Is it Lebron James or Michael Jordan? That is the question of the day. But it’s been talked about in sports circles for several years now. Perhaps in the context of whether or not Lebron could be as good of a player as Jordan, but it certainly has been a topic. And now, we are debating it. A lot of Lebron haters will tell you that it’s about the number of championship wins that you have. And they might be right. But I think there is a mountain of other statistics that should be considered in this debate as well. Is this all too premature? After all, Lebron is still playing in the league. Is it fair to label one of them the greatest player of all time, if one is still active in the league?
I’d like to start this post by getting my biases out there. I have been a basketball fan for years, but Jordan was a little ahead of my time. Not completely though. I was old enough to watch the tail end of his career and understand how great of a player he was. That being said, I’ve been watching Lebron for many years now and I like him in this debate. Let’s start off by talking about championships as that seems to define greatness to many. Lebron has only won three championship titles. Part of the reason he went to Miami was to see if he could win some titles. Which is also the reason he left. Because he wasn’t winning as many as he wanted to. Can you really blame him?
If we are basing it on championships, then Jordan is the greatest player. Like I said, however, is that fair given that Lebron is still playing? Should we include an asterisk beside Jordan and then say “for now”? That’s not to say that Lebron won’t match the number of championships. Especially the way he is playing these days, but can we assign him that title so soon? Even though I think he’s an incredible player I’m not sure that it’s fair to say that right now. He still has time to prove himself to be an even better player, but until that time, I don’t think we should take that title away from Jordan just yet. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let’s look at the stats.
Jordan played a total of 15 seasons. Lebron is already on season 14, and I suspect that will be at least 17 before he retires. If we take that number and put it next to the number of titles, Jordan is winning. Even if Lebron makes it to 6 by the time he retires, he will have played more seasons. I’m not criticizing Lebron in this regard, I am simply looking at the numbers. Further, Jordan made it to the playoffs more times than Lebron. Again, if Lebron keeps playing, and I suspect he will, then he will exceed Jordan in this number. Presuming that he will continue to go to the playoffs and win titles. But I am not a fortune teller.
Michael Jordan averaged 30 points per game, whereas Lebron averaged 27 points per game. Where Lebron seems to beat Jordan is in the number of assists and rebounds per game. Both players are relatively low, and I don’t think that this is a true indicator of player greatness. In Jordan’s entire career, he totalled 32,292 points. Whereas Lebron is only at 28,787. Again, Lebron is still playing so there is a chance that this number would be higher than Jordan’s, but you can see where I’m going with this. Both players are incredible. And I mean, incredible. But statistics aren’t going to answer this question, in my opinion. And I don’t think they should.
Can we put the two in the same category? I ask this because Jordan had an amazing coach, and incredible teammates during many (or all) of his championship titles. No offense, but can we compare Lebron’s scenario to Jordan’s when we think about it in this respect? And, if you had to choose Jordan/Pippen/Jackson, would you take that over Lebron/JR Smith/Lue? Or Lebron/Wade/Spoelstra? I mean no disrespect to anyone listed in those last two lists, but I think it’s pretty clear. Jordan had an amazing team with him. And Lebron does too, but not to the same extent. I don’t think it’s fair that we draw the comparisons until Lebron has retired.
I’m not suggesting that Jordan’s abilities don’t stand on their own. But there is also something to be said about how the Bulls played when Jordan left to play baseball. I think part of the reason that we debate this so much is because we want the answer to be Lebron. We want to believe in him so badly that we create a super-human. We want a Jordan of our time, but I think we already have that. I think that Lebron could be considered the greatest player of all time for all of the reasons listed above, but also because he’s playing in a different time. I think it’s difficult to compare a past player to a current one just because the game has changed. There are so many amazing players in the league right now. Even if you don’t consider them the greatest, they are definitely going to challenge Lebron. Which is only going to make him an even better player.
With the possibility of adding a fourth championship title for Lebron, this topic is extremely relevant. But I honestly think that we should wait until retirement is on the horizon for Lebron before we continue this debate. After all, he is not showing signs of slowing down. He is still relatively young, and we could see another 5 years out of him. He’s on Jodan’s heels in many ways, so I don’t think that championship titles is the way to measure the greatest player of all time.