During his playing days, Bill Laimbeer was one of the most polarizing players in the NBA.
In many ways, it’s a shame that he played in the era before the internet and social media took over, because there’d be some epic material created.
As a member of the Detroit Pistons for 13 seasons between 1981 and 1994, Laimbeer battled Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in a number of decisive postseason matchups.
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In the Eastern Conference Finals in 1989 and 1990, the "Bad Boy" Pistons took down the Bulls, but Chicago got the best of Detroit in 1991.
After that, Jordan went on to go 6-for-6 in the NBA Finals as he made his case to be considered the greatest basketball player ever.
Therefore, Laimbeer is very familiar with MJ’s playing style and has a (biased) first-hand account of what Jordan’s limitations are on the court when making the comparison between him and LeBron James.
When asked by Etan Thomas on The Rematch podcast who he’d take, he replied, "I'll take LeBron James, absolutely.”
The reason that he gave was pretty simple, too: LeBron can do more than Jordan ever could.
“He’s 6-8, 285 (James is listed at 250 pounds). Runs like the wind, jumps out of the gym. Phenomenal leader since he’s been 12 years old. Understood when he came into the league how to involve his teammates from the start. And you can’t guard him. You can’t double-team, he’s too big, he powers through everything.”
On the other hand, “Michael was a guard. Yea, he was 6-6, but he wasn’t a real thick and strong guard. It took him a lot of years to learn how to involve his teammates in order to win championships. Don’t fault him for that, it’s a learning experience. But we’ve never seen anybody like LeBron James physically. He just bullies you.”
“LeBron can do anything. Michael couldn’t get all the rebounds. He couldn’t be the assist man like LeBron James can. He was very focused on scoring, a deadly assassin, but the rest of the part of his game, LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan,” he said.
While Laimbeer’s account may be a little biased since he was part of a bitter rivalry against Jordan, it’s interesting to hear an old-school voice speak up in support of a new-school superstar like LeBron.
As for the LeBron versus Jordan debate? That will likely rage on forever. At 32 years old, James will have every opportunity to continue closing the gap until the end of his incredible career. Jordan had five MVPs and six NBA titles. LeBron has four MVPs and three titles so far.
Some, like Laimbeer, already believe that King James can go down as the best ever due to the fact that he can do literally everything on the court while Jordan doesn't stack up in anything but the scoring column.