With LeBron James about to break the all time scoring record, the never ending debate about who is the greatest ever will kick into another gear. Until LeBron came along, it was widely agreed that Michael Jordan was the greatest ever, and that Kobe Bryant was the closest thing we will ever see to Jordan. But since LeBron has topped Jordan in career numbers, people want to proclaim LeBron as the greatest ever. I’m here to provide a voice of reason using logic and facts why Jordan is the greatest and why LeBron isn’t even in his orbit, or Kobe’s.
While it is true that LeBron has more career points than Jordan in the regular season and playoffs, it’s taken him many more games to do it. He’s played 300 more regular season games and 80 more playoff games than Jordan. If Jordan played as many regular season games as LeBron and maintained his career averages, he would have 43,000 regular season points and 8,900 playoff points, far more than what LeBron has.
Despite playing fewer games and seasons than LeBron, Jordan has 10 scoring titles to LeBron’s 1, while Kobe has 2. Jordan and Kobe both have 9 first team all-defensive selections, including a defensive player of the year for Jordan, while LeBron has 5, and hasn’t won defensive player of the year. Showing Jordan’s defensive prowess, he won 3 steals titles. LeBron has never won it. It’s not about longevity, it’s about efficiency.
And when it comes to longevity, where LeBron would have an opportunity to top Jordan, he still falls short. Jordan has 5 regular season MVPs to LeBron’s 4. And in the NBA, unlike other team sports, you CAN judge a player by his postseason success because everyone plays both ways in basketball. This is the biggest reason why LeBron isn’t in Jordan’s orbit, or even Kobe’s for that matter.
Jordan is 6-0 in the finals, has 6 finals MVPs, never needed a game 7, and was never bailed out by a teammate. Kobe is 5-2 in the finals, has 2 finals MVPs, once needed a game 7, and was only bailed out by a teammate once, when Robert Horry saved the Lakers 2002 title run in the Western Conference Finals against Sacramento. LeBron is 4-6 in the finals, has 4 finals MVPs, has twice needed a game 7, and has been bailed out twice by teammates, when Ray Allen and Kyrie Irving made clutch 3s in 2013 and 2016 respectively.
When I say Jordan was never bailed out by a teammate, they point to the shots John Paxson and Steve Kerr made. This is a false equivalency. Because first off, those were designed plays to find the open man out of the double team. The shots Allen and Kyrie made were scrambles off broken plays. Second, and most importantly, is the situation those shots were made. Jordan was leading the series 3-2 when Paxson and Kerr made their shots. If Paxson misses, Jordan has game 7. If Kerr misses, Jordan has overtime and game 7. If Allen misses, LeBron is eliminated, as he was trailing 3-2 in the series, and he was trailing in the game. If Kyrie misses, LeBron is eliminated as it was game 7. That’s why LeBron will never top Jordan or Kobe.
Michael Jeffery Jordan. The best there ever was. The best there ever will be.