Does LeBron James Compare To Michael Jordan?

Photo: Keith Allison/Flickr/Creative Commons

Every great player wants to be one thing, and that’s like Mike. Long considered the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan leaves a legacy worth imitating. One player in particular seems to be on a similar path to greatness: LeBron James. We compared the two greats to see just how much they have in common.

James is just as clutch
The critics will say otherwise, but the stats prove that LeBron stands on even ground with Michael Jordan when it comes to making decisive shots. We were recently reminded of the fact last Sunday, when James scored his insane buzzer beater to close out Cleveland’s game against the Chicago Bulls. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst tweeted that the play put LeBron over Jordan in terms of playoffs go-ahead shots during the fourth quarter and overtime: LeBron’s gone six-for-10 in his career, while Jordan’s 5-for-11. LeBron has made three game-winning buzzer beaters during playoffs, the same number as MJ had throughout his 19-year career. If Jordan’s famous as a clutch player, LeBron is his peer in every sense of the word.

LeBron’s not the same kind of winner
LeBron wins battles, Jordan won wars. For all his clutch play LeBron’s finals record still doesn’t hold a candle to MJ’s—neither historically nor when compared to this generation of active NBA players. If the Cavs take it all this year, James will only just be breaking even. He has made it to the Finals matchup a total of five times, winning it twice as a member of the Miami Heat. By comparison, Jordan has gone an insane six for six. Tim Duncan is the only current player to approach MJ’s numbers, and he weighs in with a 5-1 championship record. If it makes James feel better, there’s little chance any active players will catch up to him in the near future.

LeBron’s following the partnership path Jordan blazed
LeBron is equally adept at scooping up the endorsements deals. While the comparison may seem inconsequential, the fact remains that Jordan was one of the first players who could thank his business savvy as much as his basketball skills for his fame. James, literally one of the most famous human beings on the planet, is in much the same boat. Jordan has a massive lead on James—he still pulls in as much as $100 million annually from Nike and other partners, according to Forbes—but the King makes roughly $44 million a year from his partnerships outside the NBA, making him the association’s biggest off-court earner.

Like Jordan, James is the greatest of his generation
LeBron James is easily the best player in recent memory. He has punched in almost 24,913 regular season points, 6,502 rebounds and 6,302 assists. (Those numbers give even MJ, who put up 26,920 points, 5,361 rebounds and 4,729 assists in his first 12 seasons, a run for his money.) LeBron’s honours? Rookie of the Year, scoring champ, four-time MVP, two-time champion, two-time finals MVP, 11-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA First Team, five-time All-Defensive First Team. Nobody else active in the association compares.

But LeBron’s still not the GOAT

At least, not yet. The 30-year-old James has another solid six to eight years left in his career, plenty of time to catch up to (and possibly surpass) Michael Jordan’s stats. His Airness only has 7,379 career points and 170 career rebounds on James, and the former has long left the game’s best player in the dust in terms of career assists. Because of this, pundits and fans alike will continue to draw comparisons between the two players in the coming years, but until LeBron closes the statistical gap and wins himself a literal handful of championship rings on top of that, the analogies are moot.
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