Michael Jordan is the greatest player of my lifetime, maybe even the greatest ever! People seem to have forgotten just how incredible he was on the basketball court. Recently, there have been rumblings about how Lebron James has surpassed “His Airness” as the greatest of all time — AKA the “GOAT.” Although Lebron is a once-in-a-generation type of talent, and is incredibly athletic and versatile, I just can’t compare him to Jordan. Here are 5 reasons why Lebron is no Michael Jordan.
Reason #1: The number of titles won
Michael Jordan has 6 NBA Championships — compared to only 2 for Lebron James. People tend to associate elite players with the number of championships that they’ve won during their careers. A prime example of this is Karl Malone. He’s number 2 on the all-time list in points scored. However, his name is never mentioned in debates around the greatest player to ever play the game. One main reason is that he never accomplished the feat of winning a NBA Championship.
Reason #2: Team composition
Lebron won his two championships with the help of his fellow All-Stars, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Prior to joining the Big 3 in Miami, James failed to win a title, losing his only appearance to the San Antonio Spurs in 4 straight games. On the other hand, Michael Jordan won six championships, while only having one other All-Star, Scottie Pippen, on his team. He had to work with players such as Steve Kerr, John Paxson, Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, B.J. Armstrong, and Craig Hodges. Lebron’s supporters point to this year’s team, claiming that Lebron singlehandedly carried the Cavs to the NBA Finals. Although he has been beastly so far in the playoffs, he has Kyrie Irving, a fellow NBA All-Star. In addition, the Cavaliers have J.R. Smith, Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson, and Timofey Mozgov. Wash out Pippen and Irving, and I’d take the Cavs reserve players over the Bulls any day!
Reason #3: Drive to be the best
Michael Jordan is known for his work ethic and his desire to be the best ever. He is considered the greatest competitor in NBA history. No player in NBA history was better at making a clutch shot or a game-winner as Jordan. He was so intense, even in practice; he would expect teammates to match his intensity and effort, day in and day out. It’s rumored that he once punched teammate, Steve Kerr, in the face during practice. To me, Lebron is more of a physical talent. He’s just built bigger and stronger than anyone in the league. I’m not knocking Lebron, just saying Jordan is a different beast! The only player I can compare to Jordan in this regard is Kobe Bryant.
Reason #4: Stats don’t lie
Let’s compare regular season and playoff statistics of Jordan and Lebron. Jordan has five regular season MVPs while Lebron has four. Jordan was the Finals MVP six times to Lebron’s two. Jordan was the NBA scoring leader 10 times in his career. Lebron led the league in scoring once. Jordan averaged 30.1 points per game during his career while James has averaged 27.3. In Jordan’s best statistical season (1987), he averaged 37.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 3.2 steals, and 1.6 blocks. In Lebron’s best season (2006), he averaged 31.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.1 blocks. During Michael Jordan’s playoff career, he averaged 33.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.1 steals, and 0.9 blocks while Lebron averages 27.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.9 blocks. In addition, Jordan had a higher field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, and free throw percentage, compared to Lebron.
Reason #5: Defense
People like to talk about how dominant Lebron is on the defensive end. However, people have forgotten how explosive Jordan was on defense. Jordan made it onto the All-Defensive 1st Team 9 times and was the Defensive Player of the Year (1987-1988). He is one of four players to have won both a MVP and a Defensive Player of the Year during their careers, and one of two to have done it in the same year. Lebron has made it onto the All-Defensive 1st Team 5 times, and has no Defensive Player of the Year awards to his name. Michael Jordan has also led the league in steals three times in his career. Lebron has never led the league in steals. Jordan averaged more steals and blocks than Lebron, both during the regular season and playoffs.
Comparing Jordan and Lebron is like comparing apples to oranges but sometimes it needs to be done. Michael Jordan singlehandedly and simultaneously changed and popularized the game of basketball. He also made Nike what it is today. To me, the best comparison to Michael Jordan is Kobe Bryant. Bryant’s game is a carbon copy of Jordan’s, from the explosive dunks to the infamous fade-away jumper. Even their drive and desire to win is comparable. Lebron’s game is more comparable to that of Magic Johnson. He might be more explosive with a better offensive game, but he comes in the same mold of a pass-first playmaker, just like Magic. At the end of the day, Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time. Everyone else is second fiddle.