The GOAT debate is never-ending among sports media members and fans all over the world. Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time to the masses, especially of the older generation, but the younger generations beg to differ. LeBron James has been the undisputed king of the NBA for at least a whole decade with his 10 Finals appearances and 3 NBA rings. Not to mention, LeBron is the king of endorsements and is currently the most popular sports figure in the United States which is another reason he is so revered.
But LeBron just does not come close to Michael Jordan. By putting away recency bias and looking at the cold hard facts, MJ is simply the greatest athlete in the history of team sports. Jordan is the greatest player in NBA history because he has the skills, stats, and accolades to back up every argument. In truth, LeBron James is an all-time great player but he is not on Michael Jordan's level. Quite frankly, no one ever will be.
Here are the five major reasons LeBron James will never eclipse Michael Jordan as the GOAT.
5. Michael Jordan Never Left Chicago Bulls To Join A Superteam
The first reason why LeBron is not better than Jordan is how each player dealt with adversity. LeBron James had a very average squad in Cleveland the first time around, but so did Jordan. Jordan faced the exact same criticism that LeBron faced when he was not winning a chip with his original team, and all great players went through it. The difference is how they dealt with adversity.
LeBron left Cleveland, multiple times, to join forces and create 3 separate superteams. The first was in Miami alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, only to return to Cleveland once a terrific Kyrie Irving was there alongside Kevin Love. LeBron then joined the Los Angeles Lakers because he (and everyone else) knew Anthony Davis was Lakers bound at some point. While LeBron broke new grounds as a player who took his career in his own hands, Jordan felt he was good enough to win where he was and did not need to run to join superteams. That is why his 6 rings are even more valuable than LeBron's 3.
Most importantly, Jordan never decided to take an easier path to join other great Hall of Fame players in his time such as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing. Rather, he stayed the course and ended up defeating each of the best players in their time. Jordan is famous for preventing the likes of Barkley and Ewing from ever winning an NBA title because he wanted to prove he was the best. LeBron does not mind joining forces with other top players such as Wade, Bosh, and Irving and that makes his mentality incomparable to Jordan.
4. LeBron James Superteam Fell To Dallas In 2011
The biggest disaster in the great career of LeBron James was his 2011 meltdown against the Dallas Mavericks. We all saw it, and we all witnessed an epic collapse as we have never seen before. A superstar as dominant and physically powerful as LeBron shrunk to the size of an infant in that series, as he could not impact a single game while Dirk Nowitzki ripped his heart out. LeBron James needed to learn how to win, something that Michael Jordan never had to experience.
MJ was a winner of the highest order and he never failed in any Finals appearance as LeBron did. While many will claim it is impressive enough for LeBron to even make a Finals, he had Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Heat was heavily favored every year the Big Three were together, so this moment in LeBron's career was inexcusable. This black mark alone damages LeBron's reputation when talking about GOAT status.
3. Michael Jordan Has The Greatest Intangibles Ever
Whatever intangible the game of basketball required, MJ had it. Now, perhaps there isn't a player in history aside from Magic Johnson who had LeBron's ability to read the floor and make the right plays. He deserves credit for that and it is the main ingredient to his Mt. Rushmore status. But he lacks in areas that MJ perfected.
Firstly, MJ was a dominant defender unlike any guard in history. He shut anybody down at any given time, and his defense was arguably as good as his offense. After all, he won Defensive Player of the Year which is something LeBron never has. James was a dominant defender with the Heat, but he tapered off tremendously and has been known as a liability in recent times.
Secondly, MJ is the most clutch player of all time. Jordan had a killer instinct to take and make the biggest shots of the game, something LeBron often runs away from. LeBron has always needed a closer next to him in order to win games, such as Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving. LeBron hardly calls plays for himself in the clutch because he either fears the backlash of missing shots or doesn't have the confidence that he will make them. Not to mention, LeBron struggles from the free-throw line while MJ mastered the free throw line shots. When it comes to pure winning intangibles, MJ was the man.
2. Michael Jordan Has More Titles, Finals MVPs, More MVPs, More Scoring Titles, And Won Defensive Player Of The Year
LeBron's longevity is clearly impressive, but what did he do in it in comparison to Jordan? When it comes to NBA titles, Jordan has doubled LeBron. Even if James wins this title with the Lakers this season, 6 beats 4. Jordan won 6 titles with his own team, the Chicago Bulls, and never let a Game 7 happen in any series in the Finals. LeBron won 3 so far, with a Big Three in Miami and a Big Three in Cleveland. It is very unlikely LeBron will equal Jordan's 6. Jordan's 6 Finals MVPs mean he was the killer and undisputed best player for all his 6 Finals appearances, something that will require a miracle for LeBron to mimic.
Also, Jordan has more scoring titles. Jordan won a whopping 10 scoring titles, something that will probably never be eclipsed. When Jordan played, he was the undisputed king of scoring the ball and nobody could stop him ever. LeBron won 1 scoring title and he doesn't come close. Not to mention, LeBron never won Defensive Player of the Year. Michael Jordan has captured every individual and team award that is available because he was the greatest player of his time. Jordan scored the ball better than anybody and dominated defensively better than anybody. LeBron James is also known as the king of the regular season, with his 4 MVPs and tremendous statistics every year. But even MJ has 5 MVPs, passing LeBron with yet another major accolade. LeBron's achievements don't come close to Jordan's accolades.
1. The Perfect Finals Record 6-0 vs. LeBron James 3-6
Perhaps the biggest reason LeBron can't come close to Jordan as the GOAT is the Finals record. MJ went a flawless 6-0 with 6 Finals MVPs without ever letting a series go to a Game 7. This means that whenever Jordan was in the Finals, he killed off his competition and blew them out of the water each time. MJ was the king of the NBA, and will forever be the king of basketball. Nobody was hungrier and wanted to win more than MJ, not even LeBron James.
LeBron is truly a nice guy at heart and a tremendous team player, but he doesn't have Jordan's obsessed killer mentality. LeBron's 3-6 Finals record is not all on him, although at least 2 losses are very suspect. His losses against Dallas and San Antonio were by shocking margins, as LeBron looked outsmarted and outplayed in each series. While he shouldn't take much blame for the losses to Golden State, getting swept in his last Finals appearance was also very surprising considering LeBron's status.
Overall, Jordan will forever be known as the man who single-handedly killed the NBAs competition for 6 years. Two 3-peats with 6 rings without ever playing in a Game 7 should put to bed any comparisons between him and any player, including LeBron James, forever. No player will equal what MJ did because he simply has done too much for the sport, and LeBron James will have to remain fighting for second place in the all-time rankings.