LeBron James has seriously thrown his name into the GOAT conversation after winning his 4th NBA championship this season. For 17 years in a row, LeBron has been the most talented player in the world with both physical and mental gifts that allow him to dominate the game. Ever since his rookie season, he was being compared to the likes of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and he has not disappointed anybody. In many ways, he has exceeded expectations.
Nobody would have imagined LeBron could play at this level for 17 straight years, but he has done it. But how does he compare to Michael Jordan precisely? MJ is the man whom every player fights to eclipse because he is widely considered the best basketball player ever. By taking into account statistics and accolades during both the regular season and playoffs, here is the conclusion that can be drawn upon the GOAT debate between LeBron James and Michael Jordan.
Regular Season Statistics
LeBron James: 38.4 MPG, 27.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 50.4% FG, 3.5 TPG
Michael Jordan: 38.3 MPG, 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 49.7% FG, 2.7 TPG
Looking at the career regular-season statistics alone, both players are very close to each other and clearly put up first-ballot Hall of Fame numbers. LeBron is perhaps the greatest all-around talent in the NBA, and he has shown that during each of his 17 regular seasons he has played in. Shooting over 50% and averaging 27.1 PPG is astonishing, and he is one of the best points forwards the game has ever seen. James is known to be the "The King", especially in the regular season, and his numbers match up awfully close to Michael Jordan's.
MJ is the better scorer, as he averaged a whopping 30.1 PPG during his regular-season career, and seems to be more efficient. He averaged fewer turnovers and also more steals per game, while still averaging 6.2 RPG and 5.3 APG as the undisputed primary scorer on his team. His numbers are still close to LeBron overall, although it is very important to mention how Jordan averaged 30.1 PPG on 49.7% shooting which is unheard of.
LeBron James: 41.6 MPG, 28.8 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 49.6% FG, 3.7 TPG
Michael Jordan: 41.8 MPG, 33.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 5.7 APG, 2.1 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 48.7% FG, 3.1 TPG
Unsurprisingly, the playoffs are where the greatest of players show up the most and both MJ and LeBron have a massive boost in their production.
LeBron James had astonishing playoff statistics as he once again shoots 50% from the floor while putting up big scoring numbers. LeBron's rebounds, points, and minutes go up while his turnovers remain the same. LeBron in the playoffs is exactly the same player he is in the regular season, as he is one of the best playmakers ever who just so happens to score at will.
Michael Jordan's boost in numbers is actually more impressive. Despite playing 41.8 MPG, Jordan still averaged 33.4 PPG on 48.7% shooting. This type of scoring production will lead to team wins more often than not, and that is why MJ is considered to be both the greatest scorer and greatest winner ever. The rest of MJ's stats are consistent with the regular season, although LeBron James takes more of an initiative to crash the boards in the playoffs.
LeBron James: 4 NBA Titles, 4 NBA Finals MVPs, 14 Playoff Appearances, 10 Finals Appearances
Michael Jordan: 6 NBA Titles, 6 NBA Finals MVPs, 13 Playoff Appearances, 6 Finals Appearances
Both the regular season and playoffs stats of LeBron James and Michael Jordan are extremely close. They are hard to differentiate considering their size and positions, but Michael Jordan seems to be the better overall scorer while LeBron James can influence the game with his playmaking and rebounding at a higher rate. LeBron's task of being a playmaker also results in slightly higher turnover rates as well.
But looking at the achievements in both the regular season and playoffs might settle this debate when pairing them with stats. LeBron has managed to make 14 playoff appearances in 17 seasons which is astonishing while making 10 NBA Finals appearances. The biggest argument in favor of LeBron being the GOAT is his ability to carry teams on his back no matter how talented they are. LeBron affects the game in every way, so his 4 titles and 4 Finals MVPs are his greatest accolades.
Michael Jordan surprisingly has 13 Playoff appearances, although only 6 of them resulted in a Finals berth. LeBron has had greater longevity than Jordan, yet MJ only has 1 less playoff appearance although 4 less Finals appearances. In 6 Finals appearances, MJ went 6-0 without ever playing in a Game 7. Compared to LeBron, 4 wins in 10 appearances means a losing record of 4-6 in the Finals. The icing on the cake for MJ is his 6 total championships and 6 Finals MVPs which also remain his greatest achievements.
Both LeBron James and Michael Jordan are very close in their statistics and also each has Hall of Fame accolades that place them on the Mt. Rushmore of NBA athletes. LeBron has longevity on his side along with a near-perfect all-around game, while MJ has the victories and scoring prowess to his name. Considering the regular season stats, playoff stats, and accolades achieved; it is a safer bet to place Michael Jordan firmly atop the NBA as the best ever.
A 6-0 Finals record with 6 rings beats out a 4-6 Finals record with 4 rings, and MJ seems to be a better player in the playoffs considering his low turnover rate and extremely efficient scoring. If LeBron James manages to win another ring next year, this conversation might start up again and then it will be time to revisit the comparison. But for now, MJ is in the driver's seat in the GOAT talk.