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Competition is a powerful force in today’s society but also the greatest force in the world of competitive sports. Physical competitions as well as analytical competition are a driving force between athletes in the decision as to who is ultimately the best. In team sports, statistical comparison between players is not a very accurate analysis as to who is better, but in basketball when any given player has to play offense and defense one on one comparisons can be drawn to decide who is more talented. Michael Jordan and Lebron James are two of the more influential and impactful players in basketball history. Due to the different generations in which they played, many do not believe that their games are comparable but many sports analyst have compared them through their scoring, defense, clutch factor, achievements, play style, and factors such as the city, teammates, and coaches that impacted how they played. The game of basketball has greatly grown as the generations past and Lebron and Jordan both played in two completely different generations of basketball. During the 1990’s, Jordan’s era, the game was more dominated by skillful players than rather players with more athleticism. In today’s game that Lebron James plays in the game is more based on athleticism and strength. Lebron is only a short two inches taller than Jordan but holds a ravishing 35lbs over him. As time progressed the game changed greatly but the comparison between the two best players of their decades, Michael and Lebron, can still be drawn. Lebron and Jordan are two-dimensional players who strived on the defensive and offensive end of the court. Although there are many testimonials as to who is the better of the two, the statistical evidence of the offensive game, defensive game, and award winnings of Michael Jordan, he is better than Lebron James and can be classified as ‘one of the best players of all time.’
In order to be classified as ‘one of the best players of all time,’ one must be a two sided player, offensive and defensive. Lebron James and Michael Jordan were both league leaders in points, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage ever season they played which proved their elite classification as one of the greatest of all time. Being two of the most offensively efficient players ever, they earned half of their two-sided basketball player classification but based on both of their career numbers Michael Jordan is the better offensive player. Michael Jordan was 1 of 2 players to ever average 30+ points per game (ppg) for their career in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Jordan averaged a ravishing 30.1ppg for his career which is the greatest average in the history of the league were as Lebron James is 3rd on the list of all time leading scoring averages with 27.4ppg. Jordan averaged almost 3 more ppg than Lebron did. Having the best career average scoring average in the history of the league it is hard to deny the fact that Michael Jordan is the best player to ever play. To add on to his great success Michael averaged an enticing 37.1ppg in the 1986-87 season when Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to an NBA Championship. This was Jordan’s greatest scoring season of his career where as Lebron’s best yearly average was 31.1ppg in a year when the Cleveland Cavaliers did not win a Championship. In holding the greatest career scoring average title, Jordan also holds the title for most scoring titles. Michael Jordan held the scoring title in 10 of his 15 seasons in the NBA where Lebron had only 1 scoring title. Overall based on Michael Jordan’s statistical leadership over Lebron James, Jordan can be classified as an overall better offensive player than Lebron will ever be.
After earning their classifications as two of the most elite offensive threats in the game of basketball, they had to earn their role as amazing defensive players as well to be classified as ‘one of the best of all time.’ Although Lebron is one of the most pronounced defensive players of this era, Michael Jordan was just as known on the defensive end of the court as he was on offensive end of the floor. Jordan is the one of the most known athletes in the world for doing what he did for the game of basketball. Although Lebron did make the All Defensive first team (the best 5 defensive players in the league for a given season) 5 times, Michael Jordan did this 9 times. Jordan made the First Team 9 times in his 15 seasons in the NBA while Lebron only made it 5 times in 12 seasons. Even if Lebron were to make the First Team the next 3 seasons he will still not reach the bar Michael Jordan set in the defensive game of the NBA. Jordan also was named defensive player of the year once in his career while Lebron never earned this classification. This statistic helps to back the point that both sides of Jordan’s game are better than Lebrons. Although averaging the same exact amount of blocks per game, .8, through their careers, Michael Jordan averaged more steals per game than did Lebron. Jordan averaged 2.3 steals while Lebron only averaged 1.3. Jordan led the NBA in steals 3 times in his career, which is a large landmark in his standing in the defensive success. Both being very versatile defensive players with the ability defend most poisions, play excellent help defense, and create offense through their tenacity on the defense end of the floor they earned high classifications in the rankings of all time greatest defenders but Jordan has the upper hand due to his leadership over Lebron in many defensive categories and he was able to win many awards because of his acceleration on defense.
When wanting to be classified as one of the best to ever play the game a clutch factor must be present in the skill set of what a given player has to offer. Being clutch basically means pulling for your team when your team needs you most or when a game is at stack and this clutch factor was present in high volume in Michael Jordan’s arsenal of basketball weapons. Both playing for very successful basketball organizations, they both had numerous visits to the playoffs. Lebron went to the NBA finals 5 times, once with the Cleveland Cavaliers and four consecutive times with the Miami Heat. Out of his 5 finals appearances, he was only able to take home the championship twice. This shows a lack of the clutch power that Michael Jordan had. Jordan went to the finals six times and won the championship all six times. Also being the Most Valuable Player in all six finals he won, he portrayed true power in these critical situations for his team. He contained this clutch factor that Lebron does not have and will not have at all during his career. This is another element of Michael Jordan’s game that gives him an edge in being called a better players than Lebron James.
