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LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan Comparison In Their First 13 Seasons

LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan Comparison In Their First 13 Seasons

Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player ever, winning 6 NBA titles over his career with the Chicago Bulls. The legendary shooting guard also won a whopping 10 scoring titles and 6 Finals MVPs, placing him in a company of his own as a superstar who dominated the league for over a decade. But since Jordan’s retirement, we have seen the rise of a dominant superstar in LeBron James.

Known as the “King”, James came into the league with the most pressure ever on a rookie. Nearly 20 years later, he has certainly lived up to his reputation as the “next Jordan” because he has been the face of the NBA for so long. Capturing 4 NBA titles and 4 Finals MVPs, James has accomplished everything a superstar aims for including the coveted championships with three different teams. Everywhere LeBron went, his team won championships.

As a result of LeBron’s incredible longevity and accomplishments over nearly two decades, he is often compared to the great Michael Jordan in terms of legacy and accomplishments. Even if both stars played different positions and had completely different styles of play, it is only natural to compare these two legends on what they accomplished over their careers. LeBron is still going on at an elite level in year 19 while Michael Jordan only played 13 seasons before officially retiring for good. By taking into account 13 seasons of each superstar’s career, here is the season-by-season comparison of both superstars to decide which player was truly greater.


First Season

LeBron James Stats: 20.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Michael Jordan Stats: 28.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 2.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG

LeBron James Honors: Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie Team

Michael Jordan Honors: Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-NBA Second Team, All-Rookie Team

LeBron’s rookie season was filled with anticipation because he was considered a hybrid between Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson because of his ability to score and create for others. He got off to a tremendous start, capturing Rookie of the Year and becoming the first rookie since Jordan to average 20-5-5. The Cavaliers did not make the postseason, however.

Jordan’s rookie year might be the greatest ever in basketball history. The young man was already an unstoppable scorer, putting up 28.2 PPG on 51.5% shooting from the field. As expected, Michael made the All-Star Team and ran away with Rookie of the Year. Leading the Bulls into the playoffs, he put up 29.3 PPG in a losing effort in the first round.


Second Season

LeBron James Stats: 27.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.2 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Michael Jordan Stats: 22.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.1 SPG, 1.2 BPG

LeBron James Honors: All-Star, All-NBA Second Team

Michael Jordan Honors: All-Star

After his rookie season, LeBron blossomed into a superstar immediately. The King put up numbers we would come to expect many years later, and would make his first All-Star Team despite not carrying Cleveland in the playoffs. James also made the All-NBA Second Team, an amazing achievement for a 20-year-old. Not to mention, LeBron became only the 5th player to put up 27-7-7 in a season at the time.

Jordan’s second season did not turn out as expected, because he suffered a foot injury that forced him to miss the majority of the season. Michael only played 18 games in the season, putting up decent numbers for an All-Star in the Eastern Conference. Even if Michael could not showcase his elite skills for long in the regular season, he made up for it by destroying Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs. Jordan dropped 63 points, the highest ever in a playoff game, signaling to the world what was to come.


Third Season

LeBron James Stats: 31.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 6.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG

Michael Jordan Stats: 37.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.6 APG, 2.9 SPG, 1.5 BPG

LeBron James Honors: All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, All-NBA First Team

Michael Jordan Honors: All-Star, All-NBA First Team, Slam Dunk Champion, Scoring Champion

LeBron’s third season was incredibly elite because he put up fantastic scoring numbers during the regular season on an extremely efficient 48.0% shooting from the field. James finally carried the Cavaliers into the playoffs, recording a monster 32-point triple-double in his debut. The third season is where we started seeing LeBron compete with a few other players as the best all-around player in the world as he made All-NBA First Team.

Michael Jordan returned from his short second season with a vengeance. The superstar shooting guard put up a monster 37.1 PPG, which led the NBA, on an efficient 48.2% shooting. Michael also began showing his superstar defensive ability, becoming the first player ever to record 200 steals and 100 blocks in a season. The shooting guard’s 37.1 PPG average is the 5th highest in NBA history in a season, and he also competed in and won the Slam Dunk contest.


