Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James Part 1. Statistics 

Boh Suh, Staff Writer

Both 2020 United States presidential and vice presidential debates have been trending for a while, and so does the debate about Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James lately (or in the past seven years…). After LeBron James led the Los Angeles Lakers team to the National Basketball Association (NBA) champion on the 11th of October 2020, the debate of who is the Greatest Of All Time (G.O.A.T or simply GOAT) in the NBA became everyday topic. This topic has been brought up for many years since LeBron James was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Before going into talking about this I want to say that I enjoy watching two of the best NBA players, and I want to appreciate the greatness of both players. I divide the debate into two parts as the first part focuses on mainly statistics in regular season and playoff, and the second part on the next issue focuses on conditions around the two players. The data I am getting from is from ESPN.com. 

Regular season achievements (First number is per game and the second number is career number) 

Field Goal Percentage: 49.7% (Jordan) vs. 50.4% (James) 

Free Throw Percentage: 83.5% (Jordan) vs. 73.4% (James) 

3 point Percentage: 32.7% & 581 made (Jordan) vs. 34.4% & 1875 made (James) 

Rebounds: 6.2 & 6672 (Jordan) vs. 7.4 & 9405 (James) 

Assists: 5.3 & 5633 (Jordan) vs. 7.4 & 9346 (James) 

Blocks: 0.8 & 893 (Jordan) vs. 0.8 & 957 (James) 

Steals: 2.3 & 2514 (Jordan) vs. 1.6 & 2015 (James) 

Points: 30.1 & 32292 (Jordan) vs. 27.1 & 34241 (James) 

Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award: 6 (Jordan) vs. 4 (James) 

Defensive Player of the Year: 1 (Jordan) vs. 0 (James) 

Rookie of the Year: 1 (Jordan) vs. 1 (James) 

All NBA Team: 11 (Jordan) vs. 16 (James) 

All-Defensive Team: 9 (Jordan) vs. 6 (James) 

All-Star MVP: 3 (Jordan) vs. 3 (James) 

In regular season, Jordan played 1072 games (38.3 minutes per game) and James has played 1265 games (38.4 minutes per game). One thing to note is that Jordan’s return late in his career after retirement to play for the Washington Wizards brought down some of his per game (but some are increased). However, I still wanted to compare to entire career of Jordan rather than nitpick his Chicago Bulls’ season. It is the same as I am getting rid of James’s pre-Miami Heat playoff records to make him look better.  

I predict that James’ cumulative stats will be higher and per game stats will be lower by the time he retires. I am curious to see if James surpasses Jordan in steal category. Currently, he needs exactly 500 more steals in the regular season. In the most recent COVID-19 pandemic season (2019-2020), James had 78 steals in 67 game span and 116 steals in 82 full game spans in 2017-2018 season. It is difficult to predict whether the full 82 NBA games will be played in 2020-2021, but if James has 70-100 steals per season, he needs five to seven years. 

Post season achievements (First number is per game and the second number is career number) 

Field Goal Percentage: 48.7% (Jordan) vs. 49.6% (James) 

Free Throw Percentage: 82.8% (Jordan) vs. 74.1% (James) 

3 point Percentage: 33.2% & 148 made (Jordan) vs. 33.5% & 414 made (James) 

Rebounds: 6.4 & 1152 (Jordan) vs. 9.0 & 2348 (James) 

Assists: 5.7 & 1022 (Jordan) vs. 7.2 & 1871 (James) 

Blocks: 0.9 & 158 (Jordan) vs. 1.0 & 250 (James) 

Steals: 2.1 & 376 (Jordan) vs. 1.7 & 445 (James) 

Points: 33.4 & 5987 (Jordan) vs. 28.8 & 7491 (James) 

Finals MVP: 6 (Jordan) vs. 4 (James) 

In post season, Jordan played 179 games (41.8 minutes per game) and James has played 260 games (41.6 minutes per game). Similar to regular season, James is leading most categories in both per game and total stats. Playing 81 more games, which is almost a full NBA season helps to total for James, but it is very impressive that James leads in many per game categories against Jordan. I also wanted to breakdown playoff appearances into finals, conference finals, and conference semi finals appearance. I was not sure if I should include those statistics because basketball is a team sport, but I still include them below here in case anyone is curious. This will be discussed more in the next article. 

Championship Rings: 6 (Jordan) vs. 4 (James) 

Playoff Appearance: 13 (Jordan) vs. 14 (James) 

Finals Appearance: 6 (Jordan) vs. 10 (James) 

Conference Finals Appearance: 8 (Jordan) vs. 12 (James) 

Conference Semi Finals Appearance: 10 (Jordan) vs. 14 (James)