29 October 2020

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It Has to Be Said: LeBron James is the GOAT. Not Michael Jordan.

The GOAT Debate between MJ and LeBron is one of the most heated and will be one of the most heated topics for discussion for years to come.

The majority of people seem to agree that Micahel Jordan is the GOAT especially after the surprisingly petty ‘Last Dance’ documentary came out. 

Since then, with the exception of Kendrick Perkins, everyone seems to have the idea that Michael Jordan is the GOAT.

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This is false.

If you don’t believe me, just think about this:

The majority of Michael Jordan supporters make the argument that Michael Jordan is better than LeBron because he is 6-0 in the Finals while LeBron is 3-6.

Today in history: Michael Jordan and the Bulls win their sixth ...
Manny Millan/SI

While this is a solid argument, when you look into it, it’s really not as impressive as it might seem. 

First off, LeBron’s first finals appearance in 2007 is not a fair comparison to Michael Jordan’s six. 

LeBron’s highest-scoring teammate was Larry Hughes who averaged 14.7 points per game that season. So essentially, LeBron’s first NBA Finals was him against the incredible Spurs team with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.

Michael Jordan’s top teammate for his first finals was Scottie Pippen. Pippen averaged 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. 

Scottie Pippen was already an established all-star before MJ’s first championship while LeBron had yet to be a teammate with one. Also, keep in mind that MJ was 27 in his first finals while LeBron was just 22.

Aside from the first championship, LeBron’s finals opponents have simply been much tougher than Michael’s.

Michael’s toughest opponents were the Stockton-Malone Jazz in 1997 and 1998. Even though that duo was a force in the NBA, is that team really better than the 2015-2019 Golden State Warriors?

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Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

LeBron beat the 2016 73-9 Warriors in one of the most exciting series ever. Draymond was suspended for a game, but it’s safe to say that Curry and Klay are, at the very least, equal to Malone and Stockton and is likely better. 

LeBron also went up against the San Antonio Spurs with Duncan, Kawhi, and Tony Parker where he went 1-1. He also took out Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook in the finals and those two were also arguably better than Malone and Stockton. Not to mention he had to deal with teams like the Celtics during their Big 3 era.

Michael Jordan’s most formidable opponent was the Bad Boys Pistons, and the Bad Boys Pistons beat Jordan to a pulp for years. Jordan went 6-12 against the Pistons in the playoffs between 1988 and 1990. He managed to sweep them in 1991 but after that, the Pistons weren’t the same meaning that Jordan only had to beat one real Eastern Conference foe until Reggie Miller and the Pacers in 1998.

Jordan had a free ride to the finals between for four of his six finals. During the middle four years, his hardest opponent was the Cleveland Cavaliers, a solid team at the time, but nowhere near the Conference Finals that LeBron had.

MIAMI, FL - MAY 24: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat talks to Paul George #24 of the Indiana Pacers after making a three point basket to end the third quarter during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena on May 24, 2013 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Jordan also always had a solid big man in either Horace Grant or Dennis Rodman so he really had a rebounder to rely on for all six runs. LeBron, on the other hand, had Chris Bosh for four of his nine finals appearances, but then Kevin Love is a major dropoff from that. Although Love is an alright player, he was nothing like the way he was in Minnesota and also had to be the second option for LeBron’s final two championships after Kyrie left.

So, with the false narrative that LeBron chokes in the NBA Finals out of the way, another area to look at is their stats.

Michael Jordan averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.3 steals, and 0.8 blocks.

LeBron James is averaging 27.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks.

Michael Jordan also shot 49.7% from the field and 32.7% from three.

LeBron James is shooting 50.4% from the field and 34.4% from three.

As you can see, LeBron is a more efficient and better team player. Michael Jordan has the advantage in points and steals, the two most individual stats out of the five. He also doesn’t have LeBron beat by much as LeBron scores plenty of points as well.

LeBron gets more assist and rebounds, two stats that are very important to the team. His assist stands out the most as he has MJ beat by 2.1 and is also averaging 10.6 assists this season. LeBron has proven to be the better playmaker as he gets more assists and makes players like Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers look like actually good players because of his unselfishness.

LeBron also grabs more rebounds and shoots more efficiently. To anyone who claims that it’s just because he’s bigger than MJ, news flash: height is important in the NBA.

The final thing to look at is how teams performed without their superstars. Both MJ and LeBron left their franchises by surprise and there is a major difference in performance.

JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

The Cavaliers suddenly became the worst team in the NBA. They would receive three #1 picks in four years and four top-five picks in the four years he was gone. When LeBron came back, they immediately became championship contenders again making the finals for four straight years. He then left again and the became and currently are a dumpster-fire.

The Bulls meanwhile managed to pull the #3 seed and took the #2 seeded Knicks to seven games in the second round. When Michael left the second time, the Bulls did collapse, but they changed everything about their team while the Cavaliers both times LeBron left kept everything relatively the same aside from him not being there.

Even though your opinions probably didn’t change after this article, it’s important to know that it’s at least not as obvious as it seems. LeBron has done a lot the Michael Jordan has not, and if LeBron wins the championship this year, (assuming it happens)  then he would have won on three different teams, just another thing he’d have over MJ. Even if you’re a die-hard Michael Jordan fanatic, you gotta admit, there is a real conversation to have about this.

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