With the Michael Jordan documentary airing tonight, the “G.O.A.T.” conversation between Jordan, and LeBron James, is as relevant as ever.
Our 40 NBA writers were split into two teams, and each side collectively came up with the Top Ten arguments (in no order) to prove that either LeBron, or Michael, was the greatest to ever do it:
WHY MICHAEL JORDAN IS THE GREATEST:
1. Jordan never had to go to a Game 7 in his 6 NBA Finals. He won every series in 6 games or less.
2. Jordan helped to lead the second best season of all time, with a 72-10 record, which was recently broken by the Warriors.
3. Jordan is of only two players in NBA history (Hakeem Olajuwon) to win a Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player award, in the same season.
4. Jordan factually played with less All-Stars than LeBron:
- Jordan’s All-Star Teammates
- Scottie Pippen
- LeBron’s All-Star Teammates
- Dwyane Wade
- Chris Bosh
- Mo Williams
- Zydrunas Ilgauskas
- Kyrie Irving
- Kevin Love
- Anthony Davis
5. Jordan’s competition was superior to LeBron’s:
- Patrick Ewing
- John Starks
- Karl Malone
- John Stockton
- Gary Payton
- Clyde Drexler
- Magic Johnson
- James Worthy
- Charles Barkley
- Isiah Thomas
- Joe Dumars
- Bill Lambier
- Larry Bird
- Kevin McHale
- Dominique Wilkins
- Mark Price
6. Jordan never had to switch teams to win a ring (is this a diss towards LeBron? Maybe.)
7. Jordan is of two players in NBA history to score 3,000+ points in one season (Wilt Chamberlain)
8. Jordan was a six-time Finals MVP, meaning he won a Finals MVP in every single one of his finals appearances
9. Jordan was an incredible defender, being on the All-Defensive team a total of nine times.
10. Jordan has 10 scoring titles, compared to only 1 from LeBron
WHY LEBRON JAMES IS THE GREATEST:
1. LeBron’s personal impact on a team was greater than MJ’s:
- 1993: Jordan left and Chicago, and the Bulls still won 55 games
- 2009: LeBron left Cleveland, and the Cavaliers went from 61 to 19 wins.
- 2014: LeBron left Miami, and the Heat missed the postseason.
- 2017: LeBron left Cleveland, and the team went from Eastern Conference Champions, to 19 wins.
2. LeBron has faced tougher competition compared to Jordan
- LeBron was only favored in two of his 9 Finals appearances. Jordan’s Bulls were favored to win all 6 of his rings in the Finals.
- LeBron faced the Warriors — arguably the most talented team in the history of the world — four straight years in the Finals.
- The Western conference in 1984 didn’t have a single team with over 55 wins, with 3 of those teams having a .500 or less record.
- The Finals competition that Jordan met with was considerably weaker. Only 3 teams had multiple All-NBA players in the Finals against Jordan. In contrast, LeBron has faced:
- All-NBA Tim Duncan (twice)
- 2nd All-NBA Tony Parker (twice)
- 2nd All-NBA Dirk Nowitzki
- All-NBA Kevin Durant (twice)
- 2nd All-NBA Kevin Durant (twice)
- 2nd All-NBA Russell Westbrook
- All-NBA Stephen Curry (twice)
- 2nd All-NBA Stephen Curry
- 3rd All-NBA Stephen Curry
- 3rd All-NBA Klay Thompson (twice)
3. LeBron had much less help than Jordan in several instances:
- 06-07 Cavaliers (made the Finals)
- 08-09 Cavs (won 66 games)
- 15-16 Cavs (NBA Champions)
- 17-18 Cavs (Eastern Conference Champions)
4. LeBron’s longevity is far superior. He as played in 17 NBA seasons and is still an MVP candidate
5. LeBron leads Jordan in win-shares. This shows he is more valuable to teams, and because of him they win more games:
- LeBron: 236.12 win shares
- Jordan: 214.02 win shares
6. Different defensive strategies played a large role in the scoring and passing of Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
Michael Jordan’s opponents employed very different strategies that would only need 2 or 3 defenders. Known as the Jordan Rules, made famous by the Detroit Pistons, used physical double teams to force Jordan to either wing. And if that failed, there would always be a big man down low. For the Pistons, this was largely effective. Also, many teams played dirty against Jordan, leading to very high free throw numbers.
To add on, due to NBA rules at the time, Jordan’s defenders could not play zone defenses and could only double team the player with the ball.
7. LeBron was not saved by Ray Allen
- MJ fans use this argument to claim the 2013 Heat were saved by Ray Allen’s late three-pointer, and LeBron didn’t earn that win for the Heat, while LeBron scored 16 in the fourth quarter on 7-11 shooting. LeBron also scored or assisted on all points in overtime that game. He earned that win, on top of a clutch shot by a teammate.
8. LeBron James is one of the most skilled passers ever. This allows LeBron to find tight windows for passes. It takes a synchronization of all five players to guard LeBron James. If he gets double teamed, LeBron will find one of his teammates.
- Career averages:
- LeBron: 7.4 assists
- Jordan: 5.3 assists
9. LeBron excels in efficiency when compared to Jordan:
- Career averages:
- LeBron: 54.2 EFG, 58.2 true shooting %
- Jordan: 50.9 EFG, 56.9 true shooting %
- LeBron: 50.4% FG, 34.4% 3PT
- Jordan: 49.7% FG, 32.7% 3PT
From 1994-1997, the three-point line was 1 foot 9 inches shorter, and MJ shot a 48.3% FG, and 40.4% from 3. He took 2.4 more threes per game more than his career average during that time. Statistics were slightly skewed during those years, and affect Jordan’s career average in a way that benefits Jordan.
10. LeBron is a better rebounder:
- Career averages:
- LeBron: 7.4 rebounds, 11.2 rebound %
- MJ: 5.3 rebounds, 9.4 rebound %
Photo: Essentially Sports