For the past decade, football fans across the globe have bickered over the biggest question of them all – Ronaldo or Messi?
Given that the overwhelming majority of the world’s top managers pick the Argentinian, I think it’s a no-brainer, but we should just count ourselves fortunate that we’re watching two of the finest sportsmen to ever live, pushing each other to greatness.
When it comes to basketball, and especially in the wake of the Los Angeles Lakers winning the NBA Championship this past weekend, the question being asked is LeBron or Michael – who is the GOAT?
That’s ‘greatest of all time’, for those not down with the lingo.
The Lakers win was LeBron’s fourth NBA Championship, won with three different teams (Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Lakers), and his Finals MVP award makes him the first player in history to win the award with three different franchises.
On the flip side, all you have to do is watch The Last Dance to appreciate the greatness of Michael Jordan. Yes, it’s very much a PR exercise designed for that exact purpose, but it remains one hell of a series.
So, James or Jordan, LeBron or Michael? Forbes laid out some playoff stats that make for interesting reading, starting with a breakdown of various categories since 2000.
That’s post-Jordan, but James is the runaway leader in points, assists, defensive rebounds, and steals, and ranks second in three-pointers, behind the machine-like Steph Curry.
How about the all-time post-season stats?
LeBron James: 7,491
Michael Jordan: 5,987
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 5,762
Magic Johnson: 2,346
LeBron James: 1,871
John Stockton: 1,839
LeBron James: 445
Scottie Pippen: 395
Michael Jordan: 376
Stephen Curry: 470
LeBron James: 414
Ray Allen: 385
The Forbes article goes into greater depth regarding LeBron’s most recent Championship, and how he drove the Lakers on with a superhuman display, which has become a trademark in the Finals.
We’ll gloss over that and head to the final paragraph:
LeBron James, who still clearly has plenty of gas left in the tank, already has more career points than Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, more career assists than Isiah Thomas or Gary Payton, more career rebounds than Larry Bird or Willis Reed, more career steals than Allen Iverson and Magic Johnson, more career blocks than Scottie Pippen or Yao Ming, more career 3-pointers than Kevin Durant or Peja Stojaković, and more career triple-doubles than Wilt Chamberlain or James Harden, while posting a higher career FG% than Moses Malone or Michael Jordan.
Sounds to me like Tommy Beer, who wrote the article, is leaning towards LeBron.
Of course, this one really depends on who you ask.
Both of those are worth a glance, but I think this ESPN article – ‘LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan: Why the GOAT debate is different now‘, is my pick of the bunch.
Basketball fans might want to read that one in full, but here’s the ending:
LeBron’s ceaselessness must be heard. Jordan did not, or would not, endure this long at the top…
For some, perfection is all that matters. LeBron could never unseat Jordan. To win one game, their answer will always be Jordan — and in that framing, it’s hard to disagree all that strongly.
But the totality of LeBron’s career is undeniable. If he wins one more title, and has maybe two more seasons almost on par with this one, the grounds for Jordan as the greatest ever — the criteria by which he “wins” the debate — will get precariously narrow. There is a chance, maybe a good one, LeBron drives this GOAT conversation closer to a consensus than anyone would have imagined possible a decade ago.
LeBron still has juice in the tank, and his powers have certainly not waned.
This one isn’t over yet.
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