|ESPN.com: NBA||[Print without images]|
Phil Jackson believes LeBron James' physical strengths and ability to play four different positions could eventually give the Miami Heat star a leg up on Michael Jordan.
Speaking on the "Waddle and Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000 in Chicago last week, Jackson said James has the potential to join Jordan as one the greatest players in NBA history.
"He's got all the physical attributes," Jackson said. "He is a player that can play four positions. Except for perhaps the center spot, which he hasn't (been) given a shot at yet, he can play those other four positions quite well. This is unique; Michael could play three and was very good at all three of those, but as a power player that LeBron can become, I think he has an opportunity to explore and advance some of the status that he has already gained."
Jordan still has five more championships than James, which is the major factor in any such conversation. But James is 27, a year younger than Jordan was when he won his first title under Jackson in 1991. Jackson believes that if James can stay healthy, he could chase Jordan's standard.
"Winning six championships is an elusive thing out there, and they haven't won two yet," Jackson said. "But he's kinda got the smell of it, and even the Olympic experience this summer, he was the granted leader of that team and was the critical player when they needed something to happen in the final games. I think he's there, I think he's at that position. He's got good things ahead of him and a lot of it depends upon if he's gonna be healthy for the remainder of his career."
The next threshold for James, Jackson said, is to improve his post moves and shooting ability to become more of a dynamic offensive player. As he aged, Jordan developed better footwork to diversify his offensive game, something Jackson believes James will need to do as well.
"I have a hard time judging the best player, but I do think that Michael had more moves in the post and he had more of a perhaps shooting touch with his back to the basket and all these kind of things that were part of his game," Jackson said.
"LeBron has this train out of control when he gets the ball in transition that he can go coast-to-coast without anyone getting in his way, and if they do, he's going to over run them. And he's got the power with the body and he's developed a left hand that's extremely good. There's a lot of things that you are seeing in the development of this player that leads towards that, but the ideal and the whole reason behind this is what kind of championships are you gonna get from a player like this? Can he match what Michael has done?"
Though the Heat have been installed as narrow favorites to repeat as champions, Jackson said he thinks they'll find winning again to be more challenging, especially with strong contenders like the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
"It's more difficult, it becomes more difficult, with each one you win," Jackson said. "There is never really an easier path. You know the direction, you know what it takes, you know the length of the season and how to pace yourselves."