Tag Archives: Michael Jordan

LeBron James and Michael Jordan

Is LeBron James a better player than Michael Jordan?

LeBron versus Michael. King James vs Air Jordan. Current great vs the greatest ever?

It’s a question that basketball fans will never tire of debating, but as LeBron James edges closer to rounding off his 15th season in the NBA, which matches Michael Jordan’s career total, it has has never been more relevant. So is LeBron the better overall player?

Let’s say you had first pick in a fantasy game against your boss for a big promotion; who are you picking Jordan or LeBron? I’m picking LeBron every single time, and I’m about to give my reasons why.

Firstly, one of the reasons this debate is so hard to settle is that Jordan played a different position to James, so we’re going to look at some stats on the fundamentals but seeing as we’re talking about positions, it’s only right that this is thrown out there first.

Although LeBron is a forward, he plays every position in the game more than proficiently, Jordan on the other hand and as versatile as he was, was more of an outfield player and would have never been able to hold his own beyond the small forward role. I know that’s not a proven fact – so sue me…

With the help of Basketball-Reference.com, let’s look at some of their regular season stats:

Field Goal percentage: Of course, Jordan was more than an efficient shooter, but James’ record has the slight edge with James hitting 50.4% of his career shots while Jordan retired at 49.7%.

Assists: This is another vital part of the game where LeBron has the edge. James is well-known for his passing ability, as we mentioned earlier he plays every position of the game more than proficiently, and despite being a small forward he averages 7.2 assistants per game, the highest for a small forward in NBA history and higher than Jordan’s 5.3 average.

Rebounding: Thanks majorly to his height and size advantage, James has a significant edge over Jordan when it comes to defensive rebounds, sitting on 7.3 to Jordan’s 6.2. It is worth noting, though, that Jordan has a slight edge over James when it came to offensive rebounding.

Three-point percentage: Despite not being the strongest part of James’ game and something he is often critiqued for, he is a deadlier three-point shooter than Jordan ever was. James is currently sitting on a 34.3% average while Jordan retired at 32.7%.

Triple Doubles: Although this isn’t really a stat that should decide who a better player is, it definitely helps illustrate the dominance on a court a player possesses to be able to post double figures across a combination of three key stats – points, rebounds, assists, blocks or steals. James sits on 71 so far in his career while Jordan retired on 28.

Now let’s look at some post-season stats:

Play-off win shares: This stat is one of the stats that illustrate how detailed stats get in the NBA today. It’s an estimate of how many play-off wins a player is individually accountable for with a combination of points, assists blocks, steals etc.…considered.

LeBron has a significant edge over Jordan on this one, with him currently on 45.8 while Jordan retired at 39.8. James and Jordan hold the top two spots for this stat in NBA history which makes James the only player to ever reach and breach 40.

Finals reached: Not only has LeBron reached two more finals than Jordan already with eight to Jordan’s six, it is also worth noting that LeBron has been to six finals consecutively while Jordan only managed three in a row. LeBron is also more than likely to reach a few more finals before he retires which – at the age of 33 – is looking like a long way off.

Play-off assists: Despite how often in the playoffs LeBron has had to carry his team on his back and produce most of the points, he maintains his regular season ability to elevate his team means and produce good scoring opportunities for them averaging 6.9 assists per game in the playoffs to Jordan’s retired average of 5.7.

Play-off rebounding: Like in the regular season, James’ rebound average takes the cake over Jordan’s in the play-offs with 8.8 to Jordan’s 6.4. The fact it is more significant in the post-season also shows how LeBron levels up when more is on the line.

Play-off triple doubles: Again, not a stat that says James is a better player but one that highlights how much more versatile his game is to post double numbers across 3 key stats in the game. LeBron’s playoff triple double total of 19 again goes beyond eclipsing that of Jordan who retired with 2 playoff triple doubles.

Play-off blocks: I will never forget when the Miami Heat faced the San Antonio in game two of the 2013 NBA Finals, and 6ft 10in Spurs big guy, Tiago Splitter took flight for an open windmill dunk finish in the paint only for LeBron to pop up out of nowhere to stop the ball mid-air with such power it nearly floored his opponent.

Besides saving them conceding the points, the show of sheer dominance boosted Miami’s morale, and they went on to win the game 103–100. Such is the importance of this defensive part of the game which again LeBron takes the edge over Jordan with 209 to 158.

Strong argument

With all these stats in mind, and LeBron’s clear dominance in terms of versatility all-round, it should be clear why I choose LeBron every time as my all-time best basketball player.

Most individuals on the Jordan side of this debate base their argument on finals record which yes Jordan is six for six while LeBron is currently on three of eight.

