The ESPN documentary series “The Last Dance” showed a younger generation of NBA fans that Michael Jordan is much more than just a guy who sells retro sneakers. For those who witnessed Jordan’s greatness over the course of two three-throws with the Bulls, it confirmed the belief that he is the best player to ever touch the field.
A current star obviously complicated this conversation with GOAT (the greatest of all time). There’s an argument for putting LeBron James over Jordan, and James’ case didn’t get stronger until he led the Lakers past the heat in the 2020 NBA Finals.
MORE: The greatest MJ game that you definitely won’t remember
Sporting News’ Bill Bender has a helpful guide to the top talking points when you’re ready to debate MJ vs LeBron. However, we’re only here to provide the facts you need to justify your choice. Don’t be the person who screams “six rings” with no backup plan.
Here’s a closer look at where the GOAT debate stands …
(All statistics current as of February 17, 2021)
Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Regular Season Stats
Jordan is superior in the scoring department, but James is reaching for rebounds and giving assists at a higher rate. While both players are known for their stubborn defense on the wing, Jordan finished first in the league three times in his career. James hasn’t stolen a title yet.
In terms of longevity, James has a clear advantage. The gap in the total will widen as long as James stays healthy and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down by the age of 36.
Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Advanced Regular Season Statistics
It’s about which category you choose when it comes to advanced statistics. VORP and Win stocks favor James, but PER and Box Plus / Minus go to Jordan.
Pick a side, nerds! (It’s a term of tenderness.)
|27.9||Assessment of player efficiency||27.4|
|116.1||Worth over replacement||136.0|
|9.2||Box plus / minus||8.9|
Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Playoff Statistics
The playoff stats reflect what Jordan and James produce during the regular season. Despite James’ increased use and efficiency of the outside of the bow over the course of his career, it’s worth noting that from the 3-point range he shoots roughly the same percentage as Jordan.
Oh, and the lazy tale of James shrinking in big games – his postseason lines are often more impressive than his regular season performances. It’s not a smart way to argue against him.
|Jordan||Playoffs per game||LeBron|
Michael Jordan v LeBron James: Advanced Playoff Statistics
Jordan is the all-time leading playoff provider on PER and Box Plus / Minus and has the highest usage percentage. But James is a leader in VORP and Win Shares.
So yeah, these guys are pretty good.
|28.6||Assessment of player efficiency||28.4|
|24.7||Worth over replacement||33.2|
|11.1||Box plus / minus||10.2|
Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Awards and Prizes
And here is the big one. Jordan fans have championships in their back pockets. MJ scored a perfect 6-0 in the NBA final and never took Game 7 to win this series.
James has won 4-6 in his 10 NBA finals, but he also controlled the Eastern Conference with the Cavaliers and Heat for nearly a decade.