There are many timeless debates in sports, none more popular than who is the true GOAT of basketball. LeBron James or Michael Jordan? It’s a broad question that involves many variables used when arguing for or against the two. Who has better stats? Who was better in the NBA Playoffs or the NBA Finals? Who has more accolades? 

It’s easy to go into this debate with a stern grasp on one point of view. Understanding the big picture can give you the facts needed to make your own decision, and everyone’s will be different. 

The addition of another variable (Hall of Fame player) to measure LeBron and Jordan’s resume against is also important, and will be another helpful talking point in this widely debated sports topic. 

LeBron vs. Jordan: Comparison

There are many similarities between LeBron and Jordan, which is why the basketball GOAT debate is a popular topic. Both players have multiple MVP awards, have reached many NBA Finals (while also winning Final MVPs), have won numerous championships, and have been named to countless All-NBA and NBA All-Star teams. 

(Per Game)PointsReboundsAssistsSteals
LeBron27.27.57.31.6
Jordan30.16.25.32.3

The stats are also similar on the court, with both scoring 27 or more points per game with over six rebounds and five assists. They both hover around the 50% field goal range and shoot about 33% from beyond the arc. 

(Shooting)FG%3-pt%FT%
LeBron50.534.573.4
Jordan49.732.783.5

Long story short, they are both heavily leaned upon superstars with great accolades and statistical data to make a case as being basketball’s greatest. 

However, LeBron is only one of three players in the NBA’s history to win the NBA Finals MVP award with more than one franchise. The other two players are Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors 2019, San Antonio Spurs 2014) and Kareem Abdul-Jabar (Los Angeles Lakers 1985, Milwaukee Bucks 1971). 

This is a key arguing point when comparing players, as LeBron has won the Finals MVP with three different franchises, more than any other player. However, Jordan has earned six NBA Finals MVP awards which are more than any other player. 

AP Photo/John Swart, File

LeBron vs. Jordan NBA Finals MVP Comparison

Jordan (6) – 1991 (Chicago), 1992 (Chicago), 1993 (Chicago), 1996 (Chicago), 1997 (Chicago), 1998 (Chicago) 

LeBron (4) – 2012 (Miami), 2013 (Miami), 2016 (Cleveland), 2020 (L.A Lakers)

LeBron vs. Jordan: Stats

As mentioned, the stats for these players are very similar. During the regular season, Jordan averaged a remarkable 30.1 points per game while LeBron is currently at 27.2. Jordan also averages more steals than LeBron, but James does average more rebounds and assists per game. They both average just under a block a game at 0.8.

Despite Jordan having better-scoring stats, and nine times more scoring titles than LeBron, James has a slightly better field goal percentage and three-point percentage than Jordan. Jordan does have a slightly better free throw percentage, but all of these numbers and you’re just splitting hairs. 

(Totals)PointsReboundsAssistsSteals
LeBron37,90310,44910,2372,166
Jordan32,2926,6725,6332,514

The real difference comes when looking at totals, in which LeBron easily passes Jordan. He has 5,000 more points than Jordan to go along with roughly 4,000 more rebounds and 5,000 assists. Despite Jordan being a better ball stealer, James is only down about 400 steals before passing Jordan as well. 

(Playoff Totals)PointsReboundsAssistsSteals
LeBron7,6312,3911,919454
Jordan5,9871,1521,022376

LeBron has already passed Jordan in playoff steals with 454, and already has more playoff points, rebounds, assists, and blocks than Jordan. Yes, LeBron has played in nearly 300 more games than Jordan but that is also an achievement in longevity and availability. 

Consistency and consecutiveness are celebrated achievements in sports, and LeBron’s longevity has given him the edge when comparing stat totals between him and Jordan. 

AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File

LeBron vs. Jordan: Accolades

Despite LeBron’s durability over his career, Jordan has notched a few more accolades than LeBron in a shorter career span. MJ has won more championships, Finals MVPs, regular season MVPs, and scoring titles, and has been named to more All-Defensive teams. 

NBA TitlesNBA MVPsNBA Finals MVPsAll-NBA TeamsAll-Defensive TeamsAll-Star TeamsScoring Titles
LeBron444186181
Jordan6561191410

LeBron has earned more NBA All-Star appearances along with being named to more All-NBA teams. So although LeBron might have the edge in stats, Jordan has the edge in accolades. This could be said for marketing as well, as Jordan has his own shoe brand and starred in a timeless basketball movie. 

LeBron vs. Jordan: Conclusion

So the real arguing points come down to this, do you feel LeBron’s ability to lead more than one franchise to a championship is better than Jordan’s consistency with just one team? Also, do Jordan’s scoring and defense outweigh LeBron’s scoring, passing, rebounding, and defense? Finally, does LeBron’s longevity and stat dominance overshadow Jordan’s accolades? 

They’re not easy questions, but what about adding a variable? 

Abdul-Jabbar still holds the NBA record for most points at 38,387 and has more total rebounds than either Jordan or LeBron. Kareem also has more career assists than Jordan, more regular season MVP awards, and the same amount of NBA Championships (6). He is also a 19-time NBA All-Star, which is the most among the three players. 

Don’t forget he is also one of the three players to win an NBA Finals MVP award with more than one franchise. It’s fair to add Abdul-Jabbar to the mix when comparing GOATs in basketball and is a key measuring tool when arguing for or against LeBron or Jordan. 

StatsPlayoffTitlesLongevityAccoladesLegionBest Movie
LeBron213131‘Hustle’
Jordan32T1323‘Space Jam’
Kareem13T1212‘Airplane’

Using these six categories above (stats, playoff stats, titles, longevity, accolades, legion) we ranked each player, then tallied the number with the lowest scores being the highest ranking player. 

LeBron vs. Jordan: Results

  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabar (10)
  2. LeBron James (11)
  3. Michael Jordan (14)

The longevity of both LeBron and Kareem has allowed both players to accumulate more than enough statistical data and game achievements to warrant an honest ranking above the great MJ. The ability of both players to lead multiple franchises to championships and win the MVPs in the process is also something that helped them rank higher than Jordan.

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