LeBron James has just won his second straight NBA Championship and his second straight Finals MVP, and as always, the comparisons to Michael Jordan are at an all time high so let’s take a look at how these two player’s careers stack up against each other 10 years in respectively.
First of all why did I choose to compare the two 10 years in? Why not both at age 28 (the age that LeBron is now). The answer is that it would be unfair. LeBron entered the league at aged 18 and therefore by age 28 he would have played 10 seasons in the NBA. Jordan on the other hand entered the league at age 21 and therefore at age 28 he would have only played 7 years in the league, in fact at age 28 Jordan has played almost 200 games less than LeBron (589 compared to 765 for James).
MJ: 3 – finished 2nd twice and 3rd twice
LBJ: 4 – finished 2nd once and 3rd once
MJ: 3 in 3 tries
LBJ: 2 in 4 tries
MJ: 3 – MJ became the first person in NBA history to win three consecutive finals MVP awards, a feat later repeated by himself and achieved by Shaquille O’Neal
Rookie of the Year:
Defensive player of the year:
MJ: 1 – The year MJ won DPOY he also led the NBA in steals per game, points per game and won MVP
Scoring Title and MVP in the same season:
MVP and Finals MVP in the same season:
Scoring Title and Steals Title in the same season:
Scoring Title, MVP and Finals MVP in the same season:
Scoring Title and Finals MVP in the same season:
MJ: 684 (MJ missed the majority of his second season with a broken foot and retired in 1993 and came back for the last 17 games of the 1994-1995 season)
Regular season averages:
Points per game:
Assists per game:
Rebounds per game:
Steals per game:
Blocks per game:
NBA Finals Breakdown and Comparison to the Regular Season:
A player’s numbers in an NBA Final should increase / be inflated due to the fact that only a maximum of 7 games can be played compared to a maximum of 82 games in the regular season and due to the fact that a player should raise their level of play when they get to the NBA Finals (due to the stakes being higher)
NBA Final: – 22ppg, 7.0rpg, 6.8apg, 1.0spg, 0.5bpg, 35.6% FG, 20.0% 3PT, 69.0% FT
Regular Season: 27.3ppg, 6.7rpg, 6.0apg, 1.6spg, 0.7bpg, 47.6% FG, 31.9% 3PT, 69.8% FT
Conclusion: LeBron’s play dropped when it pertained to: scoring (FG%, 3PT% and FT%), steals and blocks, however it increased when it came to rebounding and passing.
NBA Final: 17.8ppg, 7.2rpg, 6.8apg, 1.7spg, 0.5bpg, 47.8% FG, 32.1% 3PT, 60.0% FT
Regular Season: 26.7ppg, 7.5rpg, 7.0apg, 1.6spg, 0.6spg, 51.0% FG, 33.0% 3PT, 75.9% FT
Conclusion: LeBron’s play dropped when it pertained to: scoring (dramatically), FG%, FT% and 3PT%, additionally, despite his passive nature in this series, his assists declined as well as his rebounds, and blocks. His steals increased. Defensively LeBron was poor this series as those who have watched the series will know that Jason Terry (who actually out-scored LBJ – 18.0ppg on 49.4%FG and 39.3% 3PT) was often able to score and get to the basket easily.
NBA Final: 28.6ppg, 10.2rpg, 7.4apg, 1.6spg, 0.4bpg, 47.2% FG, 18.8% 3PT, 82.6% FT
Regular Season: 27.1, 7.9rpg, 6.2apg, 1.9spg, 0.8bpg, 53.1% FG, 36.2% 3PT, 77.1% FT
Conclusion: LeBron’s points per game increased however his FG% fell by approximately 6%, his 3PT% also decreased by almost 20% however his FT shooting increased. His rebounding and passing increased however his steals per game and blocks per game decreased. Defensively LeBron was sound in this series although some might bring up that Durant (the opposing SF) shot 55% and averaged 30ppg for the finals.
NBA Final: 25.3ppg, 10.9rpg, 7.0apg, 2.3spg, 0.9bpg, 44.7% FG, 35.3% 3PT, 79.5% FT
Regular Season: 26.8ppg, 8.0rpg, 7.3apg, 1.7spg, 0.9bpg, 56.5% FG, 40.6% 3PT, 75.3% FT
Conclusion: LeBron’s scoring dropped in points per game, FG% and 3PT%. His steals and rebounding increased as well as FT shooting. However, his passing decreased slightly. In my opinion this was by far his best finals series defensively as he showed great versatility in being able to guard Tony Parker in critical moments of various games, most noticeably in towards the end of game 6 and 7. Those that have watched the series will know that scoring wise, LeBron under-performed significantly for the first 3 games (failing to score over 20 points in either of them), however, he redeemed himself in the remaining 4 games.
