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MJ at 50

Michael Jordan turned 50 today, an informational nugget you would have missed only if you had spent the last week in a hermetically sealed underground shelter a mile below the polar ice cap.

Which is to say, ESPN went all Creepy Stalker Mode in its obsessive, constant, ultimately pull-your-hair-out coverage.

I guess if you're going to do that, though, MJ's the guy you do it for, although the sheer volume and reverential tone of the coverage seemed more post-mortem than post-49. The man was arguably (and, yes, it says here you can still argue it) the greatest basketball player who ever lived, but it's not like he brought down stone tablets from Mount Naismith inscribed with the secrets of the game -- one of which, presumably, was Thou Shalt Match Up With Craig Ehlo As Often As Possible.

One thing that does need to stop, however: the comparisons to LeBron James.

You heard them everywhere last week, and they all missed a simple and rather crucial point: LeBron and MJ are apples and oranges. One was essentially a tricked-out shooting guard who barely nudged 6-5; the other's an astounding Sherman tank/Ferrari hybrid whose sheer physical dimensions and athletic gifts defy traditional basketball positions.

Is LeBron an oversized guard? A power forward? A small forward? A post-up player on the blocks?

Yes, yes, yes and ... yes.

Fact is he can, and does, play all five positions on the floor, and occasionally guards all five. Jordan, simply because of the limitations of physical dimension, never did that. He was a scorer, the greatest ever to play the game, and a lockdown perimeter defender. LeBron is a scorer, defender and (because of his court vision and passing ability) a facilitator to boot.

The truer comparison, then is LeBron and Magic, not LeBron and Jordan. Or so it says here, anyway.

Ben Smith's blog.