Now before you want to crucify me and leave this article, hear me out. I want to persuade you. I want to help expand your thinking for you to truly appreciate the greatness that we get to see every day before it is too late. I don’t want you to fall victim to the old saying that you “don’t know what you have until it is gone.”
Let me first begin by acknowledging why I am writing this piece. It all stems from the past 12 playoff games LeBron James has played. Ever since Klay Thompson said that James “may have gotten his feelings hurt” LeBron James has been on a run that is historic. He has averaged 35.5 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists. All of this while NEVER shooting below 50% from the field. Oh yeah, and he beat a team that went 73-9 in the Finals, forcing them to sign the best scorer on the planet in the off-season to have the chance of dethroning him. I can go on and on with his numbers but why don’t we compare him to his the two players closest to him in all-time rankings; Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. In doing so, I will compare James and Bryant through their first 14 seasons since they both were drafted out of high school. For Jordan and James, I will compare them by age 32 since Jordan was in college for three years.
What is Kobe Bryant better at than LeBron James? Oh he’s a better scorer. Is he though? Through each of their first 14 seasons, LeBron averaged two more points per game than Bryant, while shooting 5% better from the field, and one less shot per game.
Oh, Kobe has a “killer instinct” and LeBron doesn’t. Yea, Kobe is the all-time leader in killer instincts per game. I don’t know what that means but whatever it is, it’s worthless. If Bryant had a better “killer instinct” he wouldn’t have averaged fewer points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks than James in the playoffs while shooting a worse percentage as well.
I will acknowledge this, LeBron James looked poor in the 2011 Finals against the Mavericks. It was a terrible performance by a superstar when he was the favorite in the series. Is that why he doesn’t have a “killer instinct” Well how about when Kobe shot 7-22 in game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, a game in which the Lakers lost by THIRTY-NINE points. In an NBA Finals-clinching, back against the wall game 6, Mr. Killer Instinct came up shot below 33% from the field in a 39 point loss. This isn’t to slander Kobe, I think Kobe is an all-time great. This is to show that poor performances do happen on the biggest stage.
Well, Kobe is a better shooter. Sorry to break it to you Mamba fans but LeBron and Kobe have identical three-point percentages through their first 14 years in the league.
So if LeBron is a better scorer, rebounder, defender, and passer, a greater offensive, and defensive rating, more win shares, and a better value over replacement player than Kobe, then why is their an argument? “FIVE RINGS CHUCK. FIVE RINGS.” Yea stop with that, Kobe was the second best player on his team for 3 of those rings. “KOBE WAS LOYAL!” Oh the same loyal Kobe that demanded a trade to Chicago in 2007. It’s time to give up Kobe fans, your man has been beaten. Convincing you that LeBron is better than Jordan will be tougher but I will do it so stick with me. If you have read past the first paragraph and are willing to open your mind you are a real one.
Okay let’s get into it here, Michael Jordan has more accomplishments. Fine. Remember, LeBron still isn’t done, six rings are very much in play for him. I don’t want to hear “well he’s lost 4 times in the finals.” Well, the fact is he has never lost in the first round like Jordan and you can’t penalize someone for dominating a conference so badly that he is on the verge of making his 7th straight NBA Finals. A streak so prestigious that it hasn;t been done since the legendary Celtics teams in the 60’s. Is Jordan the better scorer than LeBron? Sure, Jordan averaged 5 more points per game but did it on 4 more shots per game. LeBron shoots 34% from three to Jordan’s 33%. LeBron shoots 54% from two to Jordan’s 52%. LeBron is the far superior passer than Jordan and a better rebounder. Oh, so LeBron affects the game in more ways than Jordan while being an identical scorer. Interesting.
Let’s look at narratives like “LeBron needed other stars to succeed.” Yea well Jordan never won a playoff series until Scottie Pippen got there. How about my favorite “Jordan never lost in the Finals!” Jordan was also never the underdog in the Finals. LeBron has been favored twice in the Finals, in 2011 against Dallas and in 1012 against Oklahoma City. I don’t know why it is a detriment to LeBron that he dragged Boobie Gibson and Larry Hughes to the Finals to get swept by the dynasty that was the San Antonio Spurs.
You wanna talk playoffs to? There have been 19 playoff games in which a player had 37-9-7 since LeBron enetered the league. He has 15 of them. LeBron, just as much as Jordan, shows up when it matters most.
When you look past all of the numbers it is really quite simple. If you had to win one game, you are taking the player that does the most on a basketball court, and does it the most efficiently. That man is LeBron James.