Story by Hugh Preas '18
Personally, I side with Jordan when it comes to this debate, but James still has plenty of time left in his career to prove me wrong.
Jordan went to the finals six times and won all six. James has gone to seven finals, including the last six finals, and only won three total. As far as points go, Jordan sits about 4,000 points ahead of James while only playing 29 more regular season games. However, James leads Jordan in rebounds and assists. Based on these stats, James stands out as more of a team star. While he was the greatest player on the court, he expanded his greatness by getting others involved. Jordan, on the other hand, was more of a one-man show.
Many argue that James’s championship in Cleveland was more challenging and had more of an impact on the community than Jordan’s championships. Cleveland as a city had not won a championship in a major sport since 1964 before the Cavaliers, led by James, won the 2016 NBA championship. However, Jordan faced similar challenges in his first championship, as Chicago had only won one Super Bowl, in 1985, between a Stanley Cup in 1961 and the championships he brought in the 90s. Jordan, like James, brought a championship to a city that had not won in quite some time. Also, Jordan was able to win in Chicago without leaving his original city, unlike Lebron, who won two titles with the Miami Heat between 2010 and 2014 before his 2016 victory.
James’s and Jordan’s player efficiency ratings (PER) are interesting statistics. PER is an all-in-one stat that measures offensive performance based on minutes played, among other factors. Jordan is the number one all time in PER, and James is number two. Although this stat leaves out defensive performance, Jordan won defensive player of the year in the 87-88 season, while James has never won such an honor.
Off the court, Jordan played minor-league baseball with the Chicago White Sox and has proven himself to be an excellent golfer. Because he is able to excel at two other sports, Jordan has proven that his athleticism is all-around great, while James has only proven his athleticism on the basketball court. Also, Jordan conquered the basketball world in college, winning the NCAA Championship with the University North Carolina. This championship adds to his greatness by showing he could dominate at all levels of the game. Although this championship adds to Jordan’s resumé, it does not detract from James’s, as he joined the league straight out of high school and never had the opportunity to win the championship.
Personally, I believe that Jordan is the greatest player of all time for these reasons, but I can see James surpassing him in the next several years if James plays the right way. I think that the two are hard to compare on a basis of pure athleticism because they played such different positions in such different eras. However, James has plenty of time to become the best player of all time, and if he really deserves the title, he will make that clear in the next several seasons