LeBron James is doing things that no one thought would be possible. The King is playing his 17th season in the NBA and looks on track to make his 17th All-Star and 17th All-NBA Team Selection. Naturally, LeBron’s greatness is drawing comparisons to Michael Jordan who is arguably the greatest athlete in team sports history. But does LeBron have enough accolades to usurp Jordan?
One way to decide is to compare the rookie seasons of LeBron James and Michael Jordan. LeBron entered the NBA as the most hyped high school player ever and had the most pressure of any rookie athlete in team sports. But did he do better than Michael Jordan did with the Bulls in his rookie season? It is time to find out.
Here is the breakdown of LeBron and Jordan’s rookie seasons.
Rookie LeBron James
20.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 41.7% FG, 29.0% 3PT, 75.4% FT
LeBron James had an all-time great rookie season. James was instantly one of the best players in the league, and he had an immediate impact on the Cleveland Cavaliers as he became the leader of the team from Day 1. LeBron James was the most hyped rookie in NBA history, and he was drawing comparisons to Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan before he even played an NBA game.
But LeBron did not disappoint, putting up exceptional numbers and winning the Rookie of the Year ahead of Carmelo Anthony in 2004. James earned 508 out of 590 total votes, making it a landslide victory for LeBron. James’ rookie season was particularly impressive because even when he came straight out of high school, James improved the Cavaliers by 17 wins as the team record stood at 35-47 at the end of his rookie campaign.
Rookie Michael Jordan
28.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 2.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 51.5% FG, 17.3% 3PT, 84.5% FT
Michael Jordan’s rookie season might be the most impressive ever. To many watching him in 1985, Jordan was already the best player in the league and the most talented player to have ever played. Jordan’s statistics were unfathomable, but he was simply unguardable when he suited up for the Chicago Bulls. Jordan led the league in scoring in his rookie campaign, which ended up being the first of 10 scoring titles for MJ.
Unsurprisingly, Jordan won the Rookie of the Year Award and also became the first rookie to average at least 20-5-5 with 2 steals. Michael Jordan was able to carry the Bulls to the playoffs as well, although he lost in the first round. Jordan ended his rookie campaign with a ton of accolades, but Jordan’s most impressive achievement was making the All-NBA Second Team in only his first season.
Who Was The Better Rookie: LeBron James or Michael Jordan?
When comparing the statistics, it is clear to see a distinction in the abilities of both players to make their impact on the game. Jordan was immediately the best scorer in the league, averaging 28.2 PPG on 51.5% shooting. He was also sensational from the free-throw line, although his 3PT shot was putrid as the league did not discover the value of the three yet. James had the size advantage but averaged fewer rebounds, steals, and blocks.
The only advantage LeBron had in the rookie season was his 3PT shot, and he would certainly get better as he matured his game. LeBron’s impact for the Cavs was undeniable, as he took a forgotten franchise to near playoff contention. LeBron’s debut season was great, but Jordan simply had a greater impact as he took the Chicago Bulls to the playoffs and even led the league in scoring.
The comparison between LeBron James and Michael Jordan will always be continued, no matter what LeBron managed to accomplish before he hangs it up. But when it comes to the Rookie Season of both superstar players, it is clear Michael Jordan has the advantage. Jordan had better statistics, led the league in scoring, made an All-NBA Team, and made the NBA Playoffs in his first season.
LeBron James was a dominant physical specimen and he showed that he would be the face of the league shortly, but he could not cement his legacy as an all-time great in his first season as Jordan did. James was the first rookie since Jordan to put up 20-5-5, but he did not have the success that Jordan did and that gives MJ a massive advantage in the GOAT debate.