MJ vs Lebron

Okay before the playoffs officially start it's time to reignite the debate. Full disclosure I am biased. I am from Chicago and probably worship the ground MJ walks on. That being said I think if bron wins this year...they're tied for being the GOAT.
I view it like this Bron is a floor raiser, he can take absolutely scrubs and makes them a great team. MJ is a ceiling raiser he can take good players and literally be unbeatable (ex. Winning 72 games 1 year then literally winning 69 games the next).
But Bron wins back to back with the lakers they've officially tied in my book.

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Comments (36)

  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
May 20, 2021 - 1:54pm

FYI my job title is wrong, but I've watched both (granted was a kid watching MJ in the 90's), but I think Lebron is a bit better as a player. MJ obviously has a better legacy, but I think Lebron has greater in-game impact.

May 20, 2021 - 10:31pm

Mostly the eye-test honestly. I think Lebron has the better vision and is closer to being pass-first than Jordan is. It's also hard to make that comparison because the style of the game has changed.

May 20, 2021 - 6:18pm

Lebron is a better player, MJ is a better leader and still the GOAT. Finals record says it all. Lebron is 4-6 and MJ is 6-0.

EDIT: I love the MS, please keep it coming, zoomers. Lebron is the greatest basketball player ever to live, but apparently individual contributions aren't enough. I guarantee MJ would never go to the Finals 10 times and let his team lose that much. MJ is a basketball Terminator.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
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May 20, 2021 - 6:59pm

Synergy_or_Syzygy

Lebron is a better player, MJ is a better leader and still the GOAT. Finals record says it all. Lebron is 3-7 and MJ is 6-0.

EDIT: I love the MS, please keep it coming, zoomers. Lebron is the greatest basketball player ever to live, but apparently individual contributions aren't enough. I guarantee MJ would never go to the Finals 10 times and let his team lose that much. MJ is a basketball Terminator.

Lebron has been on 4 championship winners.  To me, it is more impressive winning for 3 different teams than winning 6 for one team.  Jordan won most of his championships with hall of famers Pippen and Rodman by his side.  Basketball is a team sport and Jordan played with great players.  Lebron has proven that he is the main reason for the championships because he did with different teams.  They are both great.  Lebron is a better play maker and rebounder while Jordan was a better scorer

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May 20, 2021 - 7:11pm

My bad, 4-6. I feel completely differently about Jordan vs Lebron's team. I will never forget Lebron going to the Heat "superteam" and winning his first two championships there with Wade and Bosh. Wade was already an NBA champion. At Jordan's first championship in 1991, Pippen was only in his third year in the league, hardly a "hall of famer" and Rodman hadn't even arrived yet (Jordan 3-peated without Rodman, then played baseball, then came back and 3-peated). Lebron had a WAY better and more established team in the Heat -- and they didn't even win the first NBA finals they reached with this team! 

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
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May 21, 2021 - 12:58pm

MJ's HOF teammates:

Scottie Pippen

Dennis Rodman (decent HOFer without MJ-- basically a Ben Wallace but not as good, and Ben Wallace just made the hall)

Toni Kukoc (made it as an international player so barely counts)

Lebron's HOF teammates:

Dwayne Wade

Chris Bosh

Ray Allen

Shaq (past prime so doesn't really count)

Lebron's future HOF teammates:

AD

Kyrie

Kevin Love (Basketball reference gives him a 73% chance https://www.basketball-reference.com/leaders/hof_prob.html)

Dwight Howard (99% chance, but past his prime)

Not to mention that MJ has more MVPs, Finals MVPs, DPOYs, 1st team all defensive (T-record), scoring titles (record), steals titles, beaten more 50+ win teams in the playoffs, beaten more 60+ win teams in the playoffs (record), most PPG in an NBA finals, never scored under 15 points in a playoff game (Lebron has done this 7 times), never shot under 40% in a final series (Lebron has done this twice), and has never been outscored by Jason Terry in the finals and lose in 6 games while being heavily favored and had 3 HOF teammates

Lebron is an all-time great but he's no MJ

May 20, 2021 - 6:30pm

It's not even close. Lebron is both super talented & genetically gifted but MJ is a literal psychopath. MJ is like a cheat code where no matter how good his opponent was he would maniacally obsess over training to the point where he would beat them. He didn't just want to win against his opponent, he wanted to embarrass them and crush their will to keep playing. He would single-handedly carry games during one of the most competitive decades (when physical fouls were much more common & intense) the NBA has ever seen and make it look effortless. 

