LeBron James recently made history by surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time leading scorer in NBA history and this new record fuels even more the debate over who is the greatest basketball player of all time between Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
Both players have incredible resumes, but there are key differences between their careers that make it difficult to compare them directly. let’s try to answer the question: who is the GOAT?
It is difficult to compare the two players directly, as they played in different eras and in different styles. Jordan played in a more physical era, where the rules were less favorable to offensive players, while James has played in an era that emphasizes athleticism and speed. Both players have played at an incredibly high level, but it is difficult to determine who has the edge based on statistics alone.
Michael Jordan played in the NBA for 15 seasons, amassing an incredible array of statistics along the way. He scored a total of 32,292 points, making him the fourth-highest scorer in NBA history. He was a ten-time scoring champion, averaging 30.1 points per game over his career, and was a five-time league MVP. He also won 6 NBA championships, all with the Chicago Bulls.
LeBron James has played in the NBA for 20 seasons (and counting), and has compiled impressive statistics of his own. He has scored a total of 38,450 points (as of the 2022-2023 season), making him the highest scorer in NBA history, and average 27.2 points per game over his career. He has also won 4 league MVP awards, and has been a 16-time All-Star. He has won 4 NBA championships, two with the Miami Heat, one with the Cleveland Cavaliers and one with Los Angeles Lakers.
James has surpassed Jordan in several statistical categories such as points, assists, rebounds, field goal percentage, blocks, 3-point percentage, and all-pro selections (see table at the end of the article). Despite this, Jordan has achieved the title of ten-time scoring champion and has a superior defense game, having been awarded the 1988 Defensive Player of the Year award and named to the All-Defensive First Team ten times, compared to James who has only received this honor five times.
We are aware that if Jordan had not temporarily retired on many stats the situation would be different. But unfortunately this cannot be a topic for discussion, as we have to rely only on facts and not on what could potentially have happened.
Speaking about games played, Jordan played all 82 games in a season eight times in his 14-year NBA career, except for the 2017-18 season, which James did not achieve.
Jordan in his final season averaged 20 PPG in his final season but it is a massive decline from where his career averages were sitting. In year 15th, Jordan’s 20 PPG equates to a 33% drop off from his career PPG scoring clip of 30. In James’ 20th season in the league, his per game scoring is 11% higher than his career 27.2 PPG clip. He is continuing to somehow get better and maintain elite play through two decades in this league and is the only player in basketball history to average 30 PPG in their 20th season.
Championships and Playoff Success
One area where Michael Jordan has a clear advantage over LeBron James is in championship rings. Jordan won six NBA championships, while James has won four. Jordan also won all six of his championships with the same team, the Chicago Bulls, and was the Finals MVP in each of those championships. James, on the other hand, has won championships with 3 different teams, and has not always been the Finals MVP.
When it comes to playoff success, both players have been dominant. Jordan has the highest career playoff scoring average in NBA history, at 33.4 points per game, while James is third on the list at 28.8 points per game. Jordan also had an incredible playoff record, winning 6 championships in 6 appearances in the NBA Finals. James, on the other hand, has a record of 4 championships in 10 appearances in the NBA Finals.
Impact on the Game
Michael Jordan is often credited with popularizing basketball around the world, and his signature style of play, highlighted by his incredible dunks and clutch performances, has become the standard for excellence in the NBA. He is also known for his iconic shoes and clothing line, which have become cultural touchstones.
Lebron James, on the other hand, has been a pioneer in using his platform as an athlete to promote social justice causes and advocate for change. He has also been a leader on and off the court, using his voice to advocate for his teammates and push for greater equity in the NBA.
Lebron James VS Michael Jordan Stats
|LeBron James||Career||Michael Jordan|
|14.075||Field Goals Made||12.192|
|27.886||Field Goals Attempted||24.537|
|50,50%||Field Goal Percentage||49,70%|
|8.060||Free Throws Made||7.327|
|10.968||Free Throws Attempted||8.772|
|73,50%||Free Throw Percentage||83,50%|
|27||Points Per Game||30|
|38||Minutes Per Game||38|
|7||Assists Per Game||5|
|8||Rebounds Per Game||6|
|26||Points Per 36 Minutes||28|
|7||Rebounds Per 36 Minutes||6|
|7||Assists Per 36 Minutes||5|
It is difficult to determine who is the greatest basketball player of all time between Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Both players have incredible resumes, with impressive statistics, championship rings, and impact on the game.
In our opinion, considering statistics, athletic longevity, and the social and economic impact of the two players, we believe that LeBron James may have a slight edge in the race to be recognized as the greatest NBA player of all time.