While the NBA has always been a league centered around legacy and greatness, that focus has only grown over the past few decades. Still, no matter how many great athletes there are each year, one thing remains constant: the two players in contention for the Greatest of All Time.
For some people, nobody could ever touch Michael Jordan. For others, Lebron is as good as it gets. In the following sections, I take an objective look at both players to give in-depth analysis of who truly holds the title of NBA G.O.A.T.
Though a new name pops up every now and then, Jordan and Lebron are the two players constantly fighting for the title Greatest of All Time. There have been many excellent athletes to step onto an NBA court, but nobody has done as much as Mike and the King.
For years, Jordan was the undisputed G.O.A.T. Everyone called him that, everyone knew him by that name, and nobody ever debated it. A player (like Kobe) would show up every now and then to generate some buzz, but they could never match Jordan’s achievements.
That changed when Lebron entered the league.
On the Stat Sheet
The first big aspect to look at when debating Jordan vs Lebron is stats. Lebron has had better longevity than Jordan, and he’s a more well-rounded player. Jordan scored more points per game (30.1 vs 27.1) but Lebron beats him in rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage.
They both average 0.8 blocks per game, and Jordan averaged 2.3 steals to Lebron’s 1.6. Even so, Lebron has done a lot more from various positions. He scored on the wing, played down low, and even ran the point. Looking at that, Lebron has a clear nod in regular season play.
The playoffs are a different story. While Lebron still leads Jordan in both postseason assists and rebounds, he falls short in scoring in a big way. He’s nearly five points under Jordan, and has 10 less 40 point playoff games. Jordan’s eight 50-point playoff games are also the most ever.
Taking that into account, Jordan wins the playoff battle. Lebron did more than Mike, but Jordan succeeded when it mattered the most. That’s also true when it comes to championships.
Both Lebron and Jordan have plenty of rings, but it’s important to note that Lebron had more help. Michael had a fantastic cast around him, including two future hall of famers, but it was much more organic than what Lebron did.
Unable to win it on his own with his first team, something Jordan did six times, Lebron teamed up with two superstar players in Miami. There’s nothing wrong with chasing a ring, but forming a super team does add some tarnish to Lebron’s legacy.
Another knock against Lebron is that Jordan ended up going 6-0 in the Finals compared to his 4-6. Being undefeated on the biggest stage is a huge boost for Jordan, as it shows his ability to finish when it mattered. Lebron won rings, but struggled a lot to do so.
However, a boost for Lebron is that he made many more Finals than Jordan. Mike only made the big stage six times in his career. He managed to win all of his series, but Lebron’s 10 finals trips (9 in a row) is something that no one has come close to in the modern NBA.
Many people (including myself) give Jordan the nod here because he won more rings and did so without ever losing. Still, it’s worth noting that the sheer number Lebron made is something that will unlikely ever happen again.
Building a Legacy
Though Jordan and Lebron are close in a lot of ways, Mike is still considered the G.O.A.T by so many due to the fact that he succeeded when it mattered. Every success for Lebron came as a slog. Nothing was easy, and he constantly fought an uphill battle.
In contrast, Jordan absolutely dominated the 90’s. He came away with 5 MVP awards, 6 Finals MVPs, as well as 10 scoring titles. Lebron falls short in all of those categories, which shows that his accolades are just a smidge below everything Jordan did.
At the end of the day, I believe Jordan is still the Greatest of All Time. His undefeated six finals, numerous MVP awards, collection of Finals MVPs, and strong postseason stats push him just above Lebron in my book. However, it’s an extremely tight race.
While everyone wants there to be a clear answer in the debate, the reality is that it’s not so simple. Both men were pure athletes who strived for success time and time again. It’s not easy to say who’s best, but there’s no doubt they are one and two.