Fourth Season

LeBron James Stats: 27.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Michael Jordan Stats: 35.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 3.2 SPG, 1.6 BPG

LeBron James Honors: All-Star, All-NBA Second Team

Michael Jordan Honors: MVP, All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team, Steals Leader, Defensive Player of the Year, Slam Dunk Contest Champion, Scoring Champion, All-Star Game MVP

LeBron’s 4th season was incredible because he put up his standard all-around numbers in the regular season while shooting an efficient 47.6% from the field. Making the All-Star Team again and the All-NBA Second Team, James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Alongside some capable role players, James led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in a losing effort against the San Antonio Spurs.

By his fourth season, there was no doubt that Jordan was the most unstoppable player in the league. The face of the league, MJ once again put up over 30 PPG in the season en route to a scoring title and All-NBA First Team appearance. Michael also collected league MVP, his second Dunk Contest title, and a rare Defensive Player of the Year award. Until this day, we have not seen a single player dominate all areas of the floor in a single season in what is probably Jordan’s greatest season ever.


Fifth Season

LeBron James Stats: 30.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.1 BPG

Michael Jordan Stats: 32.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 8.0 APG, 2.9 SPG, 0.8 BPG

LeBron James Honors: All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, All-NBA First Team, Scoring Champion

Michael Jordan Honors: All-Star, All-NBA First Team, Scoring Champion, All-NBA Defensive First Team

With LeBron officially a top-two player in the game alongside Kobe Bryant, James followed up his Finals run with a dominant all-around performance in the regular season. The King led the league in scoring, putting up 30.0 PPG on 48.4% shooting from the field. The most unstoppable rim-attacker in the game, James was unstoppable when he drove to the basket and also put up solid assist and rebounding numbers. Even if James did not make the Finals again, he had a dominant postseason run by averaging 28.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 7.6 APG.

Michael Jordan’s season in 1989 was fantastic, considering it would be almost impossible to follow up a perfect 1988 season. The Bulls superstar put up 32.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 8.0 APG while making All-NBA First Team yet again. Once again the best defensive guard in the league, Jordan also made All-Defensive First Team while leading the NBA in scoring. Michael was once again in the playoffs, putting up 34.8 PPG ad 7.6 APG over 17 games in the playoffs, falling short to the “Bad Boy” Pistons. Jordan was getting close to his first ring, but it would still not come in the following season.


Sixth Season

LeBron James Stats: 28.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.1 BPG

LeBron James Honors: MVP, All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-Defensive First Team

Michael Jordan Honors: All-Star, All-NBA First Team, Scoring Champion, All-NBA Defensive First Team, Steals Leader

Michael Jordan Stats: 33.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.3 APG, 2.8 SPG, 0.7 BPG

LeBron James continued his incredible play as a top-two player in the game, putting up 28.4 PPG and 7.6 RPG while winning his first MVP award. James led the Cavaliers to the best record in the NBA, making the Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic. In what could have been the Finals showdown between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, it never panned out because Cleveland would once again fall in the playoffs.

Once again the best two-way star in the game, Jordan’s numbers across the board were extraordinary. The Bulls’ guard put up 33.6 PPG and 6.9 RPG while shooting 52.6% from the field and 37.6% from the three-point line. Making All-Defensive First Team and winning the scoring title again, there is no doubt that the NBA was Jordan’s world. But once again, the Bulls fell short in the playoffs against the “Bad Boy” Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals.


Seventh Season

LeBron James Stats: 29.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 8.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.0 BPG

Michael Jordan Stats: 31.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.7 SPG, 1.0 BPG

LeBron James Honors: MVP, All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-Defensive First Team

Michael Jordan Honors: NBA Champion, Finals MVP, MVP, All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team, Scoring Champion

LeBron James once again continued his dominance in the league, putting up his usual numbers en route to his second straight MVP award. The King shot an amazing 50.3% shooting from the field and put up 8.6 APG, his then career-high. Cleveland had the best record in the league yet again, although they fell short to the superteam Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The King’s second straight MVP season was great, but not winning a title was clearly starting to weigh on the Cavaliers’ franchise player.

In possibly Michael Jordan’s most important season, he captured the first NBA title of his career while also winning Finals MVP. The shooting guard won MVP and the scoring title during the regular season, topping that off with the coveted championship. In typical Jordan fashion, he finally got over the hump at the expense of his rival Magic Johnson in the Lakers. Even if many felt that it happened years before, the baton was officially passed to Jordan as the face of the league once an NBA title was in his grasp.


