This article is the ultimate greatest NBA player of all-time debate between Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James, with facts and stats. Let’s settle the NBA GOAT debate.
As with every major sport, fans and pundits often embroil in the endless arguments about the greatest of all time (GOAT). In basketball, that argument was reignited following the release of the ESPN documentary series “The Last Dance.”
The Last Dance gave young viewers an in-depth insight into the success of Michael Jordan. The documentary served as an eye-opener for those who knew Michael Jordan majorly for the success of the Air Jordan shoe brand.
Fanatics can’t help but compare Michael Jordan, the legend of the 20th century to LeBron James who has dominated the league in recent years and has arguably been seen as an NBA greatest of all-time contender.
True there exist several players such as late NBA Legend, Kobe Bryant, who have been involved in the complicated argument, no pair dominates any GOAT conversation regarding the NBA more than the duo, Jordan and James.
Both stars who have earned impressive states, individual accomplishments, and incredible team successes, are great in their own ways. But for some reason, which boils down to personal preference, there has never been a universal agreement regarding an answer to the question, who is the NBA’s Greatest of All Time?
We’ll insightfully review the stats the two men have acquired in their careers. For LeBron James, the stats used are from his debut season to Mach 2020 (before the suspension of the league).
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Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James Stats
Average Regular Season Stats
|Michael Jordan||Per Game||LeBron James|
|83.5||Free Throw %||73.5|
Total Regular Season Stats
|Michael Jordan||Total||LeBron James|
Regular Season Advanced Stats
|Michael Jordan||Per Game||LeBron James|
|27.9||Player Efficiency Rating||27.5|
|116.1||Value Over Replacement||133.2|
|56.9||True Shooting %||58.6|
|Michael Jordan||Playoffs Per Game||LeBron James|
|48.7||Field Goal %||49.1|
|82.8||Free throw %||74.3|
Playoff Advanced Stats
|Michael Jordan||Advanced||LeBron James|
|28.6||Player Efficiency Rating||28.3|
|24.7||Value Over Replacement||30.8|
|56.8||True Shooting %||57.9|
Awards & Accolades
|Michael Jordan||Awards & Accolades||LeBron James|
Why Michael Jordan is the Greatest of All-Time
Michael Jordan lay claim to the Greatest of All Time crown, thanks to the individual laurels he has achieved. Compared to LeBron James, Jordan has 6 NBA Championship rings and has claimed 6 NBA Finals MVP. Aside from the NBA All-star game appearance and All-NBA first-team selection, Michael Jordan leads LeBron James in every aspect in individual and team wins.
That is probably the most excellent argument pro-Jordan GOAT debaters will lay bare to anyone willing to listen to why Michael Jordan surpasses LeBron James.
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Why LeBron James is the Greatest of All-Time
With no advantage over Michael Jordan in individual and team laurels, LeBron James’ claim to the GOAT lies in his stats, which is impressive compared to Michael Jordan’s.
In terms of scoring, LeBron James ranks higher than Michael Jordan as his field goal percentage shows he is a better scorer. The story is the same in the rebound as well. However, Michael Jordan’s points per game average rank higher than that of James’. Still, when you consider his free throw percentage, which ranks significantly higher than that of LeBron, the argument becomes a bit shaky.
In steals, Jordan still comes first, but both players are at a stalemate in blocks. James also trails closely to Jordan, who ranks as the top player in NBA Efficiency ratings, with LeBron at second. That attests to LeBron James’ dominance over Jordan in individual ability.
The argument gets even more impressive when considering NBA Finals stats. This time Michael Jordan, who appeared in 6 NBA Finals without losing any compared to LeBron James, who appeared in 9 consecutive NBA Finals, but tasted victory on just three occasions, ranks higher than James in shooting, rebounding and passing.
But LeBron’s defensive abilities trump Jordan’s. He leads Jordan in the block and nearly matches his steals stats. The bottom line of this argument is that LeBron James’ skills place him at an advantage over Michael Jordan, as revealed by the stats.
