him. James just let it happen, and, as Wright noted, it likely won’t change his approach to Game 3, which is slated for Saturday evening in Los Angeles.
The difference between LeBron James and Michael Jordan couldn’t be any clearer than that.
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