Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Key Stats You Need To Know In The GOAT Debate

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The ESPN documentary series “The Last Dance” showed a young generation of NBA fans that Michael Jordan is more than a guy selling retro sneakers. For those who witnessed Jordan’s greatness over the course of two-three rounds with the Bulls, it reinforced the belief that he is the greatest player to ever hit the pitch.

A current star complicated this GOAT conversation (the biggest ever), of course. There’s an argument to be made to put LeBron James above Jordan, and James’ case only got stronger after leading the Lakers past the Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals.

AFTER: The best MJ game that you sure don’t remember

Bill Bender of Sporting News has a helpful guide with the most important talking points if you’re up to discuss MJ vs. LeBron, but we’re just here to provide you with the facts you need to justify your choice. Don’t be the shouting “six rings” person without a backup plan.

Here’s a look at where the GOAT debate is going …

(All statistics are up to date as of February 17, 2021)

(Getty Images)

Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: regular season stats

Jordan is superior in the scoring department, but James catches rebounds and distributes passes at a higher rate. While both players are known for their tenacious defense on the wing, Jordan has finished first in the league in interceptions three times in his career. James has yet to win a steals title.

In terms of longevity, James has a clear advantage. The gap between the totals will widen as long as James remains healthy, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down at 36.

Jordan By part James
30.1 Points 27.0
6.2 Rebounds 7.5
5.3 Help 7.4
2.3 Fly 1.6
0.8 Blocks 0.8
2.7 Turnover 3.5
38.3 Minutes 38.3
49.7 Field objective% 50.4
32.7 3 points% 34.5
83.5 Free throw % 73.4

Jordan Totals James
1,072 Games 1,294
32,292 Points 34 985
6,672 Rebounds 9 642
5 633 Help 9,576
2,514 Fly 2,045
893 Blocks 972
2 924 Turnover 4,532
41,011 Minutes 49,557

Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: advanced regular season stats

It all depends on what category you choose when it comes to advanced stats. VORP and Win Shares favor James, but PER and Box Plus / Minus go to Jordan.

Pick a side, nerds! (It’s a term of affection.)

Jordan Advanced James
27.9 Player effectiveness evaluation 27.4
116.1 Value vs. replacement 136.0
9.2 Plus / minus box 8.9
214.0 Earn shares 240.6
56.9 Real shot% 58.6
33.3 % Usage 31.5

(Getty Images)

Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: playoff stats

The playoff stats reflect what Jordan and James produce during the regular season. Despite James’ increased use and efficiency beyond the arc over the course of his career, it should be noted that he shoots roughly the same percentage as Jordan from 3 points.

Oh, and the lazy tale claiming that James is shrinking in big games – his postseason lines are often more impressive than his regular-season performances. This is not a smart way to argue against him.

Jordan Playoffs per game James
33.4 Points 28.8
6.4 Rebounds 9.0
5.7 Help 7.2
2.1 Fly 1.7
0.9 Blocks 1.0
3.1 Turnover 3.7
41.8 Minutes 41.6
48.7 Field objective% 49.6
33.2 3 points% 33.5
82.8 Free throw % 74.1

Jordan Elimination totals James
179 Games 260
5,987 Points 7,491
1,152 Rebounds 2,348
1,022 Help 1,871
376 Fly 445
158 Blocks 250
546 Turnover 950
7,474 Minutes 10 811

Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: advanced playoff stats

Jordan is the all-time playoff leader in PER and Box Plus / Minus, and he has the highest use percentage. But James dominates everyone in VORP and Win Shares.

So yeah, these guys are pretty good.

Jordan Advanced James
28.6 Player effectiveness evaluation 28.4
24.7 Value vs. replacement 33.2
11.1 Plus / minus box 10.2
39.8 Earn shares 55.3
56.8 Real shot% 58.4
35.6 % Usage 32.1

(Getty Images)

Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: honors and awards

And here’s the big one. Jordan fans have the championships in their back pockets. MJ had a perfect 6-0 in the NBA Finals and never needed a Game 7 to win these series.

James went 4-6 in his 10 NBA Finals appearances, but he also controlled the Eastern Conference with the Cavaliers and Heat for almost an entire decade.

Jordan Braces James
6 Championships 4
5 MVP 4
6 MVP of the final 4
11 All-NBA 16
9 Total defense 6
14 All-Star 16
ten Rating titles 1


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