Just in time for the NBA Finals. Do you know what really grinds my gears? People saying that Lebron James is the greatest to ever play the game. Nope.
Michael Jordan will forever and always be recognized as the GREATEST OF ALL TIME.
Now before you get all up in your feelings and say “oh he’s a Lebron hater” or “oh, he’s just a Jordan stan”, there is way more to it than that.
In my 30 years on this earth, I’ve had the luxury of witnessing both MJ and Lebron in their primes. I’ve witnessed MJ’s 6-peat and bizarre tenure with the Washington Wizards. I’ve witnessed both Lebron’s early struggles to win by himself in Cleveland and Lebron’s perennial run at the title these past few years. I can unequivocally say that MJ is better.
Now, I will easily concede and say that Lebron may be the most physically gifted player of all time and that in a one on one game, he will push MJ to his limits. But 5 on 5? Come on now.
Let me present the facts then thanks to Basketball-Reference.com
Career Regular Season Stats:
Michael Jordan: 30.1 PPG, 5.3 APG, 6.2 RPG, 32.7 3P%, 49.7 FG%
Lebron James: 27.1 PPG, 7.0 APG, 7.3 RPG, 34.2 3P%, 50.1 FG%
Numbers here look virtually identical. Where MJ scored more, Lebron rebounded and passed more. But mind you, Lebron plays in an era of basketball widely known as being soft. An era where breathing on somebody the wrong way would be constituted as a foul. An era where rules have been modified and enforced differently to make the game faster paced, flashy, more enjoyable to watch and ultimately, more profitable.
Now for quite possibly the most physically gifted player in the world, why is he not scoring 35 a night? Why is he not averaging a double double, hell a triple double. Why is he not even averaging 30 a night? Is it because he wants to involve his teammates more? Or is it that he does not posses the killer instinct that MJ possessed. I’ll go with the latter.
MJ had to go night in and night out against teams like the (sadly, my) New York Knicks and the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons. These teams made it a physical nightmare for MJ whenever he had to face them. In fact, the term “Jordan Rules” was coined by the Detroit Pistons as a strategy they used to impose their physical strength on MJ. In this much more physical era, MJ was still able to succeed.
Another interesting thing to note about MJ’s numbers there is that he lost a season and a half to try baseball AND those numbers include his aforementioned strange 2 year tenure with the Washington Wizards where he still averaged 22.9 PPG and 20 PPG respectively. Taking out those two years would raise his averages slightly. Don’t forget, that’s a near 40 year old still averaging 20 a night.
Let’s talk about playoffs since we all know that these two men are constantly compared due to their success in the playoffs.
Career Playoff Statistics:
Michael Jordan: 33.4 PPG, 5.7 APG, 6.4 RPG, 33.2 3P%, 48.7 FG%
Lebron James: 28.3 PPG, 6.8 APG, 8.8 RPG, 32.9 3P%, 48.3 FG%
So let me get this straight, is Lebron’s plan just to pass and rebound his way into another championship? I’m sure Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love & Co. would love to get the ball but this is exactly why MJ is better. MJ would command the ball and take away any hope from his opponents in the playoffs. A killer instinct second to none. A killer instinct that maybe only Kobe Bryant could come close to.
What’s even more interesting, Lebron just passed MJ to become the all time highest scorer in playoffs history. Amazing accomplishment for sure. Where it gets interesting is that Lebron has been in 212 career playoff games and counting. MJ only played in 179 to get to the top of the list at the time of his retirement. Thats 33 more games just to pass MJ on the list.
Whether you like or dislike Lebron, there is no denying he is one of the all-time greats in NBA history. His accomplishments, moments and numbers stand for themselves. But, to state that he is better than Michael Jordan, the Greatest of All Time, would be a huge mistake.
I will certainly enjoy the NBA Finals no matter who wins as I love basketball. And folks, that is my take on the eternal debate.