The GOAT debate that was once put to rest after LeBron’s collapse against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals has suddenly re-emerged after his sensational season leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. Although all of his efforts culminated in another Finals loss, no sane NBA fan can hold this one against him.
The LeBron versus Michael Jordan debate is officially back on, however, I think we may be opening the door for LeBron a little too early. Greatness has always been determined by championship wins and how a player dominates their competition. It’s never been about individual stats or how well someone rebounded or assisted.
If it was about those, Russell Westbrook would have a strong case. In simply winning, Jordan has the edge on LeBron. LeBron has been an underdog in the Finals more than he’s been the favourite, and we can’t change what it means to be the GOAT just because LeBron doesn’t measure up in that aspect.
I believe that Jordan was a more complete player than LeBron currently is. Offensively, LeBron is the total package, but he is nowhere near Jordan’s class defensively.
If a Martian came to Earth and wanted to go one-on-one with our best player, I would send Michael Jeffrey Jordan, the six-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP), five-time regular season MVP, 10-time scoring leader, nine-time All-Defensive First-Team player, three-time steals leader, and the 1987–1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year to save our planet.
The door isn’t closed on LeBron; he’s projected to be the first player to ever finish in the top 10 in points and assists. He also has a few more years to complete his trophy case. If LeBron pulls a couple more championships under his belt, this argument could go very differently in a few years.
— Alex Mulego
After reaching his eighth straight NBA Finals, LeBron James has achieved one of the most impressive basketball records in the NBA. His streak is surpassed only by Tom Heinsohn, Sam Jones, and Bill Russell of the 1960s Celtics. After 15 seasons in the NBA, LeBron has the most points, minutes, and steals in NBA playoff history. He also has the highest points average in game sevens, with 34.9 points.
The NBA is a far different league this year than when Michael Jordan played, as it has more athletic players who have more social media attention on them than ever. This makes LeBron’s dominance that much more impressive.
Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens summed it up best when he was asked what it was like to play against LeBron after the Celtics’ game seven loss in the Eastern Conference Finals. He explained that while his team had played two consecutive eight-month seasons “totally focused” on making it as far as they possibly could, LeBron has worked from September to June for eight straight seasons. Stevens concluded: “He does it at this level with the pressure, with the scrutiny… it’s just unbelievable.”
This season, the 33-year-old played all 82 games and played the most minutes in the league. LeBron has accumulated 44,298 minutes in the NBA, making him 20th all-time in minutes played, with several seasons still coming up. Despite the incredible number of miles on his body, LeBron dragged a mediocre-at-best team to the NBA Finals, a team that was noted as one of the worst teams to ever make the finals.
After this performance, I have a hard time believing that Jordan was a better player. LeBron’s persistence, focus, intelligence, and everlasting body has allowed him to master the game better than anyone.
LeBron easily made a full court run off of one foot to beat the number one-seeded Toronto Raptors, and scored 51 points to nearly beat the Golden State Warriors in game one of the Finals. Everything he did this year was unbelievable, which is why the Jordan versus LeBron debate has come up again. Many older basketball fans see any comparison to Jordan as disrespectful, but it’s time that they come around and appreciate the greatness that is in front of them.
— Isaac Consenstein
The LeBron versus Jordan debate is often consumed by unequal factors such as accolades and awards, which are subjective, and championships, which are reflective of a team’s performance. Both are useless in objectively determining who the better player is. Comparing statistics also does not provide a clear answer, as Jordan edges out LeBron in points per game and steals per game, while LeBron tops Jordan in rebounds per game and assists per game.
Advanced statistics such as Player Efficiency Rating (PER) prove to be much more useful in comparing the individual impact of both players. PER measures a player’s performance per minute, taking into account all positive contributions and negative impacts.
Jordan currently sits first all-time with a PER of 27.91, with LeBron in second with a 27.68. This is despite the fact that Jordan’s PER took a significant hit during his final years playing on the Washington Wizards, and that LeBron’s PER is sure to take a dive as he exits his prime and plays into his later years.
The evidence also favours Jordan when considering the contributions of each player toward the goal of basketball: winning games. Win Shares are an advanced statistic that measure how much a player has individually contributed to a team’s wins.
When comparing Win Shares per 48 minutes, LeBron currently sits at sixth all-time, whereas Jordan sits second only to Chris Paul. This means that Jordan had a significantly greater single-handed impact in winning games than LeBron has.
This is why Jordan is the greatest of all time. He is the greatest positive contributor in basketball history, and did much more to win games than LeBron does. The evidence proves that Mike had an unshakeable will to win at any cost, and played the game at a level that LeBron has never been able to reach.
— Amrit Bola
When it comes to the NBA, the topic of who is better than who always leads to interesting debates, including James Harden versus Russell Westbrook, Larry Bird versus Magic Johnson, and Donovan Mitchell versus Ben Simmons.
However, there’s no greater debate than LeBron James versus Michael Jordan. While LeBron is a three-time NBA champion with three NBA Finals MVPs, Jordan has won six NBA championships and six NBA Finals MVPs.
Looking at these basic achievements, most people would think the one with the most achievements would be the better player. But if that was the case, Bill Russell would be considered the greatest of all time, since he has won 11 NBA championships, more than any other player in NBA history.
The 2017–2018 NBA season has seen LeBron once again falling short of another championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that was left shorthanded after Kyrie Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics last offseason. When LeBron won two and lost two championships in the NBA Finals during his four-year stint with the Miami Heat, he was accompanied by 12-time NBA All-Star Dwayne Wade and 11-time NBA All-Star Chris Bosh.
In contrast, Jordan never lost an NBA Finals, although some would say that was because Jordan was accompanied by seven-time NBA All-Star Scottie Pippen and a routinely competent supporting cast.
When you analyze playoff statistics, LeBron averages 28.92 points per game, while Jordan averaged a career 33.45 points per game. Consequently, the obvious choice would be Jordan.
However, the real question in this debate is whether a fair comparison can even be made. Both players play different roles and have different influences on their teams, the league, and the world. Additionally, with LeBron still playing in the NBA and Jordan already retired, the chance of LeBron surpassing Jordan is still possible. Nevertheless, as of now: Jordan over LeBron.
— Michael Phoon