The greatest heresy in the NBA is that Michael Jordan isn’t a god. Should you dare challenge Michael Jordan’s deity, you will surely receive a technical and be ejected from all basketball-related conversations.
After all, Jordan’s miraculous feats include, the highest points per game averages in NBA history (30.1), 10 scoring titles, 14 NBA All-Star selections, 1 Defensive Player Of The Year Title, 9 NBA All-Defensive First Team Selections, 10 All NBA First-Team selections, 5 MVP titles, and most worthy of praise: 6 NBA titles.
LeBron James recently said, “When you’re growing up and you’re seeing Michael Jordan, he’s almost like a god.” Larry Bird also once described Jordan as “God disguised as Michael Jordan.” And Magic Johnson said, “there’s Michael Jordan and then there is the rest of us.” Even NBA.com, the official website of the league, says, “By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.”
Michael Jordan is not the first NBA player to be widely considered the greatest of all time. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlin, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, respectively, were at one point considered the greatest of all time—before Jordan entered the NBA. What sets Jordan apart from the others, though, is that he transcended the NBA and sports in ways no other NBA player and athlete had ever done before. In fact, Jordan is the first and only billionaire athlete.
So when Jordan retired from the NBA, we loved Kobe Bryant because he played like Mike. We loved Iverson because he was cool like Mike. We loved Vince Carter because he jumped like Mike.
Then came LeBron James. He doesn’t play like Mike. He doesn’t jump like Mike. He is different from Mike. He is better than Mike.
LeBron James’ NBA accomplishments include, the 5th highest points per game averages in NBA history (27.1), 1 scoring title, 13 NBA All-Star selections, 6 NBA All-Defensive First Team Selections, 11 All NBA First-Team selections, 2 All NBA Second-Team selections, 4 MVP titles, and 3 NBA titles.
For most Jordan’s fans, though, the only argument they need in the LeBron-Jordan debate is that LeBron is 3-for-8 in the NBA finals and Jordan is 6-for-6 in the NBA finals.
That argument, however, ignores several factors. For instance, why do we use team accomplishments to determine a debate between two individuals? To illustrate how fallacious this argument is, consider this: Jordan’s Bulls were 1-for-4 in playoff series against Isiah Thomas’ Pistons. Should we suggest that Isiah Thomas was a better player than Michael Jordan? Of course not. That argument is silly.
Furthermore, it is convenient for Jordan fans to restrict the argument to the NBA finals. Jordan’s 6-for-6 record in the NBA finals is impressive, however, as suggested by the last point, Jordan’s Bulls sometimes failed to reach the NBA finals. That matters. Jordan wasn’t a god. He wasn’t perfect. Shifting the goalpost—or in this case, the basketball net—doesn’t change the fact that Jordan is actually 6-for-15 in his NBA career, not necessarily 6-for-6. To be fair, LeBron is 3-for-14.
And as impressive as Jordan’s 6 NBA titles are, the aforementioned Bill Russell won 11 NBA titles in his 13 seasons in the NBA. If Jordan’s 6 NBA titles are why you consider LeBron inferior to Jordan, then shouldn’t you concede that Russell is the greatest NBA player of all time, not Jordan?
Perhaps you want to suggest that Bill Russell played on one of the best teams in NBA history, alongside many Hall-of-famers. However, prior to Steph Curry’s and Kevin Durant’s Warriors, Jordan’s Chicago Bulls were considered the greatest team in NBA history.
It’s important to note that a contributing factor to LeBron’s 3-for-8 record in the NBA finals is that he’s faced the greatest NBA team in history, the Warriors, 3 times, losing twice. In fact, he’s also faced another one of the greatest teams in NBA history, Tim Duncan’s Spurs, 3 times, losing twice. Oh, and in 2012, he also faced an Oklahoma City Thunders team that consisted of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Those teams make up 7 of the teams LeBron’s faced in 8 of his NBA finals appearances. Michael Jordan’s Bulls never faced teams as great as the Spurs or Warriors. Had Jordan faced competition like that, he would not be 6-for-6 in the NBA finals.
Nevertheless, team accomplishments should have little baring over who is greater between LeBron James and Michael Jordan. LeBron James is the better basketball player because he’s a better all-around player than Michael Jordan.
Jordan averaged 4 more points per game than LeBron over his career, but he averaged over 3 more shots per game than LeBron. LeBron James is a more efficient scorer than Michael Jordan. He is a better all-around shooter than Michael Jordan. If LeBron was less of a playmaker and took more shots, He would have averaged more points per game than Jordan.
Speaking of LeBron’s playmaking skills, he is a better playmaker and passer than Michael Jordan. LeBron averages almost 2 more assists per game than Michael Jordan. Jordan is also an inferior rebounder to LeBron, as LeBron averages over 1 more rebound a game than Jordan. LeBron is also a better all-around defender than Michael Jordan, as LeBron is capable of guarding anyone from a smaller point guard to a bigger center.
LeBron is still only 32 years old and about to enter his into his 15th NBA season. By the time of Jordan’s 15th and last NBA season, Jordan had retired twice already. LeBron, however, is still the best player in the NBA and has many more years to add to his legacy—his legacy as the greatest player in NBA history.
We think Michael Jordan is better than LeBron James because of hero worship. We consider Jordan a god and everybody else—including LeBron, mere human. However, there is more to this debate than Jordan’s 6 rings. LeBron is a better all-around player than Jordan. In LeBron, we are all witnesses to the greatest player in NBA history.