MJ all day.  

Array

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May 20, 2021 - 10:25pm

Crazy how perception can be distorted. MJ "felt" unbeatable, but used to get beat all the time. The game he scored 63 points in was a lost. He played 15 years, but went to this finals 6 times, which means he lost 9 years. Michael Jordan was favored in every finals match up he played in because the Bulls were the best team in the league. The Bulls went to the Eastern Conference Finals after he retired. When MJ came back from retirement once again he was beaten. Michael Jordan has lost 3 times in the first round, 2 times in the conference semis, and 2 times in the conference finals. MJ was beat... a lot. Plus since basketball isn't one and done, typically the best team always wins, which means if Jordan loss before the finals, he likely would've lost in the finals.

May 20, 2021 - 10:42pm

Sure, no basketball player wins every game, and the Bulls had a hard time getting past the Pistons in the playoffs and Jordan lost a lot in those early years, I get all that. I'll clarify my point in that it's referring to those 6 seasons that Jordan was at his peak, it felt like he literally wouldn't let his team lose. Not when the Pacers took him to game 7, not when he had the flu, etc. It felt similar to how the Warriors felt a few years ago, but it was all condensed into Jordan, whereas the Warriors it felt like the team was unbeatable. I've never felt that way about Lebron.

May 20, 2021 - 7:22pm

Lebron can go fuck himself for targetting the police officer who saved a teenager from a violent animal. I wonder why every time he is seen reading a book he is always on the first page?

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May 21, 2021 - 9:04am

Hard to compare. But there really is no denying the level of play / toughness back in the 80s / 90s was soooo much greater than today. Almost a different game. Michael was doing his thing in the height of hoops being physical. Pound the ball inside, bang bodies, etc. Watch a game today and see how many times there's a quick 3 with virtually no offensive player positioned for rebounding. Or how wide open the floor is. It's just different. Tackle football vs. flag. Now Lebron is a physical freak so maybe he would have done just fine, aka Karl Malone, but we'll never know. Michael wasn't just a freak athlete, he was physically and mentally tough.

Most Helpful
May 21, 2021 - 9:51am

It's a weird comparison because as the 2 guard during his era, I think MJ operated in sets where the design was for him to carry the team on his back in terms of offensive load by converting on scoring. Lebron on the other hand is creating scoring opportunities either with his back to the basket, bringing the ball up, or from the wing on the weak side by setting up other players. Plus, he generates most of his scoring around the hoop, which is guaranteed to make 1/2 shoots taken, so his shooting efficiency looks a lot higher than it really is. He takes 3 pointers every now and then, which he's improved on to take advantage of the defensive play against the latter.

It's like asking which car do you prefer: a lambo or a bentley. Both offer very different styles and it depends on your preference. If you respect the gritty toughness, the relentless matching of responsibility, and the ability to rise to the occasion as a  professional, it's easily MJ. But, if you like a soft approach, a more indirect assistance to win, and you like to get into all the externalities, then you might go with Lebron.

Lebron has always represented this generation well. He's exactly how he's supposed to be. More passive and just here to make sure things go smoothly, not to be assertive. It's no doubt that he makes an impact on a team with his mental abilities. But it's not always his own physicality that uses his mental aspect. Whereas, Jordan's toughness was a perfect copilot for the physical gifts that he possessed.

Kobe is often overlooked for being a rung down on the physical scale. On the other hand, he played when the two eras were colliding, playing that tough traditional 2 guard position trying to convert scoring all the time when the rest of the league was moving to a much more communal approach. But we all know the toughness he had and it confirms that Jordan's mindset was real, it's just often hard to find or isn't able to shine brightly because of lower physical abilities.

