Aside from Michael Jordan, the two players who each get the most consideration of being the greatest player of all time are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James. The reason is their sustained greatness, longevity, and overall impact on the game of basketball over their careers. Kareem played seasons while LeBron is going onto his 18th season in just a few months. Since day one, both players have marked their impact on the league forever.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the single greatest scorer in NBA history in total points, while LeBron James is third in total points. They have both won at least 4 NBA titles and 2 NBA Finals MVPs, and each has at least 15 All-NBA Team appearances. They are both very dominant players and have been for a very long time. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also managed to win 3 titles in 3 years at UCLA, which is why he is considered by many as the best basketball player ever taking into account all levels of play.

On the other side, LeBron James has been a phenomenal athlete since high school and the most hyped and popular superstar players ever.

To try to distinguish between the 2 legends, it is time to compare the careers of both players by their most important achievements.

 

6 Championships vs. 4 Championships

Whenever the goat debate takes place, NBA championships are often the first thing that comes up. After all, winning is what matters most and the greatest player of all time must be a winner of the highest order. Both players captured at least 4 NBA titles, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has 6 rings. This beats out LeBron’s total so far and also gives a massive edge to Kareem in this comparison.

Kareem managed to win 6 NBA rings with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, while LeBron has won with the Heat, Cavaliers, and Lakers. Kareem was lucky enough to play alongside Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, and James Worthy while LeBron James had Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, and Anthony Davis. Both legends played with Hall of Famers and Kareem gets the nod here.

Advantage: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

 

6 MVP Awards vs. 4 MVP Awards

The MVP Award is also another major achievement that comes up in GOAT debates. This award shows who the best player throughout an entire regular season, and in the case of both of these players, it shows how many times they were the best player in the league. Kareem has 6 MVP Awards, which is very incredible, while LeBron James has 4.

Kareem deserves all 6 MVP Awards because he was the most dominant superstar in the NBA on both ends of the floor. Kareem has the unstoppable and unblockable sky-hook shot on offense and was also one of the greatest defensive centers ever. LeBron James was unlucky not to have more because he suffered from being too good in the regular season for modern voters. It would have been “too boring” to give LeBron the MVP every year, so the likes of Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose might have stolen some MVP Awards from LeBron. Either way, this ends in Kareem’s favor as well.

Advantage: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

 

2 Finals MVP Awards vs. 4 Finals MVP Awards

While Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has 6 NBA titles, which is 2 more than LeBron James, James has 4 Finals MVPs over Kareem’s 2. This might be more impressive than having 2 more MVP Awards as well because being the best player in the Finals results in winning NBA championships rather than winning games in the regular season. Kareem has 2 Finals MVPs because he played alongside the likes of the great Magic Johnson and James Worthy.

LeBron James has 4 Finals MVPs and 4 NBA titles, meaning he was the best player for each of his NBA rings. LeBron was the best player in the world for his championships with the Heat, Cavs, and Lakers and will be hoping he can add the 5th one next season. LeBron needs 2 more seasons at least to catch Kareem’s 6 NBA rings, but he has already surpassed Kareem’s 2 Finals MVPs.

Advantage: LeBron James

 

38,387 Points vs. 34,241 Points

In terms of getting buckets, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the single greatest player ever. The man was unstoppable on offense, mainly because he had the sky-hook in his arsenal. Kareem had the single most unstoppable move in the history of the game, meaning he could just flick the skyhook for 2 points at any time during a game. Even as his athleticism waned with his age, he was able to score points and that is why he is the greatest scorer ever.

LeBron James is third on the list with 34,241 points trailing only Karl Malone (36,928 points) for second place. LeBron might not have a single unstoppable shot like Kareem, but he has incredible physical gifts that allow him to score the ball in the paint whenever he wants. James also improved his jump shooting as he aged, meaning he will go down as one of the best scorers ever. James is more of a natural playmaker than a scorer, but the fact he is the third leading scorer in history is a testament to his greatness and he might just pass Kareem before he retires. Until then, Kareem has the advantage again.

Advantage: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

 

15 All-NBA Teams vs. 16 All-NBA Teams

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is recognized for his longevity. He played 15 seasons out of 20 at an All-NBA level, something astonishing and even more incredible considering he was a center who took a ton of hits in the paint as a big man. Kareem was consistent and dominant for a decade and a half and earned this achievement. But LeBron James beat him out here.

This actually might be the most impressive accolade in LeBron’s career besides his Finals MVPs. LeBron managed to beat out Kareem’s amazing achievement of 15 All-NBA Teams. Nobody thought anyone would play as long as LeBron has and still be the best player in the world, so he gets the nod over Kareem in this regard. By completing a very difficult 2020 season, LeBron made his 16th All-NBA Team to one-up Kareem.

Advantage: LeBron James

 

11 All-Defensive NBA Teams vs. 6 All-Defensive NBA Teams

This one ends in Kareem’s favor as well. Kareem is widely recognized as one of the greatest defensive players ever. 11 All-Defensive Teams in 20 years is impressive, and his career stats of 2.6 BPG and 0.9 SPG is impressive as well. Kareem was a beast on defense even in his 40’s, because he had size and awareness to his advantage. Kareem knew how to affect any game defensively because he could read the opponent plays and moves naturally.

LeBron James should have made more All-Defensive Teams over his career because he has the physical tools to be the best defender of all time. LeBron was an incredible defender early on in his career and especially with the Miami Heat, but he started giving up on defense as he aged and loses out in this comparison of accolades.

Advantage: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

 

Conclusion

Overall, the comparison is very close although Kareem does have the advantage in most of the key areas. It is no wonder why many of the “old-heads” consider Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the greatest player of all time, while the majority of the younger generation would take LeBron James over him. This debate will never be concluded with a clear answer, although it is safe to say that the wide majority of fans and media (regardless of age or bias) believe Michael Jordan to be the greatest ever. Jordan broke new grounds as a global superstar, and accomplished things few athletes have ever done. Kareem and LeBron come close, but MJ seems to be the widely accepted GOAT.

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