Over recent years, LeBron James has been establishing himself as a contender for the greatest basketball player of all time. However, Michael Jordan has long been given that title by many basketball fans, not to mention Netflix and ESPN’s ten-part documentary series highlighting Jordan’s contributions to the Bull’s successes. Two undoubted legends of the sport, both have written history with their achievements, becoming ambassadors of the NBA. But which of the two has been the bigger winner?
Here are three reasons for either of these giants being better than the other.
LeBron Has Taken Over
He lifts up a whole team
In basketball, many great players succeeded as parts of great teams. However, unlike Jordan, LeBron led an arguably average Cleveland Cavaliers to win the NBA championship in 2016. In each subsequent season with them until he left to join the LA Lakers in 2018, LeBron’s leadership in getting the Cavs to the finals was also a truly special achievement. While the Cavs ended up losing those subsequent finals, it was only because LeBron faced a stacked Golden State Warriors team with far more individual quality than the Cavs. In Cleveland, LeBron proved that he could be a true leader, making everyone else around him bring their A game.
Bigger, stronger and more defensive
Both LeBron and Jordan are amazing offensive players that can dominate games like few others. But LeBron also has the edge over Jordan in terms of defense. Around 25-30 pounds heavier, two inches taller and with a significantly longer wingspan, LeBron is much more of physical presence on the court. This makes him able to defend all five positions on the floor, from point guards to power forwards. LeBron also leads his team to defend as a unit, making it that much more effective. If they had ever played each other, LeBron could have likely come out on top in terms of defense.
LeBron is a better passer than Jordan ever was. He averages 7.4 assists per game, while the Bulls and Wizards star had only 5.3 assists in an average game. Unlike Jordan, LeBron has no problem letting go of the ball and passing it to a teammate. His ability to read the game and involve his team when needed makes him that much harder to play against, rather than an individual who keeps the ball all the time. Providing teammates with key assists are a big part of LeBron’s game, whereas Jordan was always seen as more of a selfish player.
Jordan Was The Best
No one could split a defense to score the game-winning shot like Jordan could. His dribbling, jumping, footwork and lethal scoring ability made him a nightmare to defend against. His lightning-fast first step often left opponents in the dust while he created space to score. It took until 2019 for someone (Lebron) to pass Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring records for most points scored on average during a season (30.12 a game). Offensively, Jordan was just unstoppable.
Jordan is very likely to have been the most clutch player that ever played the game. This means that he was able to raise his game when the pressure was the highest. His game winner, during his last Chicago Bulls game to secure the championship and his second three-peat with the team, stands out. Jordan won the NBA finals MVP award six times, twice as much as any other player. He was also a king at scoring the game-winning shot in the final seconds of play. On the other hand, even if he has outgrown it, LeBron still struggles to shed his label as a ‘choker,’ for having fallen direly short in big moments. Jordan is better because he always delivered the good when it really mattered.
Jordan is probably the biggest brand ambassador basketball and the NBA ever had. He was a mythical player, who moved and scored in ways that set him apart. His fadeaway jump shot. His up-and-under finish. His ability to make it look easy to slip by the other team’s defense. Jordan’s unique technique allowed him to jump in the air and ‘hang’ there that many fractions of a second longer than others. He could pull off dazzling moves that excited fans everywhere and brought many new ones to the sport. It was his almost alien talent that set him apart, landing him a role in the 1996 Looney Tunes movie Space Jam and making him a global household name.
The Bottom Line: While Jordan was more of a flashy individual talent, LeBron is a fantastic team player. Every conversation about who is the greatest NBA player of all time will undoubtedly include these two iconic names. Where do you stand? Do you prefer LeBron’s team-spirit or Jordan’s unique attacking ability?