With LeBron James' legendary championship run this year, ending the Cleveland sports curse and winning another Finals MVP, the question that has been discussed over the years is being brought up again frequently... is LeBron James the greatest basketball player to ever live? For most, the only player standing in "The King's" way, is Michael Jordan, who has rivaled James' great career in almost every way.
In this article, we will be comparing some of the greatest basketball players to ever live, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. We will be analyzing 8 reasons LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan, and 8 reasons that he is not better than him. This article will most likely spark some debate, as many people just don't want to accept that LeBron James might be the most dominant player to ever play the game. It is a debate that is still one sided in the eyes of many fans, as many will refuse to put anyone in the same class as MJ.
As always, feel free to leave any other reasons that could have been included on this list, as we would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.
Here are 8 reasons LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan and 8 reasons he's not.
13 Is Better: Defensive Versatility
As showcased is this year's NBA finals, LeBron James can do it all on defense. Whether it is intercepting a pass, or flying through the air to reject an important shot, LeBron does what is needed to win on both ends of the court. While Michael was one of the best defenders to ever play, the defensive presence felt by James has just been greater than Jordan's. Even though the two are tied in blocks per game, and Jordan has the edge in the steals department, it's not all about the stats. LeBron can guard any player on the opposing team, from the point guard to the center, which is just so vital to his team's success. Adding James' athletic abilities to his 6'8" and 250 lbs body, LeBron James it a total beast of a man. If faced with this decision, I would prefer to have LeBron leading my defensive team rather than Jordan.
12 Is Not Better: Championships
LeBron's recent finals win was big for his G.O.A.T considerations, but his championship record is just not as good as Jordan's as of yet. LeBron has now won his 3rd NBA title, which only puts him at half of the champions that Jordan won with the Bulls. Jordan's perfect 6 for 6 record in the finals shows how dominant he was during the most important series of the season. While LeBron hasn't had much trouble getting to the finals, as he has reached the highest stage in the league six years in a row, his three series losses is one of the biggest detriments against LeBron when he is compared to Michael Jordan. James' career isn't over yet, so he still has some time to improve his finals record. This is always the argument that will keep popping up until LeBron matches Jordan's six.
11 Is Better: Passing
LeBron James is a better passer than Michael Jordan ever was. As we know, LeBron can do it all, and passing is one of the best strengths of his game. LeBron has averaged 6.9 assists per game through his career, which is just much better than Jordan's 5.3 assists per game. LeBron's vision on the court is something that can only be matched by some of the greatest passers ever, such as Magic Johnson and John Stockton, as he is able to make anybody on his team get the open look. Jordan also had some better teammates than LeBron, so the fact that he couldn't pass as well as James shows he wasn't as great as a passer as LeBron. James is a triple double threat every night, as his passing display is just incredible. He gets his teammates involved in every game, yet will take the game over when he feels he has to.
10 Is Not Better: Killer Instinct
Michael Jordan would do what ever he had to do to win. Period. MJ had one of the most competitive natures the basketball world has ever seen. If it meant getting into a players head or getting on another players case, Jordan took basketball more seriously than anybody. LeBron James on the other hand, while he obviously wants to win, seems to be more of just a lovable guy compared to Jordan, who was a stone-cold killer on the court. Jordan's legendary "Flu Game" was a testament to how bad he wanted to win, as he even played through his illness to win the game. LeBron on the other hand, had to sit out a portion of a Finals game, because he got too hot due to a lack of air-conditioning. He definitely had a serious cramp in that game, but many believe Jordan would've found a way to play through it. You could compare Michael Jordan's killer instinct to Kobe Bryant, sadly not to LeBron James.