Did Michael Jordan play in a weak league?
During the period Jordan played in the NBA, new teams arrived in the NBA. Precisely between 1988 and 1995, six new teams entered the NBA. During this period, Michael Jordan won his first of six NBA championships.
By the time he won his other three championships, new teams were still flooding the league. Most of these teams were not as strong as you could imagine today, for instance, the 2019 NBA Championship winner, Toronto Raptors.
Jordan played against such inexperienced teams on his way to six NBA Championships. So yes, it could be said Jordan played in a weak league that was not as tough as it is today, but his talents are unquestionable. While this may seem as though LeBron trumps over Jordan, the three-time NBA Championship winner is not without criticism.
Does LeBron James play in a weak conference?
LeBron James, who plays in the Eastern Conference, can be said to play in a weak conference based on the fact that since he entered the NBA, the Eastern Conference has led the Western Conference in wins on just one occasion. That proves that Western Conference teams readily defeat their Eastern counterparts.
But LeBron himself has seen himself on the losing end against Western Conference teams in overall matches on two occasions; his rookie season and his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers. On one time, he drew. So while he plays in a weak conference, LeBron James has not had difficulty defeating Western Conference teams.
Nature of Opponents
One aspect of Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James GOAT argument that needs consideration is the nature of opponents both have faced. Jordan played in a weak league compared to the current competition level in the NBA, but that league still produced some of the best Hall of Famers we know. In control, LeBron has faced more Hall of Famers/future Hall of Famers than Jordan, but the stats they earned against such opponents speaks for or against their GOAT title.
Michael Jordan: Jordan faced 24 Hall of Famers in the playoffs and NBA Finals on 48 occasions. In the playoffs, he faced 16 Hall of Famers. He defeated 6 of these Hall of Famers, tied with one while he lost to 9. He locked horns with these esteemed Hall of Famers 39 times, emerging victorious 17 times. In the total playoffs and finals, Michael Jordan has a postseason record of 26-22 or 54% win in his encounters against Hall of Famers.
LeBron James: James has faced more future and current Hall of Famers than Jordan. He has played against 25 Hall of Famers, both future and current, 65 times in the NBA Finals and playoffs. In the playoffs, James defeated 11 of the 14 current/future Hall of Famers, recorded a tie against 2, and has a sole losing record against one; Dwight Howard. 33 times, he faced current/future Hall of Famers in the playoffs and emerged victorious 24 times. In total, LeBron James has a postseason record of 34-31 of 52% against current and future Hall of Famers in the playoffs and Finals.
Another essential fact to consider in the Jordan vs. James GOAT argument is the teammates both had. That is important as it shows the support they both had.
Jordan: Throughout his time in the league, Jordan had one teammate appeared in the All-star (Scottie Pippen) and two teammates who received Hall of Fame honors (Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman).
James: So far, James accounts for more players who have been featured in the All-star than Michael Jordan. Six of his teammates (Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mo Williams, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade) in the various franchises he has played have attained All-star honors. In contrast, just three (Shaquille O’Neal, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh) have earned Hall of Fame recognition. That proves that Michael Jordan had far less support than LeBron James in the times they spent in the league, thus giving Jordan an advantage.
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Michael Jordan, who competed in a reasonably weak league compared to the current elevated standards of the NBA, faced few Hall of Fame opponents. Jordan also had little support from players who earned All-star and Hall of Fame glory lay claims to the most success in individual laurels and team wins.
In contrast, LeBron James, who competes in a weak conference, faced more opponents who have or will receive Hall of Fame glory and have been supported by more teammates who earned Hall of Fame honor, leads in individual skills as revealed by the stats above.
Undoubtedly, both Michael Jordan and LeBron James rank as the best of their time.
Ultimately, the title of GOAT can only be subject to the opinion of each fan and not a collective decision. Please feel free to share your thoughts in our comments section below.