One conversation that comes up when discussing the careers of Michael Jordan and LeBron James is the amount of help each player had. While basketball is a team game, superstars often dictate the outcome of games and that will never change. Especially when discussing who the greatest player of all time is, the amount of success a player has may depend on the amount of help he received.
Michael Jordan currently has the edge over LeBron James with 6 rings, but is that because MJ had better teammates? Or does LeBron have the advantage of playing with better players without the same number of rings as Jordan to show for it? Either way, analyzing the quality of teammates each player played with can shed light on the GOAT debate.
Here are the best teammates that Michael Jordan and LeBron James has played with over their respective careers. The list will show the amount of time each player made an All-Star over their careers which will ultimately show whether LeBron or Michael Jordan had the better quality teammates.
Michael Jordan's Best Teammates
17.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.1 SPG, 7x All-Star
Michael Jordan's best teammate was Scottie Pippen, by far. Pippen was the All-Star player that Michael Jordan needed to get the Chicago Bulls over the top. For years, Jordan was unstoppable but could not win a title on his own. It only took a rookie Scottie Pippen to begin growing his game, before Jordan had enough to catapult the Bulls into a Dynasty.
Pippen and Jordan were the greatest defensive duo in NBA history, as they could lock down 4 positions up and down the floor if need be. Pippen's defensive ability and playmaking were essential for the Chicago Bulls winning 6 rings under Michael Jordan's reign. Without Scottie Pippen, there won't be 6 rings on Jordan's fingers.
5.2 PPG, 15.3 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2x All-Star
Dennis Rodman is arguably the league's greatest rebounder of all time because he knew where the ball would land and had the physical ability to grab the ball off the rim. Rodman was invaluable to Michael Jordan and the Bulls during their second 3-peat because his intensity on the court was unbelievable to watch.
Anything Rodman did off the court hardly ever translated on the court, because Rodman was the best defensive big in the game. Michael Jordan surely loved playing with Rodman because The Worm did all the dirty work and could go multiple games without scoring a point and not make a fuss. Rodman knew his value came on defense, so he did it at a Hall of Fame level every night. With Rodman cleaning up the boards, Jordan was able to dominate each game to his capacity which clearly resulted in Chicago's favor.
12.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 1x All-Star
Horace Grant is actually underrated as a power forward because he was very skilled on both ends of the floor. Grant rebounded well, played defense, and could score with a soft touch. While Pippen and Rodman get the most credit from Jordan's teammates over MJ's career, Grant was also an extremely important figure in the Bulls' success.
Grant provided the sort of rim resistance and imposing figure in the paint that Michael Jordan, a shooting guard, needed to win games in the playoffs. Horace Grant wasn't the same All-Star he was in the past when he was with the Bulls, but his skills never waned and he will go down in history as one of Michael Jordan's 3 greatest teammates.
14.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0x All-Star
International player Toni Kukoc was a very skilled player, who had a mix of inside and outside scoring. As a sixth man who came in and lit it up for the Bulls, his minutes were also invaluable. Michael Jordan knew that if he had the rare off night, and nobody else was stepping up, Kukoc could come in and get buckets with his shooting. A sharpshooting big man was not as common as it is nowadays, and that surely helped the Bulls win rings.
Toni Kukoc might be the second most skilled teammate Michael Jordan had after Scottie Pippen. He was very offensively adept and he hardly made mistakes in the flow of an offense. Phil Jackson loved him, Michael Jordan loved playing with him, and Kukoc surely does not get enough credit for his efforts and contribution that he made during the Chicago Bulls title runs.
8.2 PPG, 1,5 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0x All-Star
Steve Kerr wasn't an All-Star by any means, but he was one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Kerr shot a career 45.4% from three, which ranks number one all time. Kerr's ability to spot up for shots and always remain ready for the pass was his key skill that Michael Jordan and even Scottie Pippen desperately needed. A role player like Steve Kerr is always important for championship teams because floor spacing is absolutely essential when superstars get double-teamed.
Steve Kerr was also a very clutch player who came through in a critical Game 6 performance for the Chicago Bulls in 1997. Michael Jordan swung the ball to Steve Kerr who hit the game-winning basket to seal the deal on Michael Jordan's 5th championship. Kerr's ability to remain comfortable in his role and show toughness in the locker room helped build Michael Jordan's trust which ultimately proved invaluable.
LeBron James's Best Teammates
22.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 13x All-Star
LeBron's best teammate has to be Dwyane Wade, the man who helped him learn how to become an NBA champion. For years, LeBron James was the most talented player in the game but didn't have enough killer instinct (nor help) to win a title for Cleveland. LeBron was too much of a team player, and Wade taught him how to put everything aside and just dominate everyone on the court.
Of course, Wade was also a superstar on the court and the man synonymous with success for the Miami Heat. With Wade by his side, LeBron James would not be denied after his 2011 Finals blunder against the Dallas Mavericks. LeBron James took control of the Miami Heat franchise and won them 2 straight rings. Wade's presence was invaluable for LeBron's career, and their friendship will last an eternity.