As much as overall skill lends to a players ability to perform the surrounding cast, coaches, and city depicts greatly how a player may play. A test of true is the ability to win a championship with a team that is not stacked with all-stars, and that is exactly what Michael Jordan was able to do. Playing with players like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and Dennis Rodman through his career, Michael Jordan was able to win 6 championship with the outstanding support of these role players who are not considered NBA leaders or all-stars like the types of player that Lebron played with. Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Shaquille O’Neil were all NBA all-stars at many points in their careers and were all-able to lead teams to success before uniting with Lebron James. Michael Jordans ability to win Championships with whatever role players he was given shows true skill and great character. Lebron, Wade, and Bosh, also knows as the Big 3, were only able to win two out of four championships they played in. Although some many argue that it is hard to win a Championship with that much strength on one team, it is also a heck of a lot harder to win one with players who aren’t as good. To help lead Michael Jordan to being one of the most successful basketball players of all time was Phil Jackson. Jackson is one of the most pronounced and successful coaches in NBA history having won numerous championships with both the Bulls and the Lakers. He was a great contributor in the success of Michael Jordan but the case was not the same for Lebron James as he was not coached by as pronounced coaches in Mike Brown and Erik Spoeltstra. Although many believe that skill is the ultimate test of an athletes abilities, the players and coaches they have to work with are really what proves a players true strength in the game of basketball and Michael Jordan had this strength while playing in the city of Chicago for his entire career.
Just as comparing the offensive and defensive games of two players can give you a good look as who may be better, comparing their various achievements can also convey information as to who may be better. Both Lebron James and Michael Jordan have won many awards because of their talent in the game of basketball. Michael Jordan had 10 scoring titles in his 15 seasons in the NBA along with 3 steals titles, while Lebron only had 1 scoring title and no other titles in any other categories. Although both very well rounded basketball players, Jordan had complete domination at the offensive end of the court in his 15 seasons in the NBA. Jordan was selected to 14 All- Star Games in his 15 seasons in the NBA and Lebron was selected to 11 in his 12 seasons in the NBA. These numbers are very similar portraying extreme acceleration for both athletes in this respect. One thing that makes Jordan stand out over Lebron is his 3 All-star MVP awards versus Lebron only winning this award twice. Jordan had 5 seasonal MVP awards versus Lebron’s four but Lebron still have more seasons ahead of him so he many be able to overtake Jordan in that category, but to justify Jordan the competition level in the years in which he played was much greater. The major award that Jordan had over Lebron are his 6 NBA Titles over Lebron’s 2. When making the argument as to who may be better people immediately report to the fact that Jordan has more titles and this makes him better. This is the biggest award in the NBA so it helps to justify the fact that Jordan is better than Lebron. All the awards shared between these two portray the extraordinary talent they have in the game of basketball but Michael Jordan’s line of Championship trophies portray great strength in the game.
When it comes to their style of play both Lebron James and Michael Jordan are very diverse players. Lebron’s 6’ 6” height and 250 lbs body makes it very easy for Lebron to get into the lane, muscle up defenders, and finish with ease. Michael Jordan’s more slender body allows for extreme quickness and his ability to shoot jump shots at a very high percentage forces defenders to guard him thus giving him the ability to pass defenders and penetrate the lane. Having a very threatening jump shot, guarding Michael Jordan was very difficult and this is what helped lead to his great offensive success over his career. Having to make a choice as a defender to guard Jordan’s jump shot risked him being able to beat you and attack the basket and if one were to stop him from penetrating it would leave his jump shot open. This diversity on offense created a great difficulty for the defense that had to face Michael Jordan and helped lead Michael Jordan and his team to many successful seasons.
Many athletes are driven by competitive forces and these forces help these athletes strive for greatness. Analyst of these competitive natures between players such as Lebron James and Michael Jordan have to take into account many factors such as the players offensive game, defensive game, ability to play under pressure, the enviorment the player is playing in, and their overall achievements. These two players are two of the most influential players in basketball players in the history of the National Basketball Association due to their success in all aspects of their game. Both players played in different era of basketball and the game itself is very different based on the generations at which they played. Both being one of the most diverse players of their time, they both strived for and reached greatness but Michael Jordan deserves higher praise for his contributions to the basketball world. Although there is no real answer to the question as to who is the better of the two, through Michael Jordan’s greater success on offense and defense he can be classified as ‘one of the best of all time.’
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