Longtime Syracuse and USA Basketball coach Jim Boeheim decided to pour some gas on the "Is LeBron James better than Michael Jordan" fire by telling ESPN Radio that he isn't so sure that Jordan was a better player than James. While comparing any player - especially a current one - to Jordan always comes off as sacrilegious and creates an uproar, Boeheim might be on to something here.
What trips most people up in the LeBron-Jordan argument is confusing "better player" with "better career". There's is no debate whatsoever that Jordan's career and resume absolutely crushes LeBron's. But we aren't talking "best career" here - we are talking "best player". We aren' concerned about the macro, rather we are zeroing in on the micro. Basically, if we took a snapshot of each player at the peak of his powers (which for James could still be in the future), who was the better player. As surprising (or scandalous) it might seem to some, LeBron measures up quite well. Especially in these categories:
Physically, LeBron is the biggest "freak" (meant as a compliment) to play in the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain. He is 6'8" 250 pounds of rock hard athlete, with a 7-foot wingspan and a 40" plus vertical. James is the size of an old school NBA center, with skills similar to those of Magic Johnson. While Jordan was an athletic marvel himself, he had nowhere near the package of size, strength, athleticism, speed and quickness that James possesses.
Michael Jordan was one of the game's all-time great defenders, but it can be argued that LeBron is a more versatile one. His unique size/skill/athleticism combination mentioned above allows James to pretty much guard any position on the floor, while Jordan was basically only a backcourt defender (although an absolute stud of a backcourt defender).
Once again, Jordan was no slouch in this category, either - he was an outstanding rebounder and an extraordinary one for a guard. But James is just a little bit better, owing once again to his crazy physical gifts. His 12.6 Total Rebound % this season (estimated percentage of total rebounds he grabbed while on the court) tops Jordan's best rate of 11.6 (in 1988/89). No doubt Jordan's 11.6% is more impressive as a guard than James's 12.6% as a forward is, but we aren't comparing the two based on position - we are only concerned with who was a better player, regardless of position on the court.
LeBron James is one of the best passers/playmakers in the game's history. Not only is he a willing (some would say TOO willing) passer, he also makes unbelievable passes and truly makes his teammates better. Jordan was always (wrongly) considered a gunner, but he was an extraordinary playmaker too, posting 8.0 assists per game in 1988/89. But he was nowhere near LeBron's level.
Jordan obviously dominates James in a bunch of categories, too - scoring ability, "clutch" shot-making (if such a thing exists), intangibles, intensity, competitiveness, free throw shooting, steals, etc. But really when you compare the two players, it is hard to determine who is the better player, LeBron of Michael. They both have their strengths, they both have their weaknesses (minuscule as they are). So if you could have LeBron or Michael for one season at the top of their powers, who you got?
Scoring: MJ without a doubt and its not even close.
Passing: The way that assists are recorded was changed in 2006, so basically assist numbers have been inflated since then. And it's not as if assists were a reliable way of comparing players' passing ability in the first place, so keeping all that in mind, I'm throwing assists out the window for this comparison. Instead, I'll use my own two eyes to
Look at it...scoring isn't everything Michael couldn't do everything, LeBron can. LeBron is better almost every way. Rajon Rondo he makes his team one of the best because he is an amazing passer. Shaq he made the teams he played on better because of rebounding. Lebron possesses both of those two traits. Michael wasn't very good at those two specific things. He is know more for scoring. Another thing, Lebron can score endless ways, from the post, his developing jumper, driving and from the line. Lebron can drive and draw a foul at will. Michael could do that also but not as we'll....In terms of a team player I would rather have Lebron. But for a primary scoring source, Michael. Just because MJ has 6 rings and LBJ has 1 doesn't say it all. Rings isn't everything! All the players think so. That's why Lebron left, so he could have a legitimate chance at some rings. If he knew all this young talent in Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Tyler Zeller, maybe he would have changed his mind. Lebron was #1 pick out of high school in a draft that included NBA greats, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo, David West, Kendrick Perkins and other stars. Jordan was #3 behind Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie! Michael even played for North Carolina! One of the best basketball schools in the world! Most people will disagree with me but when Lebron retires he will have won multiple rings, and for sure be the best player ever.
Not even close...lebron ditched his team for the east allstar team...Jordan was unstoppable and left in his prime to play baseball...the only person in the same nieghbor of Jordan is Kobe...All in all for rings---Jordan=6
@CHerrmann15 My argument wasn't based on LeBron having a better career than Jordan, it was based on who was the most talented. If you could have LeBron or Jordan at their prime for a season, who would you take.
Can't go wrong with either, they are definitely the two best players of the past 30 years, imo.
I'd probably have to pick Jordan, but it's damn close.
LeBron best season statistically 30 7.5 8.5 1.5 1.0 Michael best season statistically 32.5 8.0 8.0 3.0 1.0 Acolades LeBron 3x MVP 1x champion 8x All star 1x scoring champion 6x all NBA first team 2x all NBA second team 4x all defense 1st team does not compare to Jordan give him more time and he will match jordan
@logankulas YOU GUYS ARE SOO FUNNY NOW UR COMPARING JORDAN AND LEBRON LEBRON NEEDS THE RINGS ITS THATS NOT IT HE NEEDS THE SKILL AND HES NO WHERE CLOSE U DONT JUST LOOK AT STATS LOSEERRR
Not yet. When all is said and done though, Lebron could be a top 3 player of all-time. Heck, maybe even #1 of all-time if he wins a bunch more titles.