Eighth Season

LeBron James Stats: 26.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG

Michael Jordan Stats: 30.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 6.1 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.9 BPG

LeBron James Honors: All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-Defensive First Team

Michael Jordan Honors: NBA Champion, Finals MVP, MVP, All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team, Scoring Champion

LeBron’s first season with the Miami Heat did not go according to plan. Following the heavily scrutinized show, “The Decision”, James milked free agency until his decision to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach became known. James had a great regular season statistically, making All-NBA First Team and pushing the Heat to the Finals. In his second Finals appearance, James faltered badly as the underdog Dallas Mavericks won the championship.

For the second straight year, Michael Jordan won league MVP, Finals MVP, and the scoring title. The best player in the world once again put up ridiculous numbers in the regular season and took his game to another level in the playoffs. Of course, the infamous “Shrug Game’ happened in Game 1 of the NBA Finals when Jordan dropped 6 three-pointers in the first half. Jordan started tasting championship glory, and he never looked back.


Ninth Season

LeBron James Stats: 27.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.8 BPG

Michael Jordan Stats: 32.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG

LeBron James Honors: NBA Champion, Finals MVP, MVP, All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-Defensive First Team

Michael Jordan Honors: NBA Champion, Finals MVP, All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team, Scoring Champion, Steals Leader

LeBron’s infamous 9th season was his greatest because he put to bed all the noise about going to Miami and dominated everybody in the league. Officially the best player in the world, James won his 3rd MVP while putting up ridiculous all-around numbers. Embracing the “villain” role with the Heat, James played like a man possessed all year long until the playoffs. Once he arrived in the postseason, James had a number of dominant performances. But his greatest showing came in Game 6 against the Celtics, when he dropped 45 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists. In the Finals, LeBron could not be stopped as he won his first ring and first Finals MVP.

Yet again, Jordan won the scoring title and led the league in steals. Making All-NBA First Team and All-NBA Defensive First Team, Michael was once again the best player on the best team with the Chicago Bulls. Jordan put up monster all-around numbers and probably deserved league MVP, but the 3 peat was certainly more valuable. Michael averaged a ridiculous 41.0 PPG and 8.5 RPG in the Finals, giving him the success he needed to ride off into the sunset for his first temporary retirement.


Tenth Season

LeBron James Stats: 26.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.9 BPG

Michael Jordan Stats: 26.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG

LeBron James Honors: NBA Champion, Finals MVP, MVP, All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-Defensive First Team

Michael Jordan Honors: None

James followed up his first championship campaign with his second-straight title, this time at the expense of the San Antonio Spurs. James was once again the most dominant player in the league, captivating fans with an elite play on both ends of the floor. LeBron played angrily, and the entire league felt his wrath. Even when Dwyane Wade was showing signs of rust, James had enough help to push for the NBA championship by putting up a monster Game 7 performance when he dropped 37 points and 12 rebounds.

With Jordan out of the league during the 1994 season due to a brief retirement, he returned for only 17 games during the 1995 season for his 10th season. Despite barely getting NBA action, Jordan continued right where he left off by putting up 26.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 5.3 APG while shooting 50.0% from three. As expected, the Bulls did not have enough time to build chemistry with their superstar back and fell to the finalist Orlando Magic. Things would return back to Jordan’s normalcy just one season later, however.


Eleventh Season

LeBron James Stats: 27.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Michael Jordan Stats: 30.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.3 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.5 BPG

LeBron James Honors: All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-Defensive Second Team

Michael Jordan Honors: NBA Champion, Finals MVP, MVP, All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team, Scoring Champion

LeBron James started winning fans over again after capturing two straight championships and proving to the world that leaving Cleveland was the right choice. After all, the best player in the game was proving his worth as the MVP of the league and also the most talented star in sports. Continuing his dominance with spectacular numbers in the regular season, James once again led the Heat to the Finals. This time, however, San Antonio got revenge by blowing the Heat out by a record margin in the Finals.

In his 11th season, Michael Jordan returned back to the top of the world by dominating every area of the floor. It is amazing how far ahead Michael was as a player compared to everybody else, winning MVP, making All-NBA First Teams, and winning his 8th scoring title. Once again, Jordan led the Bulls to the NBA Finals before capturing his 4th championship just one full season following his retirement. The face of the NBA was back, and everyone knew it.


