ESPN’s documentary series “The Last Dance” showed a younger generation of NBA fans that Michael Jordan is much more than just a guy who sells retro sneakers. For those who witnessed Jordan’s greatness over the course of two three mobs with the Bulls, it reinforced the belief that he is the greatest player to ever touch the court.
A current star has complicated that GOAT conversation (the greatest of all time), of course. There is an argument for putting LeBron James over Jordan, and James’s case only got stronger after he led the Lakers to beat the Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals.
MORE: MJ’s Best Game You Definitely Don’t Remember
Bill Bender of Sporting News has a helpful guide with the most important talking points if you’re ready to discuss MJ vs. LeBron, but we are simply here to provide you with the data you need to justify your choice. Don’t be the person who yells “six rings” without an alternative plan.
Here’s a closer look at where the GOAT debate is at. . .
(All statistics current as of December 24, 2023)
Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Regular Season Stats
Jordan is superior in the scoring department, but James rebounds and dispenses assists at a faster rate. While both players are known for their tenacious wing defense, Jordan finished first in the league in steals three times in his career. James has yet to claim a robbery title.
In terms of longevity, James has a clear advantage. The gap in total numbers will widen as long as James stays healthy and doesn’t appear to be narrowing at 36.
|49.7||Field goal %||50.4|
|32.7||% Of 3 points||34.5|
|83.5||Free shot %||73.4|
Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Advanced Regular Season Stats
It’s all about which category you choose when it comes to advanced stats. VORP and Win Shares favor James, but PER and Box Plus / Minus go for Jordan.
Pick a side, nerds! (That is a term of endearment).
|27.9||Player efficiency rating||27.3|
|9.2||Plus / minus box||8.8|
|56.9||% Of real shot||58.7|
|33.3||% Of use||31.5|
Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Playoff Statistics
The playoff statistics reflect what Jordan and James produce during the regular season. Despite James’ increased use and efficiency beyond the arc throughout his career, it’s worth noting that he shoots about the same percentage as Jordan from 3-point range.
Oh, and the lazy narrative that James shrinks in big games: His postseason lines are often more impressive than his regular-season performances. That is not a smart way to argue against him.
|Jordan||Playoffs per game||Lebron|
|48.7||Field goal %||49.5|
|33.2||% Of 3 points||33.7|
|82.8||Free shot %||74.0|
Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Advanced Playoff Stats
Jordan is the all-time playoff leader in PER and Box Plus / Minus, and has the highest usage percentage. But James beats everyone else in VORP and Win Shares.
So yeah, these guys are pretty good.
|28.6||Player efficiency rating||28.2|
|11.1||Plus / minus box||10.2|
|56.8||% Of real shot||58.3|
|35.6||% Of use||32.0|
Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Accolades and Awards
And here is the biggest one. Jordan fans have championships in their back pockets. MJ was a perfect 6-0 in the NBA Finals and never needed a Game 7 to win those series.
James is 4-6 in his 10 NBA Finals appearances, but he also controlled the Eastern Conference with the Cavaliers and Heat for nearly a decade.