Michael Jordan (left) and Lebron James
Associated Press/Photos by (Jordan) Karl DeBlaker and (James) Eric Gay
Michael Jordan (left) and Lebron James

Who’s the best? Comparison ruins appreciation


Here we are in the middle of the NBA Finals and a debate rages. It is not about whether the Miami Heat or San Antonio Spurs will win. It is not about whether Tim Duncan will win his fifth title. No, the question up for debate is whether Lebron James is as good as Michael Jordan. Let me settle this one: Lebron James is not Michael Jordan—he’s not even close. And I’m not even a Jordan fan. Michael Jordan was a once-in-a-lifetime basketball player. Lebron James is merely once-in-a-generation. In fact, I am not certain why this comparison persists in the media, at sports bars, and in living rooms across America. Actually, I do know why: The question of “Which athlete is better?” is one of the most consistently engaging debates sports fans have. We love the comparison game.

But so what if Lebron is no MJ? To get caught up in the comparison is to miss something important (and obvious). Lebron James is too good to not appreciate. This doesn’t mean we have to like him or root for him, but only a fool would fail to appreciate his greatness. No matter what you think of his history or histrionics, James deserves the appreciation of every basketball fan.

Comparisons are poison to appreciation—whether it is a debate with a friend over which basketball player is better or an internal deliberation over whether I should stay at my job or take another one. But don’t we do this all the time? We do it with our homes, cars, jobs, and even our children and spouses. We do it at restaurants. “Oh, this steak can’t compare to the one I had one time in Austin.” We do it at parties. “You know, the shindig at the Smiths was a lot more lively than this.” We compare everything in life.

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And the chances we have to appreciate things are brief because life is short. To expend so much energy comparing takes the limited days we have and turns them sour and empty instead of sweet and full, leaving us with discontent. We end up filling our time wishing we were with someone else somewhere else doing something else. What a waste.

Whether it is Lebron James, a steak, or a party, we would be wise to appreciate it. It doesn’t matter if it is “the best.” This side of heaven there will nearly always be something more appealing out there. Instead, we should willfully choose to appreciate all aspects of life for what God made them to be. For we only find true contentment when we appreciate what He has set before us.

Barnabas Piper
Barnabas Piper

Barnabas works for Lifeway Christian Resources and is the author of The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity and Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith. He and his wife live in the Nashville area with their two daughters. Follow Barnabas on Twitter @BarnabasPiper.


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