26.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 2.4 BPG, 7x All-Star
LeBron James is lucky to be playing alongside Anthony Davis, one of the 5 best players in the world right now. As great as Anthony Davis is, LeBron has managed to make him better. Davis looks tougher, more focused, and more motivated to just dominate the game. When Davis is focused, he is one of the most unstoppable forces in history because he has zero weakness in his game. The fact that LeBron played with a player in his prime like Anthony Davis is a massive blessing for his career as he approaches 36 years of age.
What LeBron learned from Wade, he is applying to Anthony Davis. Davis might be the best teammate LeBron ever had in terms of on-court production because he is at his peak in terms of physical ability and skillset. Davis and LeBron have one ring together, but time will tell if they can add a couple more.
21.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 6x All-Star
LeBron James' sidekick was offensive superstar Kyrie Irving, who was almost like a little brother. Irving was a bundle of talent who gave LeBron and the Cavaliers a go-to scorer and clutch player when needed. LeBron James was the undisputed leader and best player for the Cavaliers, but Kyrie Irving was almost just as important.
Irving's ability to score the ball was essential for the Cleveland Cavaliers to come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors. With LeBron James acting as a primary playmaker, Irving was unstoppable as an offensive machine. Irving put forth some historically great performances during the Finals alongside LeBron James, and the little brother-big brother duo was certainly a joy to watch.
18.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.8 APG, 11x All-Star
LeBron James was fortunate enough to play with two exceptional power forwards in his career, the best one being Chris Bosh. Chris Bosh was a legitimate 20-10 threat every single night for the Toronto Raptors and was their franchise star. Bosh was a multiple-time All-Star who was one of the best bigs in the league leading up to his career in Miami.
When the Miami Heat announced that they acquired Chris Bosh and LeBron James in Free Agency to join Dwayne Wade, the entire NBA landscape shook. No team could come close to Miami's level of talent, and that is why they won 2 rings in 4 years. Bosh was a special 3rd option because he had a near-perfect mid-range game and was a quality rebounder and defender.
17.2 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 5x All-Star
The second great power forward LeBron James played with was Kevin Love. Like Chris Bosh, Kevin Love was a franchise player and 20-10 threat every night with his original team. Love was an absolute force with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Cavaliers made no hesitation in trading away the 1st overall pick (which became Andrew Wiggins) for Kevin Love to add him to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
LeBron James once again had a Superteam and he managed to win an NBA title with Love as the team's third option. Like Bosh, Love could space the floor with shooting and was an excellent rebounder. Love's defense on Stephen Curry in Game 7 of 2016 was iconic, and his impact for the Cavaliers remains underestimated until this day.
10.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 10x All-Star
LeBron James may have caught Ray Allen at the end of his career, but Allen's shooting and clutch performances were invaluable to his career. Anytime a legendary playmaker like LeBron James has the ball, surrounding him with knockdown shooters will lead to success. That's what Miami did, by convincing Allen to leave Boston and return to Miami for a chance to win a ring.
Ray Allen's clutch shot in Game 6 during the 2014 Finals might have earned LeBron James his second ring because that might be the biggest shot in playoff history that would have altered LeBron's legacy. Overall, Ray Allen was arguably the best sharpshooter that LeBron James played with, and that alone places him among The King's best teammates.
13.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.6 BPG, 2x All-Star
In LeBron's early days with Cleveland, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was the best teammate he had without disrespect to Mo Williams. Ilgauskas was a large figure in the post, and he was consistent as a shooter and rebounder. Ilgauskas was an important figure for the Cavs when LeBron James was leading them to one of the top seeds in the East every year.
Big Z was a unique center at that time because he was limited athletically but could shoot, rebound, and defend the rim. His presence was very important for the Cavs and he is one of the most beloved players in Cleveland's history. Ilgauskas was a productive player for LeBron James' teams and his impact can't be ignored when analyzing LeBron's best teammates.
Overall, it is easy to see that LeBron James had some of the best teammates of all-time. LeBron is the ultimate team player and he can make players better around him, so he always needs a go-to scorer beside him to win championships. To many, LeBron James does best when he is the primary playmaker and has a superstar teammate to share the offensive pressure with.
Michael Jordan, a scorer with an unmatched killer instinct, needed help on the boards and on offense in the form of a talented playmaker. Michael Jordan made Scottie Pippen a Hall of Famer by improving him in every stress, and that ultimately helped him win 6 NBA titles. Dennis Rodman was a one of a kind talent, but the list of his remaining teammates tapers off a bit when compared to LeBron's list.
The King has played with 6 Hall of Fame players in their primes during his championship runs, while Michael Jordan played with 2. LeBron also played with a total of 7 players who made All-Star Teams while Jordan played with only 3. In the end, the fact that LeBron James had the type of All-Star help and still falls short in the amount of NBA rings that Jordan has might give His Airness a massive edge in the GOAT debate.
Mark Cuban On LeBron James And Michael Jordan: “If I Want A Killer Who Can Make The Shot At The End Of The Game, I’ll Choose MJ. If I Want Someone Who Will Make Everyone On The Team Better, I’ll Choose LeBron.”