MJ or LeBron or ???

By Hugh Williams

The Miami Heat are arguably the hottest team in the NBA right now, and a huge reason for that is the stellar play of LeBron James. His stats are outrageous through the first 52 games of the season, and his outstanding play has led to comparisons to the “GOAT” (Greatest of All Time), Michael Jordan. The go-to argument for Jordan fans is the fact that Jordan won 6 NBA Championships compared to James’ 1. What they leave out is that Michael Jordan won his 2nd ring when he was 28 years old. LeBron is currently 28, and will be 29 by the time the 2013 playoffs begin. He has plenty of time to even the score in regards to Championship rings.

Championships Advantage: Jordan, for now

Another vexing aspect of this debate is the fact that LeBron and Michael played in different generations. MJ played in a league full of accomplished big men such as Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwan, etc. LeBron is playing in a much smaller, athletic league with teams relying more on team speed and perimeter shooters than big, cumbersome centers. While Jordan had to contend with the freakish size of players in his day, James is dealing with opponents who are able to match his speed and quickness.

Competition Advantage: Toss-up

Legacy-wise, it is too early to tell what LeBron’s impact on the game will be. He is still in his prime, and he has around 6-8 effective years left in him. MJ has cemented himself as an icon of the game, with a ridiculously successful shoe and clothing line, ownership of a NBA franchise, and a huge fan base overseas. Many believe Michael Jordan and the Dream Team of the 1992 Olympics caused the increase in the number of European players in the NBA from 1992 to 2012. LeBron will have a chance in the upcoming Olympics in Rio to spread his influence in a region with a lukewarm attitude towards basketball.

Influence Advantage: Jordan, for now

It’s often said that the stats don’t lie, so let’s compare MJ’s and LeBron’s stats from age 21(Jordan’s rookie year) to 28 (LeBron’s current age). Jordan has the slight edge in scoring, 31.3 to 28.5, but took 23 shots/game compared to LeBron’s 20.2. LeBron has the advantage in assists, 6.9 to 5.5, and rebounds, 7.2 to 6.0. Defensively, their stats are virtually identical, but I give a slight edge to LeBron due to his size advantage while still being as quick and athletic as MJ. In terms of intangibles, MJ has the edge. He is, in my mind, the greatest competitor to play any sport, ever. Competition is what drove him on the court, and his fourth quarter playoff stats put LeBron’s to shame.

Advantage: Toss-up

So now it’s time for my decision. Who do I think is the greatest NBA player of all time? MJ and LeBron, while both amazing players and without a doubt two of the greatest players, are not the greatest of all time. My heart wants to say John Stockton, longtime Utah Jazz point guard, who holds NBA records in steals and assists and was responsible for over 50,000 points in his career, but there was no other player who produced like Wilt Chamberlain.

“Wilt the Stilt” averaged 30.1 points/game and 22.9 rebounds/game throughout his career. The NBA began keeping track of blocks after he retired because he rejected so many shots. And don’t forget the 100 point game. No one has been able to come close to that game. In his peak years he averaged 39.5 ppg and 25.1 rpg, blowing away MJ and LeBron’s stats. Make whatever argument you want against the difficulty of his competition, but the man could flat out play. Wilt Chamberlain is, in my opinion, the greatest NBA player of all time.

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