Michael Jordan is the best player ever. It is a statement and it will not change soon. More and more people (Pippen included) play a comparison game with Kobe or James. No! No! No! (I know i’m a bit rude).
One indicator of greatness is Rings: In the early 90s, MJ realised that: 1) No ring, No Hall of Fame Top 5. 2) Even with a ring, he needs to do something special to go over Bird and Magic. MJ won 3 consecutive rings, something Magic and Bird failed to accomplish. Some people still argued that 3 years of reign are not enough to establish yourself as the best ever. After winning 6 rings including 2x3peats, MJ finally excluded Magic (5) and Bird (3) from the discussion. Kobe actually has 5 rings and Lebron 0. There is no way both can be in best player talks until they reach MJ numbers. But rings are not enough otherwise Russell or “Big Shot Rob” Horry are better than MJ.
Another indicator is accomplishments: This is the indicator that helps to establish you as a legend and put players like Chamberlain or Jabbar into the talks. Here again, MJ is far from Kobe and James. 5 season MVP, 5 Finals MVP, 10 top scorer titles, 6 Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the year… Kobe and James are not even close; they never won Defensive player of the year award and have 1 and 2 MVP titles.
Last one is the intangibles, the perception that you are special: Kobe 81pts is a strong one, his 35pts/game too. Kobe is no doubt the best technical player to ever play the game. his range of offensive moves is hard to match even for Jordan. The Black mamba is also known to be among the top game closer ever. James is a triple-double freak and is the most dominant player since Shaq. But Magic 1980 Finals MVP as a rookie, Bird 3 threat and ice blood, Shaq total domination of the paint and his 37pts/15rebs during 2000 Finals, Chamberlain 50pts/game and 100 pts also are strong intangibles factors, and MJ is quite good too. When MJ reached his top with the Bulls in 88 (Conf Finals) he never fell below the Conf Finals in 10 years (88-98), no sweep since then, lost only 2 playoffs series in the 90s (90 an 94), posted 41pts/8rbds/7assists/game in 93 Nba Finals, posted 36pts in one half in 92 Finals, 72 wins in 98…, Never loose a Finals… Yes MJ is also good at intangibles.
Kobe career is almost over, and with Miami rising domination, it will be hard for him to get his 6th ring; and even if; he will just tie Jordan in only one of above 3 indicators. He is clearly among the top 10 players ever. But the 2011 sweep; his actual body shape at 33 (MJ started his second 3 peat at 33) with 15 years of baskeball and Shaq as the alphadog in 3 of Kobe titles; ended his quest to top MJ.
At 26, James will probably get his first NBA in 2011 and already have 2 MVP. As strange as it can be, his future remains uncertain. Wade will probably get 2011 Finals MVP title if Miami wins and Wade will have 30 next January. How long can he play at top level? 3-4 years. Lebron can target 4 rings during this period with 2 possible Finals MVP titles. This is lower than Shaq, Kobe, Duncan, Magic, Jabbar… who are between him and His Airness in his quest to top MJ. His supporting cast (Wade, Bosh) and his move to Miami are negative factors, Lebron may never overcome.