Back in 2011, Oakley was critical of James. Not as a player, but his a few aspects of his game.
"I wouldn't put [James and Jordan] in the same conversation."
"It took a while for Michael to win championships too, but they have a different swagger, a different demeanor. If I would compare anybody to Michael Jordan, it would be Kobe Bryant. Point blank. I know LeBron well; he don't have what Michael have so I'm not even gonna discuss that one."
"To be a superstar [LeBron] has to go back to his fundamentals… work on his post game, work off the ball."
Oakley never said he didn't like the guy, he just said he needed to work on a few things to reach a higher level, if that's possible. If you look at James' game now, you see that he worked on a few things and it resulted in a championship. Oakley has taken notice of the changes in King James' game and went on to say that James can do more on the court than the great Michael Jordan.
“I appreciate him as a person, a mindset out on the court to perfect the game,” Oakley said of James. “Everybody’s criticizing him about this, about that, and he lets his game get better every year, and he got smarter every year, no matter what no one said. He let his game grow with him. The man is the best player, ain’t never gonna be a player like that. He’s going to go down as a top three player in the history of basketball.”
“He might not have had a lot of big numbers, but he would have made it,” Oakley said. “If you can get 26 (points) instead of 27, it’s the same thing. But he’s a guy you want to play with, no matter level what he played. If he played 40 years ago, he understands basketball. He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve seen in this game, probably go down as one of the smartest guys. He dictates offense, defense, he can do it all.”
“It’s a different debate,” Oakley said. “I ask everybody, who’s the best between Magic and LeBron? Everyone says Michael’s greatest. But, OK, well, we’ll give him his props. But LeBron is a better athlete, and he can do more than Michael on the basketball court. Michael is finisher, a great shooter, and it is what it is.”
Say what you will, but it's difficult to argue Oakley's point. James is too multi skilled to not have been a successful player in yesteryear's game. He might not have dominated like he does now, but who in the league had James' skill set with his kind of size and strength. Not many that I can think of right off the top of my head.
I'm not going to get into the Jordan/LeBron debate. They're both great players that played in different eras. You can't really compare the two. But to most, in order to get into Jordan' stratosphere, James will need to win some more championships. Until then most will not put James in Jordan's class.