LeBron James and Zion Williamson are arguably the two most hyped players in NBA history. Of course, playing in the era of advanced social media forced the eyes of the entire world on the talents of two phenomenal athletes.
LeBron James stood 6’9″ and weighed around 240 lbs, which meant he immediately had the advantage over the majority of NBA players. His speed, strength, and explosiveness were unprecedented. Zion stands 6’7″ and weighs over 280 lbs, and his strength and explosiveness resembled a lot of what Shaquille O’Neal brought to the game.
But which superstar had the better sophomore season? Zion has taken a jump to become an All-Star in only his second season, but does he have a better sophomore season than LeBron? Here is the statistical breakdown of the sophomore seasons of two transcendent stars in the NBA.
27.4 PPG vs. 26.4 PPG
LeBron James was already one of the top five players in the world by his sophomore season. The King averaged 27.4 PPG and carried the Cavaliers every night as they didn’t have any other offensive threat. Zion is putting up strong scoring numbers are 26.4 PPG but he also plays alongside Brandon Ingram who is a go-to scorer every night.
7.2 APG vs. 3.5 APG
There is no question LeBron James is the best passer in basketball right now. In fact, other than Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, no player had LeBron’s passing ability in LeBron’s sophomore season. Zion Williamson still has a ways to go to become an all-around player and he plays inside the paint more often than handling the ball.
7.4 RPG vs. 7.1 RPG
Both players are exceptional rebounders as they have the size and strength to go after boards. Both stars averaged over 7 RPG in their second seasons even though Zion is mostly in the paint while LeBron handled the ball in the perimeter more. That makes LeBron’s rebounding stats even more impressive although he was the most athletic star in the league.
2.2 SPG vs. 0.9 SPG
Both players were growing into defensive stoppers and averaged solid steals numbers in their second season. LeBron’s steals numbers were very high and that shows how special the young superstar was. Zion doesn’t get the opportunity to play passing lanes like James since he’s in the paint more often, and that goes to LeBron’s advantage.
3.3 TOV vs. 2.6 TOV
LeBron James had an extraordinary load to handle in his sophomore season, and his expectations were the highest in the league despite his young age. As a result, James averaged over 3 turnovers a game due to his usage rate. Zion Williamson is averaging close to 3 turnovers per game even though he isn’t the primary ball-handler which shows initiative to make plays but he should take better care of the ball.
42.4 MPG vs. 32.8 MPG
This is the most interesting statistical comparison. LeBron James was playing close to 43 MPG in his second season, which is extraordinary. Not only did he have a ton of pressure and expectations to live up to, but he played a ton of minutes to carry his team. Zion is under a minute restriction due to his injury history, and that is expected as New Orleans want to protect their franchise star for the future.
47.2% FG vs. 62.4% FG
Zion’s efficiency is truly incredible. Williamson is putting up 26.4 PPG while shooting over 60% from the field. LeBron’s shooting numbers were also high considering his usage rate but he was not able to keep almost all his shots close to the rim. Zion picks his shots carefully, plays efficiently, and dominates the game in a limited time which is very impressive for a young star.
35.1% 3-PT FG vs. 34.8% 3-PT FG
In terms of 3-point shooting, it was not LeBron’s strength and it wasn’t for Zion either. James shot 35.1% from three which was respectable but he was attempting 3.9 threes a game. Williamson is shooting 34.8% in his second season, although he is attempting only 0.5 threes a game. Williamson is truly an efficient scorer who focuses on his inside game, which is why he shoots a high percentage from the field.
LeBron James and Zion Williamson had very similar sophomore seasons. Both players became All-Stars in their second seasons after impactful rookie seasons and had similar scoring numbers. But the way they went about their scoring was different.
Zion’s efficiency is incredible at his age, which explains why New Orleans want to keep him limited to under 33 MPG. His potential to be a Shaq-like presence in the NBA is there, so protecting his health is most important. Zion is also active on the boards and is improving defensively.
But LeBron James is simply a rare breed. With the entire world’s expectations on his shoulders, James was already the best player in every category for his team. He played over 40 MPG, distributed the ball, and was the main offensive threat. Even if he doesn’t have Zion’s efficiency, he had a special sophomore season that usurps Zion’s.
Credit for idea: nba_analyser