LeBron James isn’t better than Michael Jordan, and that’s okay. One day he will either eclipse him, fall short or be his equal. Truth is, he is already the best OVERALL player the NBA has ever seen. This is coming from one of the biggest Jordan fans you’ll find.
Now that the confetti has cleared from the Miami Heat’s third championship – the second for LeBron James – and the national media has wiped their collective drool from the last couple of weeks over LeBron’s performance, it’s my turn to jump in on this. I’ve read several articles, watched and listened to several sports talk shows on various media platforms, debate whether or not LeBron is better than Michael Jordan. LeBron is not better than MJ, but he is the best overall player the NBA has EVER seen. There is a difference. It’s like saying what’s the difference between a scorer and a shooter. They both can score plenty of points, but a shooter only does it with the jump shot and a scorer does it a multitude of ways from slashing lay-ups and dunks, jump shots, free throws etc. Ray Allen is a shooter; Carmelo Anthony are Kevin Durant are scorers.
My issues with the comparisons are the key variable in which they are comparing the two by, which is their age. It’s unfair to MJ. You can’t compare ages because LeBron entered the league three years before Michael Jordan did. If you want to use age, you would have to start the comparison at age 21, the age Michael played his first game for the Chicago Bulls back in the 1984-85 season. But this would be unfair to LeBron. The only fair way is to look at years of service or experience, 10. So let’s start there.
All my stats have been fact checked by basketball reference.com. Michael Jordan’s first 10 seasons are 1984-1993 and 1994-1995. LeBron’s first 10 seasons are 2003-2013.
Michael has scored 21, 998 points to LeBron’s 21,081. LeBron has more assists with 5,302 to MJ’s 4,025. LeBron also has more rebounds with 5,553 to Michael’s 4,336. LeBron has the edge in MVP trophies at 4 to 3. Michael has the edge on championships at 3 to 2.
Another key stat to look at when adding up all these numbers; LeBron has played in 765 games while Michael played in only 684. Because of Michael’s broken foot during the 1985-86 and his stint in minor league baseball that caused him to miss a season and a half, LeBron has played in 81 more games than Michael. That is equal to one full season more than his Airness.
To no surprise MJ scored more than LBJ and the per game average is more than 5 points a game. It’s also not shocking that LeBron – who goes out of his way to get teammates involved – has more assists than Michael at a per game average of 6.93 to 5.88. But I bet few people expected it to be that close.
The stats support the claim that LeBron is more Magic Johnson than Michael as many suggest. Honestly, I thought Scottie Pippen was a better all around player than Michael with his abilities and versatility. So giving the nod to LeBron as a better “overall player” isn’t that big a deal.
But look at the titles category that many are trying to throw against MJ with their 28 years old argument. MJ wins 3 to 2. I’ll throw another stat in there. 3-0 to 2-2. What’s that? Michael Jordan was undefeated in his three trips to the NBA Finals, where as LeBron won two of his four trips. I’ll give LeBron more credit than most for getting that 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals in his first trip. I’ll give Michael a nod for never missing the playoffs in his first 10 seasons, while LeBron did miss in his first two seasons with the Cavaliers.
Depending on what category you place more importance on, you can decide who you feel is the best. If it is championships, MJ is still number one. If it’s total stats, LeBron has the edge everywhere except points.
Either way LeBron isn’t MJ, MJ isn’t LeBron. Let’s just enjoy the greatness we are witnessing in King James and celebrate his Airness for what he has done. My main point is that the discussion of who is the best is closer then we think. At least at this stage of their careers. Let’s do this in 5 years and see where the MVPs, stats and championships lay. Still we have to wait until Lebron is retired to come to any conclusion.