LeBron’s Finals averages:
(4 NBA Finals – 22 games): 23.2ppg, 43.8 FG%, 9.0rpg, 7.0apg, 1.72spg, 0.59bpg, 26.5 3PT %, 72.7% FT
Overall conclusion: When it comes to the NBA Finals LeBron’s scoring and overall efficiency has decreased. He has raised his level of play when it pertains to rebounding and has continued to be an effective passer. Overall defensively he has shown some inconsistency but has excelled in the later NBA Finals series’.
NBA Final: 31.2ppg, 6.6rpg, 11.4apg, 2.8spg, 1.4bpg, 55% FG, 50% 3PT, 84.8% FT
Regular Season: 31.5ppg (led the league), 6.0rpg, 5.5apg, 2.7spg, 1.0bpg, 53.9% FG, 31.2% 3PT, 85.1% FT
Conclusion: In the finals Jordan raised his level of play when it pertained to: scoring, shooting (FG%, FT and 3PT) (his points per game decreased slightly), rebounding, passing (which doubled!), stealing, blocking and also defensively. Pippen did guard Magic for extended periods due to Jordan getting into foul trouble (games 1 and 2 of the series), however overall Jordan’s energy and effort on defence increased.
NBA final: 35.8ppg, 4.8rpg, 6.5apg, 1.7spg, 0.3bpg, 52.6% FG, 42.9 3PT%, 89.1% FT
Regular Season: 30.1ppg (led the league), 6.4rpg, 6.1apg, 2.3spg, 0.9bpg, 51.9% FG, .270 3PT%, 83.2% FT
Conclusion: In the finals Jordan raised his level of play when it pertained to: scoring, shooting (FG%, FT and 3PT – he set an NBA record 6 made three pointers in one half in game 1 of this series), passing and blocking. His steals and rebounding declined however those that have watched this series will know that this is probably Jordan’s best series defensively. He took Clyde Drexler (who finished second in MVP voting) out of his game offensively, so much so that Drexler’s shooting %’s fell from 47% FG and 33.7% 3PT in the regular season to 40.7% FG and 15.0% 3PT in the Finals.
NBA final: 41.0ppg (NBA Finals record – which still stands today), 8.5rpg, 6.3apg, 1.7spg, 0.7bpg, 50.8% FG, 40.0% 3PT, 69.4% FT
Regular season: 32.6ppg (led the league), 6.7rpg, 5.5apg, 2.8spg (led the league), 0.7bpg, 49.5% FG, 35.2% 3PT, 83.7% FT
Conclusion: In the finals Jordan raised his level of play when it pertained to: scoring (dramatically), FG%, 3PT% rebounding and passing. His level of play dropped when it came to steals and FT% and stayed the same when it came to blocks.
Overall Finals averages:
(3 NBA Finals – 17 games): 36.0ppg, 53.06 FG%, 7.2rpg, 8.06apg, 2.06spg, 0.8bpg, 44.3 3PT %, 81.1 FT%
Overall conclusion: When it came to the NBA Finals Jordan raised his overall level of play both offensively and defensively. While MJ was a prolific scorer, he showed the ability to adapt or adjust his game to different situations and increase his passing and/or rebounding numbers while still scoring at an increased rate.
Michael Jordan – (3 NBA Finals – 17 games): 36.0ppg, 53.06 FG%, 7.2rpg, 8.06apg, 2.06spg, 0.8bpg, 44.3 3PT %, 81.1 FT%
LeBron James – (4 NBA Finals – 22 games): 23.2ppg, 43.8 FG%, 9.0rpg, 7.0apg, 1.72spg, 0.59bpg, 26.5 3PT %, 72.7% FT
In the NBA Finals after their first 10 years Jordan has higher: scoring, FG%, 3PT%, FT% and assist averages, as well as having played better, more consistent defence. LeBron has the advantage when it pertains to rebounding.
Jordan faced the: 5th, 3rd and 9th best defence in the NBA, on average that’s the 5.6th best defence in the league.
LeBron faced the: 2nd, 8th, 11th and 3rd best defence in the NBA, on average that’s the 6th best defence in the league.
Perimeter defenders and teams in Jordan’s era were allowed to defend much more physically due to being able to hand-check, the absence of the 3 second rule etc.
Additionally MJ matched up against Magic and Drexler in 91 and 92 respectively, both of whom finished second in MVP voting that year (due to MJ winning MVP). In 93 MJ faced (but didn’t match up against) Charles Barkley, who won MVP that year (MJ finished third behind Hakeem).
In 2007 Duncan finished 4th in MVP voting and Parker finished 15th, in 2011 Dirk finished 6th in MVP voting, in 2012 Durant finished 2nd (LeBron won MVP and matched up against Durant) and in 2013 Parker finished 6th in MVP voting.
Overall, after 10 years in the NBA, Jordan had dominated the league at a higher level than LeBron from both an offensive and defensive stand point and had raised his level of play in all areas on a more consistent basis in the NBA final better than LeBron had.
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