9 Is Better: Rebounding
At 6'8 compared to Michael's 6'6 frame, LeBron James should probably be a better re-bounder than Jordan, which he is. Rebounding is as important to LeBron as any other part of his game, as he takes it seriously just like a center would. Jordan on the other hand, while he did sky to some rebounds in his day, LeBron has already surpassed Jordan in total rebounds for both of the two men's careers. This is saying a lot about LeBron, as Jordan is very respectable in this category, even averaging 8 rebounds a game in one season. The playoffs are when LeBron really turns up his re-bounding, as he averages over 2 more rebounds than Jordan did in the playoffs.
We saw LeBron's rebounding ability on fully display in this year's NBA Finals as he simply dominated around the basket, frustrating the Warriors.
8 Is Not Better: Clutch Factor
Michael Jordan was much more clutch than LeBron James is today. We have seen LeBron disappear multiple times in some very clutch moments, which is a time where Jordan would have shined. Countless examples of Jordan's will to win can be discussed. Whether it be knocking down the game winner to give North Carolina the championship in 1982 or it was "the shot" against the Cavaliers, Jordan has a long list of clutch shots. LeBron has had some game winners too, but his fourth quarter self just didn't change as much as Michael's did, as MJ became a total monster when he needed to. LeBron's clutch factor has gotten better but it still doesn't rival Jordan's.
With the game on the line and one of these players had a chance to win it, I believe that Jordan would have the edge over LeBron hands-down.
5. Is Better: Worse Teammates
What is brought up a lot with MJ's championships, is the role of his teammates. Playing with guys such as Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, and a load more of other great role players, Jordan's championship teams have always been superb. Was Jordan an important piece of the championships? Absolutely, but we have to wonder...would he be able to do it alone? LeBron sure has done this. During his first run in Cleveland, LeBron willed the Cavaliers to multiple championship contentions, with just no supporting cast. He put on a legendary performance last year as he battled the Warriors without any help from his injured teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Even though he failed in beating the Warriors in 2015, his stats are eye-opening to say the least. He finished the job this year with a healthier Cavaliers roster.
7 Is Not Better: "The Decision"
"The Decision" has always put a dark cloud over LeBron James' career, making him the most hated man in the league at one point. This decision has to be taken into consideration. At the time of his departure from Cleveland, LeBron was the best player in the league. It appeared to most that he selfishly turned his back on the city that loved him, and to make matters worse Cleveland, was his hometown. Even though Jordan retired from the Bulls multiple times, and once even to play baseball , he never jumped ship to another team to win championships, which LeBron did as he uttered the words, "I will be taking my talents to South Beach". LeBron has since come back to Cleveland and brought home a championship, and the fans must have forgiven him even though he abandoned them for the Miami Heat in 2010.
6 Is Better: Hometown Hero
Even with everything said above, LeBron made right on his mistake, and won the Cavaliers their first NBA championship against the historic Golden State Warriors team. LeBron promised to relieve Cleveland fans of the curse they have seemed to endure for the last 5o years, as they finally had a team to celebrate. His most recent championship was absolutely legendary, as the Cavaliers were the only team to make it back from a 3 to 1 deficit in the finals. While Jordan was loved in Chicago, he never won any championships for his hometown of Charlotte. All though he has since taken a front office job with the Hornets, fans would have loved to see Jordan throw on the teal, and win a championship for his hometown, just like LeBron has since done.
5 Is Not Better: IQ
Michael Jordan learned the game inside and out, front to back, and every other way you can think of. I would dare to say he has a better basketball IQ than LeBron James, who has demonstrated countless times how well he knows the game. Jordan's offensive and defensive awareness are off the charts, as he seems to be able to watch the play unfold before it even happens. Jordan is much more careful with the ball as well. LeBron has already surpassed him in turnovers by a healthy amount, which just shows the difference in the two's ability to keep the ball safe. Jordan saw the game with a perspective that many just can't seem to comprehend, as he is not only one of the greatest players ever, he is one of the smartest players ever.
