While LeBron James often is compared to Michael Jordan, widely considered the best basketball player ever, many believe the Miami Heat forward still ranks behind several other of the game’s greats.
Before the NBA season tipped off Tuesday, Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley told SI.com that he ranks James at No. 7 on his list of the top players of all time.
“I have him there. But he can’t get any higher than where he is,” Barkley said. “I have Michael (Jordan) at No. 1, Oscar (Robertson) at No. 2. Then Wilt (Chamberlain), Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) and (Bill) Russell.
“I have Kobe (Bryant), LeBron, Tim Duncan, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor after that. Those are my top 10. Those second five fluctuate, but who do I take off my top five?”
We would suggest “The Big O,” who despite once averaging a triple-double for a season, won only one NBA title and one Most Valuable Player award.
Jordan won six titles and five MVPs, while James has two titles and four MVPs and counting.
Barkley believes the bigger issue is why Bryant, who has five titles and one MVP, doesn’t get more respect.
“LeBron can get to No. 6 on my list, but here’s the thing that bothers me about the whole LeBron debate: I want to know why y’all killed Kobe Bryant!” he said. “Y’all don’t even compare him to LeBron anymore. You are skipping him for LeBron and going right to Michael. I’m still going to take five (titles) over two.
“It makes me laugh with my friends — the media just kills Kobe Bryant. Like he’s dead! Five still is a lot more than two!”
While we agree with Barkley about James, we want to know why he killed Magic Johnson (five titles, three MVPs) and Larry Bird (three titles, three MVPs).
To leave them off his all-time starting five is one thing, but to not even rank them in the top 10 is akin to sacrilege. Using Barkley’s measure of greatness, Johnson’s five titles and Bird’s three dwarf West’s one and Baylor’s none. Also, neither Lakers legend ever won an MVP award.
For the record, Ranker.com recently conducted a poll of more than 31,000 voters on the topic of top NBA players of all time.
Here are the results: 1. Jordan; 2. Johnson; 3. Abdul-Jabbar (six titles, six MVPs); 4. Chamberlain (2-4); 5. Bird; 6. Russell (11-5); 7. Bryant; 8. Hakeem Olajuwon (2-1); 9. Shaquille O’Neal (4-1). 10. Robertson.
James checked in at No. 13 — behind Julius Erving (1-1) and Duncan (4-2) — with West at No. 14 and Baylor at No. 24.
Barkley (0-1), ranked No. 16, might be a little lightheaded from all that weight he lost.
■ DOWN IN FRONT — The last time the Red Sox won the World Series at Fenway Park was 1918, or about the same number of dollars needed to buy a decent seat to today’s Game 6 in Boston.
The cheapest ticket on Stub Hub as of Tuesday afternoon was $952.95 — for a standing-room-only seat in left field.
The most expensive ticket, for a dugout box seat, was $11,552 — or 60.6 percent of the amount the Red Sox paid Babe Ruth in 1918, when the Sultan of Swat’s salary was $7,000.
COMPILED BY TODD DEWEY LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL