The Jordan-LeBron debate is about as over-discussed as any debate in professional sports, but it does not have to be.
While the conversation usually results back to a comparison of championship rings vs. Finals appearances, MVP trophies vs. quality of teammates, or individual moments verbally discussed head to head, the debate can be aided with their balanced stats after inflation.
Here is how they stack up when inflated to the same league averages:
Holding them to the same statistical standard shows how even their numbers truly are, as Jordan takes a narrow lead in scoring, But James holds the advantage in terms of overall team impact, as his career Win Shares would only fall by about 5 games.
Jordan narrowly takes the advantage in scoring, despite still taking fewer threes and free throws per game than LeBron.
LeBron on the other hand was able to lead MJ in assists despite Jordan’s usage percentage being 17-points higher at .333, the largest mark in NBA history for any player with over 350 games played.
And, as expected from a 6-9, primary forward to 6-6 shooting guard MJ, LeBron takes a significant advantage in rebounds, blocks, and just overall rim presence, which help some of the all-encompassing numbers.
But, what is a comparison of the two best to ever take the floor if we only compare regular-season numbers? Here are their playoff numbers in the same inflation metrics.
MJ’s points per game lead grows when the playoffs begin, but so do LeBron’s triple-double numbers.
Jordan clearly took precedence on scoring when the games mattered most, as he lead the league in playoff points per game in 10 of his 13 seasons with a playoff birth, compared to James’ 3 seasons.
That being said, James was able to more completely round out his stats in the playoffs, totaling 28 triple-doubles to Jordan’s two.
Due in large part to his all-around nature, specifically, when it comes to improved effectiveness on the glass, LeBron collects a majority of these Win Shares for producing similar numbers for a longer span than Jordan.
But, since James leads Jordan in total playoff games by 87 games, Jordan would be on pace for 62 Win Shares if he had the same number of playoff games as LeBron did.
So, decide for yourself who truly deserves to be the Greatest of All-Time by comparing the two as if they played in the same era.
Would MJ be a perfect 6-for-6 in the Finals, or would James still reach the Finals 8 consecutive years if they had to face off head-to-head?