May 21, 2021 - 12:18pm

Yeah I can agree with that. I do think Jordon created just as many chances as Lebron. He just does it off the ball in a similar way like steph curry. It never showed up in the assists tally but the Triangle system only works with an all time great player like Jordan to run it.

May 21, 2021 - 12:47pm

5v5 Lebron team might just pass to each other deferring to the next Lebron to take the shot... JUST KIDDING

If you've ever played it, NBA Street Vol 2 was really fun in a 3v3 street ball context. It had an "MJ team" with three different versions of Jordan: rookie MJ, 1996 MJ and Wizards MJ.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
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May 21, 2021 - 1:35pm

Insane longevity and definitely should be mentioned more in the goat conversation but I feel like he wasn't really the leader of the Showtime Lakers (Magic was, especially in the late 80s) and there were a lot fewer great players and teams to beat (obviously Bird's Celtics were insane) compared to what MJ and Lebron had to beat. He dominated the 70s, but when you think about 80s basketball, when he won all but one of his rings, Magic and Bird were the two faces of the NBA. Obviously most championship teams have multiple greats, but he played with legendary, top 20-30 of all time (depending on where you want to put Oscar Robertson) in all of his chips

May 21, 2021 - 3:47pm

MJ

Comparing eras:  MJ started his career without a bang - but go look at who was on his team, wasting picks for Dennis Hopson?  Remember the 80s were absolutely dominated by Celtics and Lakers who AVERAGED 60 wins per season EACH for the decade of the 80s, who put 10 hall of famers on the court with 2 HOF coaches.  Magic and Bird were 5 years into careers with outstanding casts when the Bulls were crappy enough to get the 3rd overall draft pick.  Bulls first round picks AFTER 1979 (when Magic and Larry joined NBA):  1979 #2 overall, Dave Greenwood, 1980 #4 Kelvin Ransey, 1981 #6 Orlando Woolridge, 1982 #7 Quintin Dailey, 1983 #5 Sidney Green; 1984 #3 Michael Jordan, 1985 #11 Keith Lee, 1986 #9 Brad Sellers, 1987 #5 Scottie Pippen (trade for #8 Olden Polynice) & #10 Horace Grant, 1988 #11 Will Perdue. 

In simplest terms, MJ just didn't have talent around him in those early years.  When the Bulls broke through, it was to END the back-to-back reign of the Bad Boys (very strong team with HOF Dantley, Dumars, Thomas, and Rodman plus coach Daly), and the Bulls' 1st championship was the end of the Lakers/Magic era (who had won the two prior to Pistons).  That 12-man roster for 90-91 had 6 players drafted 1987 or later - and 3 players that would be out of league within 2 years. 

Now, admittedly, Lebron didn't have the BEST talent around him in Cleveland - but he had a truckload of very good players with very long careers.  The biggest difference is Michael WON with Pippen and Grant and Perdue when they were just a few years in the league, and Lebron made a singles final appearance. 

When Lebron got around two studs Wade (who was already champ) and Bosh, he STILL didn't win the championship.  In fact, first season in Miami, the Derrick Rose Bulls were #1 in the East.

In my opinion, MJ was the best player for about 9 out of 10 years, and Lebron has been the best player for about 14 of his 18 years.  BUT, I think the height MJ reached has not been reached by anyone else.  I think it is a testament to Lebron's greatness that he has won with 3 organizations - but he (like MJ) always had top tier talent around him.  Michael BUILT that talent in Pippen and Grant, and harnessed it Rodman.  Lebron never built anyone.  The only arguments for Lebron are longevity (in which case Cal Ripken is better than everyone), switching teams (go look at Rodman's career and the difference he made), OR - most critically - that Lebron's range of skills (passing, rebounding, bulling over people, flopping, pointing to his head for a ticky-tack foul) exceed MJ's.  As for me, I will take the guy who went in the paint in the mean days of the Lakers, Pistons, Celtics, Knicks.

May 27, 2021 - 10:37am

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