Is LeBron Really Better Than Jordan and Kobe?

Photo: Keith Allison/Flickr

Photo: Keith Allison/Flickr

There was “The Decision.” There were accusations of carpetbagging and criticism for leaving Cleveland. For a while, some folks wondered if LeBron James would ever be as good as Dwayne Wade. A few NBA titles and MVP awards later, LeBron James is getting his due with the label of Greatest Player on the Planet. In fact, LeBron’s body of work has become so impressive that the “best ever” talk is surfacing with regularity. Forget the trash talk. Here’s how LeBron’s stats show he’s got the potential to surpass even His Airness, Michael the Great.

LeBron vs. Kobe

To enter the all time great discussion, LeBron had to prove himself against the sport’s reigning royalty. Kobe Bryant has been the benchmark in the post-Michael Jordan era. In terms of killer instinct and championship closing ability, few players have ever performed on Kobe’s level. However, LeBron’s career stats at the age of 29 show advantage King James on many counts.

After playing a nearly identical number of games before the age of 29, LeBron averaged 27.5 points per game (PPG) to Kobe’s 24.6 PPG; 7.2 rebounds per game (RPG) to Kobe’s 5.2 RPG; and, last but not least, LeBron’s 6.9 assists per game (APG) over the course of that span make Kobe’s 4.5 APG seem minimal. Factor in LeBron’s 4 MVP trophies at age 29 (Kobe=0) and you have case closed, even with Kobe’s 3 titles to LeBron’s 2 at that point. After all, he played for Shaq’s Lakers, not Z’s Cavs. Next up: Lord Michael.

Favorable comparisons to JordanĀ 

At the age of 29, Michael Jordan had already gobbled up 2 MVP trophies and won an NBA championship while averaging a ridiculous 32.3 PPG. However, LeBron had bested MJ in several key categories.

While pumping in 27.5 PPG to Jordan’s 32.3 PPG, James averaged 1 APG and 0.9 RPG more than Jordan while trailing MJ by one steal per game (SPG). In addition, LeBron already had 2 MVPs more than Michael at 29, plus an extra championship to go with King James’s back-to-back Finals MVP awards.

Unlike LeBron and Kobe, Jordan did three years of college before turning pro, which can either bode well or poorly for LeBron in his quest to best MJ’s career. James has three more seasons of wear and tear on him than Michael did at age 29. On the other hand, LeBron James’s field goal percentage (FG percent) has climbed every year since the 2006 season to reach its current, impossible apex of .577. Michael’s FG percent peaked at .539 in his seventh season at age 27.

In other words, LeBron James is getting more efficient every year while improving his outside game. As he proved in his 61-point onslaught against the Charlotte Bobcats March 3, LeBron going 8-10 from behind the 3-point line makes him the deadliest weapon in history. If that outside game continues at a high level, LeBron’s unstoppable drives make him indefensible.

Can LeBron’s body hold together while his supporting casts remain strong enough to get him more titles? If so, there’s no question LeBron James will have the stats and championship trophies that put him on Michael Jordan’s all time great level. The question is whether he’ll ever attain that legendary status. There’s plenty of basketball left for him to try.

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