‘Of course, all the stats in the world can’t prove that LeBron is a better player than Jordan as it’s impossible to know how they would have faired up against each other’

It’s a fairly strong argument, but don’t get lost in the sauce and fail to notice that LeBron has reached two more finals than Jordan did in his career. And this needs to be put into the context of the much harder competition he faces in today’s game, with majority of teams looking like contenders.

LeBron has also never played with a team as strong the ones Jordan played on.

I know the Jordan torch-bearers will read this and still say ‘Yes, but he still has more rings than LeBron’.

But if it was down to the number of rings, then LeBron’s and Jordan’s combined total don’t even add up to Bill Russell’s, who won 11 championships in his 13 years with the Boston Celtics.

Of course, all the stats in the world can’t prove that LeBron is a better player than Jordan as it’s impossible to know how they would have faired up against each other.

But they definitely show that LeBron, in many aspects of the game beats Jordan and is the better all-round player and for me, the guy who will win me that promotion my tight boss is making me play for!

Book Review – Long Shot by Craig Hodges

“You don’t want to be like Craig Hodges.”

The first line in this autobiography, subtitled ‘The Triumphs and Struggles of an NBA Freedom Fighter’, is a intriguing one.

The quote immediately makes you want to read on. Why isn’t Craig Hodges someone you want to be like?

For those not familiar with the name, Hodges, 56, is an American retired professional basketball player. He played in the NBA for 10 seasons, winning two NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan.

Hodges led the league in three-point shooting percentage three times and, along with Larry Bird, is one of only two players to win three consecutive three-point contests at the NBA’s annual All-Star Weekend.

Vilification

But in the story of American sport, Hodges is – as that subtitle suggests – more than just another good hoops player.

Always ready to speak out on issues and never happy to simply keep his head down and – in more ways than one – play the game, Hodges refused to  just take the money and run.

The foreword by firebrand US sportswriter Dave Zirin explains why sport and politics continue to make for uneasy bedfellows.

Not so long ago, as Zirin explains, any sportsman who dared to rock the boat would be blackballed and “written out of the history books with a casual cruelty that would make Stalin jealous”.

Sure, times have changed. But as NFL star Colin Kaepernick discovered when he began marking the national anthem with down-on-one-knee ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest, politically-outspoken elite sportspeople still risk vilification.

Speaking to current New York Knicks player Joakim Noah, Hodges says: “Don’t let those big paychecks buy your silence.”

It could be argued that modern-day athletes such as Kaepernick and NBA star Steph Curry have used Hodges as a role model in this respect.

Limits

Like many black American athletes, Hodges is proud of his African heritage. When visiting the White House, he wore a white Dashiki, saying: “I was raised to know that my history was unwritten, so if the books weren’t going to represent it, I would.”

“What happens when a college or the NBA doesn’t come knocking? In a certain sense, the child stops existing. An emptiness sets in” – Craig Hodges

He took the opportunity to hand a letter to President George Bush Sr, speaking about his beliefs and the battle for equality for African Americans.

But as the shooting guard says in his book, written with Rory Fanning: “I’d soon learn, however, that the overlords of the league had other plans for me and that my freedom of expression had serious limits.”

One of the main points I took from this fascinating read is that Hodges put his beliefs ahead of his career and it cost him.

Craig Hodges in 2016

But it was still a career that offered him a way out of poverty, although he makes the point: “What happens when a college or the NBA doesn’t come knocking? In a certain sense, the child stops existing. An emptiness sets in.”

Having watched the IVERSON documentary on Allen Iverson, there are similarities between him and Hodges.

Kids like them had to do all they could to make it into the big leagues or, as Hodges says, “end up in the Ford factory” – if they were lucky.

Fanning has helped Hodge to tell his story in a way which connects his personal and professional lives, his exploits on the court with the activism which so irked the basketball hierarchy.

Hodges claims, for instance he was traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Phoenix Suns because of his affiliation with members of the Nation of Islam, and his political views.

Criticism

In 1996, towards the end of his playing career, Hodges filed a $40m lawsuit against the NBA and its then 29 teams.

It claimed they blackballed him for his association with Louis Farrakhan and his criticism of “African-American professional athletes who failed to use their considerable wealth and influence to assist the poor and disenfranchised”.

‘Long Shot’ firmly places Hodges in a tradition of activist athletes which also includes Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Muhammad Ali – sportspeople who have often paid dearly for refusing to compromise their political beliefs, and they deserve credit for that.

After reading about the trials and tribulations he went through during his career, I finally understood the statement “You don’t want to be like Craig Hodges.”

However, as Zirin writes in his foreword, it should say “You DO want to be like Craig Hodges.”

Long Shot – The Triumphs and Struggles of an NBA Freedom Fighter is available on Amazon UK for £14.99.