Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Heat superstar LeBron James or Chicago Bulls Hall of Famer Michael Jordan. When it comes to the greatest player in the last generation, it’s come down to those two names and with each passing game; LeBron is getting closer to overtaking his airness.
Don’t ask LeBron to compare himself to Air Jordan, LeBron tweeted “I’m not MJ, I’m LJ.” Still, since Michael Jordan hung up his hightops, everyone has searched for the next MJ and whether or not LeBron wants to admit to it, he’s a player that is transcending the game just like M.J. did.
Physically, the two players are not close. LeBron stands 6’8” and weighs over 250 pounds while Jordan was 6’6” and weighed around 200 pounds. The two share incredible speed up and down the court and both can get to the basket or score from anywhere on the court.
Jordan, in his prime, was able to take any team on his back and carry them to victory; much like LeBron did for the Heat during the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. But breaking down the numbers between the two players shows just how close the two legendary players are in their game.
For the comparison, the ages of 24-28 were chosen as those are the most recent years for James.
From the age of 24-28, Michael Jordan averaged: 35, 32.5, 33.6, 31.5 and 30.1 points per game for an average of 32.6 points per game over the five-year period. Over the same time frame, LeBron has averaged: 28.4, 29.7, 26.7, 27.1, and 27.1 points per game, for an average of 27.8 points per game.
But for both MJ and LJ, their games weren’t just about scoring. From 24-28, Jordan averaged: 5.5, 8.0, 6.9, 6.0, and 6.4 rebounds per game for an average of 6.6 rebounds per game. LeBron, over the same time period, averaged: 7.6, 7.3, 7.5, 7.9, and 8.1 rebounds a game for an average of 7.7 rebounds per game.
Part of what separates LeBron from every other player currently in the NBA is his court vision. It helps his passing and is constantly setting up either opponents for him to blow by or teammates for an easy bucket.
Comparing Jordan and LeBron from the ages of 24-28 on the assist category breaks down with MJ averaging: 5.9, 8, 6.3, 5.5, and 6.1 assists per game, or 6.4 assists a game; LeBron has averaged 7.2, 8.6, 7, 6.2, and 6.9 assists a game the last five years for an average of 7.2 assists per game.
So breaking it down strictly on the big three statistics in basketball, Jordan is the superior scorer (32.6-27.8) over this time period while LeBron edges Jordan on rebounding (7.7-6.6) and assists (7.2-6.4).
One thing both players shared for much of their early career is they were the scoring option on their team. It wasn’t until the 1989-90 season when Scottie Pippen came into his own that Jordan truly had a second option on the Bulls.
LeBron is in Miami because he decided to join up with two prolific scorers in their own right, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. While LeBron has plenty of help now, he has continued to elevate his game to unforeseen heights.
Over the last six games, LeBron has averaged better than 30 points a game and shot more than 60 percent from the field. No other player in NBA history has been able to pull off that feat before LeBron.
But the one area that separates LeBron and Jordan is the championship rings. Jordan and LeBron both won their first championship at the age of 27. While LeBron’s future championships are unknown, Jordan went on to win five more NBA titles during his NBA career.
LeBron may not want to embrace the comparison to MJ, mainly because LeBron wants to be his own man.
Still, no player has played anywhere near the way Jordan did in his prime until LeBron in the last two years.
The similarities between their numbers are striking and one thing both shared is during their time in the NBA, both have been described as the best basketball player on the planet.
The only question left is once LeBron finishes his career is who will be known as the best basketball player of all-time.