In the sports world, there is something called the Goat debate (Goat stands for the greatest of all time) where people debate who the greatest of all time is in their respected sports. One of the most controversial Goat debates is for the National Basketball Association. The two main players that are frequently brought up in this debate are LeBron James and Michael Jordan. Their legacies and the accolades they both achieved as an individual player and as a team player are the reasons they are in the debate.
As an 18-year-old, LeBron was only the second player in NBA history to get drafted first overall as a high schooler. He came out of Saint Vincent-Saint Mary High School. Lebron James has been with three franchises: the Cleveland Cavaliers for 11 years, the Miami Heat for four years, and the Los Angeles Lakers for two years where he has two more years left on his current contracts. His primary position is small forward but can also play any position on the court. His talent extends from grabbing rebounds to throwing full-court passes to his teammates, driving to the basket, and throwing down a dunk.
LeBron has had one of the most successful and greatest careers in NBA history because of his ability to stay great for a long time. This upcoming season will be LeBron’s 18th year in the NBA, and not once in those 18 years has he averaged less than 25 points per game in a season. On top of his ability to stay great for a long period of time, LeBron also has many accolades to go along with his case in the Goat debate.
The future Hall of Famer, Lebron James, has four NBA championships, four NBA finals MVP, 16 All-NBA teams, 16 time All Star, three all-star game MVPs, rookie of the year, four-time NBA MVP, one assist title, one scoring title, six all-defensive teams, and one all-rookie first team. LeBron is also the only player in NBA history to lead his team down three to one in an NBA finals series and win the series.
LeBron James also has many controversial things on his resume for the Goat debate like getting swept in the finals twice, having six losses in his ten appearances in the NBA, and playing in the “soft” eastern conference for the majority of his career.
The other player in this debate, Michael Jordan, is also an all-time great in NBA history. Jordan was a primary shooting guard for his whole career while playing for the Chicago Bulls for 14 years and the Washington Wizards for two years.
On his resume, Jordan has six NBA championships, five MVPs, one DPOY, multiple time all-star, all NBA team numerous times, and a Hall of Famer in the NBA. Jordan is a primary scorer and that’s it.
Despite Jordan’s greatness, LeBron James is the greatest of all-time in NBA history. Critics will bring up his finals record to contradict this statement, but when you look at the records, LeBron James never had teammates like Michael Jordan and LeBron was matched up against more difficult opponents in the finals.
Back when Jordan played in the ’90s, he had one of the best players in NBA history as a teammate, Scottie Pippen, who led the Chicago Bulls in almost every stat possible as a Forward, while Michael Jordan only led in points. Jordan also had one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history, Dennis Rodman, who was an energetic player that fought for rebounds and would play extraordinary defense at all costs. Michael Jordan is six for six in the NBA finals, but he wouldn’t have won any if Scottie Pippen wasn’t there by his side.
LeBron James also had great teammates such as Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Kyrie Irving, and Anthony Davis. But, LeBron would still be the number one player on the team to take the last shot, guard the best player on the opposing team, and lead his team in stats. Jordan wasn’t capable of advancing to the NBA finals without Scottie Pippen let alone make the Bulls good in the playoffs , while LeBron has the ability to backpack his teammates and the coaching staff to an NBA finals appearance.
Even though Jordan has more accolades, LeBron still beats Jordan in stats, and as everyone says, “Stats never lie.” LeBron James has more points, assist, rebounds, minutes played, and blocks. LeBron also has more NBA Finals points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, minutes, games played, triple-doubles, three-pointers made, and double-doubles. LeBron James is playing more seasons than Jordan, but LeBron is still dominating the league at an elite level as a 35-year-old.
Looking at accolades isn’t accurate one bit because Bill Russell would be the unanimous winner of the Goat debate since he has 11 NBA championship rings, while the next player on the list is Sam Jones with ten championship rings.
Whenever people want to debate this topic, they bring up finals records and LeBron’s inability to play defense at 35-years-old. LeBron’s finals record shows his ability to play extreme basketball, but his finals opponents was the roadblock that kept LeBron from winning more championships. LeBron matched up against Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, and Dirk Nowitzki.
When you look at stats and overall accomplishments, LeBron beats Jordan with more points and LeBron falls a little short in awards and NBA championship rings, but not by a huge margin. Overall, LeBron James is the better player on the court and on the stat sheet.