“Jordan or LeBron?” “MJ or LJ?” “Air Jordan or the King?” Ever since LeBron James started playing basketball, people have said that he is the closest player to Michael Jordan that we will ever see. I disagree.
Even though, LeBron will be remembered as one of the best to ever play the game, I think that Kawhi Leonard better equates to Air Jordan. Here’s why:
1. Playing Style:
It doesn’t take too much in-depth analysis to realize that both Kawhi Leonard and Michael Jordan have found the most success in the small forward position. With Leonard being 6’7″ and Jordan being 6’6″, both of the athletes in their primes can/could shoot, slash, and slam — depending on what mood they were in.
I really hate saying it, but Michael Jordan and Kawhi Leonard have both proven to be ball hogs. But that isn’t always a bad thing. Usually, when it came to important times, Jordan and Leonard have played iso (isolation) basketball. That’s the offensive strategy when one player has the ball against a man defense, and all of the rest of the players on offense clear out to the sides of the court — to give the player with the ball more space to work. It’s easy to give them the ball in these moments because both players have made over 50% of their shots in their career. They also both mastered the fadeaway shot in their own iconic ways. Jordan liked to cross people or collapse and eventually spin from the short corner to shoot his fade-aways. Then there’s Kawhi — who can throw the ball in the air while falling back and somehow it will still get it in.
Both Jordan and Leonard have shown great dominance defensively in the NBA during their different eras. Jordan won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award once and was voted on the NBA’s All-Defensive team nine times. Leonard, on the other hand, has already won two DPOY’s and has been selected on the All-Defensive team five times in the eight years of his NBA career — meaning he has plenty of time to keep it going. As LeBron is currently playing in his 17th season, he doesn’t own a DPOY award and has been selected to be on the NBA’s all-defensive squad six times.
3. Clutch Moments:
Both Kawhi Leonard and Michael Jordan have come up clutch multiple times. If the clock is winding down and the game is at stake, they will most likely be the ones to hold the ball until the very end and then find a way to shoot it. Both videos below are great examples of it:
Because both of the shots were made in these videos, MJ and Kawhi each won another championship. With MJ, the shot sealed a game six win in the seven game series of the NBA Finals– which was all the Bulls needed in his final season. Kawhi’s shot sent the Raptors to the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals — where they would beat the Bucks and then the Warriors in the NBA Finals as well.
It’s hard to compare LeBron to Jordan because LJ has used his height and weight to dominate, whereas Jordan and Kawhi are the kind of players that are not quite as big. Instead, they use their skills as a strategy for winning. And that has helped them win awards and ultimately, championships. The similarities between the two are uncanny.