I really shouldn’t need to write this, but here I am. There is no doubt that LeBron James is one of the best players in NBA history, but as of right now, it’s very, very hard to say he is the GOAT. Specifically when that puts him above Mr Michael Jordan. I had an argument with a friend yesterday about who was better, so I’m going to do my best to debunk all his arguments that I remember.
LeBron has more Conference titles
Yes, this is true, he has more, and you can’t say he doesn’t because numbers don’t lie. But something that I brought up repeatedly is the fact that LeBron has never had to compete in an insanely tough conference. The Eastern Conference is notoriously bad, and LeBron has never had a big fight to make it to the Finals. Yes, he has had some conference finals go to 6 or 7 games. But there’s never been that powerhouse of a team to fight them for a perennial spot in the finals. Jordan’s Bulls team came in an era where there were 4 super good teams. You had Bird’s Celtics, Magic’s Lakers, the Bad Boy Pistons, and Jordan’s Bulls. And there were other teams up there in the mix too, but these are the most notable. Jordan took that Pistons team 6 and 7 games, respectively, when the Pistons won the Finals. And, with Detroit playing in their fifth straight conference finals, they were tired, and Jordan and the Bulls swept them. Regardless, in Jordan’s years, before winning the conference title, and eventually the NBA Championship, the Eastern conference had won 4 of the previous 7 titles. Before LeBron had won his first conference title, the Eastern had won 2 of the previous 7 titles, but to be fair, 2 of the last 3.
LeBron averages more points, assists, blocks, and rebounds
For starters, Jordan averaged 3 more points in the regular season, and 5.1 more in the playoffs, so I’m not even going to talk about that. I’m also not going to talk about the fact that the two average the same number of blocks in the regular season, and LeBron takes the cake by a staggering 0.1 blocks more per game in the playoffs. First thing’s first, assists. LeBron does take the cake on that one, beating Jordan by 1.7 assists in the regular season, and 1.1 in the playoffs. Straight to the point, LeBron has had a scorer by his side for much of his career. He’s had Mo Williams, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love just to name a few. Michael Jordan never really had that. He had Scottie Pippen and, someone tried telling me Dennis Rodman which was cute. I’m not a Bulls fan, so I’m not sure about any great scorers that Jordan played with. You can’t argue that LeBron didn’t have better scorers though.
LeBron James has never lost in the first round of the playoffs
HA. Yes, this is another true statement. BUT, you MUST look at who the Jordan teams were playing, and appreciate the fact that he had no supporting cast whatsoever. The team lost to the 1984-85 Milwaukee Bucks, and I admit, I couldn’t tell you anybody on that roster if I was at gunpoint. But the 2 years following they played the Boston Celtics. Yes, that Boston Celtics. The team that was one of the best teams in NBA history, and at the time, nobody was standing in their way of getting to the Finals until the Pistons came along, but that another story.
James and Jordan have two different play styles, so it’s hard to accurately compare them. However, both were stars for their respective teams, and carried them, to one extent or another, to championships.
There is no doubt in my mind that LeBron James is one of the best NBA players of all time. But he is certainly not the greatest by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, Jordan needed a supporting cast, but so does everyone, and in the NBA, you can’t win alone.