NBA Talk: LeBron James or Michael Jordan?


Aug 26, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Former basketball great Michael Jordan sits in Roger Federer

Welcome Pippen Peoples to NBA Talk! This discussion will be a doozy. Who’s better, Michael Jordan or LeBron James? There was a discussion amongst the staff of Pippen Ain’t Easy. Pippen Ain’t Easy’s Editor, Ronald Agers is old school so we went back and forth. So we decided to settle it on paper.

We all grow up watching a player and then that sets the bar for everyone else we see. What we don’t really realize is that when you have a childhood hero like a LeBron James or Michael Jordan then in your head you become biased with your views and makes that star player impossible to unthrone. We’ll as great as Jordan was, he will get unthroned as the all-time great, by perhaps a LeBron James and LeBron James will be unthroned perhaps by an Andrew Wiggins, or Jabari Parker. We don’t know but we have to keep an open mind to all scenarios.

I’m a Bulls fan, and all my friends absolutely can’t stand LeBron James, and I  don’t get it. LeBron James is undoubtedly the greatest player on the planet and is an athlete that we have never seen before. We’ve never seen a power forward, with point guard ball handling skills, point guard speed and an improving deadly three pointer. On top of all that, he can pass the ball with ease, and makes his teammates astronomically better. Even if you believe Jordan is better, why can’t you just appreciate watching the greatest player on the planet today?

What qualifies a player to become the greatest of all-time?

  • Championships
  • Scoring
  • Passing/ Rebounding

Championships: I don’t believe that championships define a player but some people do. They believe that championships are literally the only thing that matters, but if that is the case then Michael Jordan isn’t on the same planet as Bill Russell. LeBron James can’t compete with Michael Jordan in titles and with this new move back to Cleveland, winning four more rings might be a bit of ridiculous expectations. The way I look at it, LeBron James is still getting to these big games, just besides the one finals where he didn’t show up in 2010, he’s been good in the NBA Finals.

LeBron James v. Michael Jordan in NBA Final Games  


The conception that LeBron James got more calls than Michael Jordan, is also a false conception. LeBron James averaged 3 less free throw attempts than Michael Jordan in NBA Final games, so Jordan is the one who is getting the calls.

Basketball is a team game. One player doesn’t win NBA Finals single handily. It’s not possible. Just this year, we saw LeBron James average 28-points and shoot 57% from the field and 51% from behind the 3-point line and they got blown out in three of the five NBA Finals games. Jordan although he was the best player on the Bulls had tremendous help from Scottie Pippen. Before Pippen and Phil Jackson arrived in Chicago Jordan struggled in the post season. Everyone needs help, everyone has bad games, but it’s how you respond from those bad games that separates champions from ringless players.

Scoring: People like production, they associate the guy who scores the most on the team means that they are the best players on their respected team. Although that’s not the case, people think it so lets compare the scoring category. I don’t look at just scoring, I also like to look at efficiency. Because if you score 20 points on 40-shots you aren’t really that good of a player. You are labeled as a high volume shot taker, which is why you score points. Let’s look at the regular season points per game and the playoffs points per game, along with efficiency for both:

PPGFG%3P%Playoffs PPGPlayoffs FG%Playoffs 3P%

Assist/ Rebounding: In order to have the title of greatest in the game you should definitely have talent in all aspects of the game. Scoring isn’t everything and anyone will tell you a pure scorer will never be able to win championship. You have to be able to pass and rebound at a high level. Teammates respond better when they see the best player on the team willing to pass the ball and do the dirty work. Let’s look at those numbers:

APGRPGPlayoff APGPlayoff RPG


LeBron James looking at the numbers already unthrones Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all time. If you take the championships out of it, you can’t even make an argument for Jordan. If you put the championships in it, then Michael Jordan is still behind Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Bill Russell just based off of stats and championships alone. I stop letting championship rings cloud my judgement. I just look at the facts now, and LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan was. I’m not here to destroy Michael Jordan’s legacy because he is one of the greatest player in NBA history, but if you told me I get one player to build my franchise around and I can pick anybody. Then my pick would LeBron James.

If you don’t like LeBron James, that’s your call. But I think he’s better or at least close enough to be in the conversation.