3. Is Better: Years Ahead
LeBron James already has had one of the greatest careers ever, as it rivals some of the best to ever play. If he ended his career today, he would already go down in history as one of the greatest players of all-time. The thing is, LeBron is only 31 years old, and isn't showing much sign of slowing down. It's probably a given LeBron will be back in the finals again, as it looks as though the Cavaliers have gotten it together now, and are already hungry for another championship. With possibly another six or seven years left for the "The King," all of his stats may be better than Jordan when he finally decides to retire. Yes, I'm talking more MVP's, more points, and possibly even more championships. We are witnessing one of the greatest careers of all-time, which is far from over.
4 Is Not Better: Scoring
MJ has the total edge over LeBron when it comes to scoring. While it seems as though James could score 40 a game if he really wanted to, the killer instinct Jordan has when it comes to putting the ball in the basket just trumps LeBron. Jordan averaged over 30 points a game through his career, while James trails behind with about 27 points a game. It is without question that Jordan's scoring led to some big wins during his career with the Bulls, as he is definitely one of the greatest scorers of all-time. Let me just leave you with a little statistic, Jordan had 10 scoring championships to LeBron's lone 1.
There is more to the game than scoring, but when you're talking about who the greatest of all time is, scoring obviously becomes one of the biggest factors.
3 Is Better: Value To Team
I am not saying Jordan wasn't value to the Chicago Bulls, but was he really as important as people think he was? When he left the Bulls to play baseball, the void he left was thought to be irreplaceable. Surprisingly, Jordan's departure didn't affect the Bulls as much as you would think. Without MJ, the Bulls went 55-27, even reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. When Michael returned, the Bulls record actually worsened, as they won only 47 games. That's a lot different than LeBron's scenario. When he left the Cavaliers, they went from 61 wins, to only 19. Not only did LeBron's decision to leave Cleveland hurt the team for a year or two, his departure turned the Cavaliers from one of the best teams in the league, to a bottom dwelling team that had absolutely no chance of making the playoffs. Now that's value to a team.
2. Is Not Better: Perimeter Defense
Even though LeBron can guard every position on the court, Michael Jordan's defense against some of the best guards in the league during his time was incredible. Michael won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1988, as he averaged over 3 steals a game, a feat LeBron has yet to achieve. With Jordan's defensive awareness and quick hands, he was a nightmare to score on as he was just a total lock down defender on whoever his assignment happened to be. Though known much more for his scoring than his defense, Jordan deserves a lot of credit when it comes to his perimeter defense. Allen Iverson might have something to say when it comes to Jordan's defense though, as we all remember when the rookie Iverson crossed over Michael and knocked down the jump shot.
2 Is Better: Team Player
I would much rather play with LeBron than Jordan. I say this for a few reasons. First, LeBron is such a great player not just for his own abilities, but for the fact he is able to bring his whole team together to win games. He doesn't go out just looking for individual glory, he wins each game for his family, friends, fans, and his teammates. You can see this by his playing style. A great example would be letting Kyrie Irving take the game deciding three in game 7, against the Warriors. Some would say it is a weakness that LeBron didn't take the last shot, but that just shows how much James believes in his teammates to get the job done. Would Jordan ever have let Kyrie take that shot? No, which isn't a bad thing, but Jordan played more for the name on the back of the jersey, while LeBron plays for the name on the front.
1 Is Not Better: Worse Competition
Something that absolutely needs to be brought up when comparing LeBron and Jordan is the different era's they played in. Jordan was considered to play in the golden age of basketball, as he competed against some of the greatest players ever each night. The 80's and 90's was when the NBA's competition was at it's peak, as each team tried to take down Jordan by any means necessary. The "Bad Boy" Pistons even made the "Jordan Rules," which was a defensive strategy designed to pretty much break Jordan mentally and physically, as he was hounded all night by multiple different players. The question that arises with this, is would LeBron be able to handle the pressure that Jordan did each night?
The NBA today is so buddy-buddy it really makes me sick. While I don't think LeBron would have gotten eaten alive if he played in Jordan's era, the competition that Jordan faced during his tenure in the league was far better than what LeBron faces today.