Twelfth Season

LeBron James Stats: 25.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Michael Jordan Stats: 29.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG

LeBron James Honors: All-Star, All-NBA First Team

Michael Jordan Honors: NBA Champion, Finals MVP, All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team, Scoring Champion

Not to accept defeat and stagnate where he was at, LeBron James decided to take his talents back to Cleveland. In a move that actually generated positive press, many thought The King had reclaimed his throne in the city that drafted him. As promised, James aimed to deliver a title for the Cavaliers after leaving them years prior. With a talented roster that featured Kyrie Irving and eventually Kevin Love, James knew he had enough pieces to win a championship. But it did not quite happen for him, despite being the best player in the world again. The Golden State Warriors dynasty was just beginning, meaning James had no shot in the Finals - especially with Irving and Love getting injured.

Michael Jordan continued his dominance as the world’s greatest athlete in his 12th season, putting up his usual monster numbers and winning his 9th scoring title. With Chicago finishing with a 69-13 record, the Bulls looked primed to capture their 5th NBA title. There was certainly plenty of motivation, especially after Karl Malone “stole” Michael Jordan’s MVP award during the regular season. Of course, this was the season that gave us the infamous “Flu Game” in Game 5 where Jordan dropped a critical 38 points and also a game-winner in Game 1. With his 5th title and 5th Finals MVP in his grasp, everyone was left wondering how far the GOAT could go.


Thirteenth Season

LeBron James Stats: 25.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.6 BPG

Michael Jordan Stats: 28.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG

LeBron James Honors: NBA Champion, Finals MVP, All-Star, All-NBA First Team

Michael Jordan Honors: NBA Champion, Finals MVP, MVP, All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team, Scoring Champion

After falling short in the Finals yet again a year prior, LeBron James’ career was becoming scrutinized for consistent losing performances in the biggest moments. While that critique was incredibly unfair considering how dominant James had been over his career, it was starting to stick. After a great regular season, James and the Cavaliers made easy work of their opponents before reaching the Finals against a dominant 73-9 Warriors team. Down 3-1 in the Finals, critics were sharpening their knives as they expected James to fail in the Finals. But The King did the unthinkable by averaging 29.7 PPG, 11.3 RPG, and 8.9 APG to lead Cleveland to victory in the greatest comeback ever.

Could Jordan win his 6th NBA championship and complete his second 3-peat? Of course, he could. The GOAT had a tremendous regular season, winning his 5th MVP and his 10th and final scoring title. Once again making All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team, Jordan carried the Bulls to a solid 62-20 record. The playoffs were no easy run, as they barely scraped past a rampant Indiana Pacers team in the Eastern Conference Finals. In a Finals rematch against the Jazz, Jordan ended the series in Game 6 when he stripped Karl Malone before nailing the game-winner over Byron Russell to seal his 6th title.


Which Superstar Had The Better Career Over 13 Years?

There is no doubt that Michael Jordan had a greater career when taking into account his and LeBron’s first 9 seasons in the league prior to Jordan’s retirement. Jordan won more scoring titles, more championships, and more defensive accolades than James did. Not to mention, Michael put up numbers that will never be repeated by any player, especially when taking into account both ends of the floor. James came into the league as a prodigy, and he certainly lived up to them with his play. But there is no way The King got off to the run that Jordan had, especially when looking at their first year in the league.

By the time Jordan entered the NBA, most pundits believed they were watching the best player ever. But the NBA was still run by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, even if Jordan had the most talent. It took LeBron at least a few years to start receiving that same praise, and it took him 9 years to win his first championship. By the 9th season, Jordan had 3 championships, 3 MVPs, 7 scoring titles, and a Defensive Player of the Year award. As great as LeBron is and was during his first 9 years before he won the NBA title, he is simply not on the level of Michael Jordan who is truly the greatest player ever.

After Jordan’s brief retirement and 17-game return during the 1995 season, he returned back to where he started by winning 3 straight championships and Finals MVPs to cement his legacy as the greatest player ever. LeBron James made a couple more Finals appearances but his 3-1 comeback in 2016 was by far his most iconic moment as a superstar player. Even if LeBron’s 2016 Finals performance will go down in the history books, it is not enough to usurp what Jordan did as the face of the league. That is no knock on James, but Jordan is simply on a level of his own beyond any other player. Through 13 seasons, Jordan had 6 titles, 6 Finals MVPs, a Defensive Player of the Year, and 5 MVPs. James comes close with 3 titles, 3 Finals MVPs, and 4 MVPs, but not quite close enough.

Comparing LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan Season Per Season

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