atching the NBA Finals on Friday night, I got caught up in listening to the commentary as the final quarter of the pivotal fourth game played out. After it became evident what the outcome of the contest would be, the discussion turned to what LeBron James could do to achieve the greatness that he is so capable of attaining.
LeBron is arguably the best player ever, but there is a recurring debate of who is the GOAT (greatest of all time) in basketball— Michael Jordan or LeBron James? I will always be on the side of MJ because he blazed a trail that is hard to deny— from being cut from the squad as a freshman in high school to still being regarded as the standard after three decades. His greatness is undeniable.
However, LeBron – who entered the NBA straight out of high school – has established himself as a GOAT as well.
LeBron has experienced a career that created a love/hate relationship with the country. As much as I have been less than a fan of his arrogance, I acknowledge that he is one of the best to grace the court.
Jordan retired for good in 2003, and James began his career the following year, so here we are 15 years after Jordan played his last NBA game. Given James has racked up the same number of seasons as Jordan, now is the time to really run a comparison of the two players.
Basketball is a team sport, and as such, to decide who is a better player is really pretty subjective. There are so many variables that factor in, ranging from the times in which they played to the teammates with whom they shared the court. To come up with an answer to the question of who is best, the only concrete evidence that can be obtained is to look to the stats.
The two superstars are dead even in seasons played (15), playoffs played (13) and all-star games played (14). LeBron has played in nine finals, compared to Michael’s six. However, MJ has thus far doubled up James by winning all six of his NBA Finals opportunities. LeBron has only laid claim to three championships.
Jordan leads James as Season MVP 5-4, Finals MVP 6-3, All-Defensive 1st Team 9-5, All-Defensive Teams 9-6, Defensive Player of the year 1-0, Scoring leader 10-1 and steals leader 3-0. On the other hand, LeBron tops Michael in being named to the All-NBA 1st Team 12-10 and the All-NBA Teams 14-11. Both players were chosen Rookie of the Year in their first season.
Michael wins in points per game and steals per game, while LeBron takes top honors in rebounds and assists per game. They are all tied up when it comes to blocks per game.
When looking at total stats, the results mirror the averages I mentioned above with the exception of blocks, where Jordan edges James by five. It must be noted, however, that James has played in 71 more games than MJ.
James has a better overall field goal percentage as well as 3-point percentage, but Jordan edges him out in free throw percentage.
When comparing their best seasons, as well as their playoff stats, it should come as no surprise that they stack up the same as their overall comparisons.
LeBron has proven that he is adept at carrying his team to greatness, and he has also proven himself versatile when it comes to guarding any position on the court. However, Michael established himself as possessing an astounding will to win that James may lack.
So, who is the real GOAT? It’s still hard to tell!
The only way to truly prove who would prevail would be for them to play against each other while in their prime, and obviously that will never happen.
As for me, after having watched both players throughout their careers, and my heart will forever choose Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all time.