The GOAT debate

Who truly is the best of the best


Ayla Dean

photo illustration

Story by Blaise Larry-Cox, Staff Writer

With basketball being so revered, many wonder, “Who is the BEST at basketball?” The emergence of the National Basketball Association (NBA) put together the best talents from around the globe, put them into one league and posed a new question:”If the NBA has the best of the best, then who is the GOAT?” 

Michael Jordan and Lebron James are widely regarded as two of the most exceptional basketball talents in history. In an attempt to put an end to this debate, they will be compared in three different metrics: Career Stats, Finals Appearances, and Career Accolades.

Michael Jordan played from 1984-93, 1995-98 and 2001-03, retiring three times and playing a total of 15 seasons in the NBA. He spent his first 13 years on the Chicago Bulls and his last two on the Washington Wizards.

Michael Jordan’s career regular season averages were 30.1 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, 5.3 assists per game, 2.3 steals per game and 0.8 blocks per game.

LeBron James has been in constant play since 2003 and is currently in his 20th year. He spent seven years playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, four on the Miami Heat, returned to Cleveland for four seasons and is on year five on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Jordan and James played in vastly different eras of basketball but shockingly have similar stats and numbers. Let’s account for the fact that Lebron has played four more seasons and only give averages for his first 15 seasons: 27.3 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, 7.7 assists per game, 1.8 steals per game and 0.8 blocks per game.

Seeing how Jordan averages more points and steals, but James averages more rebounds and more assists, shows a pattern in their playstyle; Jordan takes the shots and plays player centric, James gets his teammates involved and plays team centric. With more well rounded stats, I’m giving this one to James.

In their illustrious careers, Jordan and James have both racked up a trophy cabinet.

James has 4 MVPs, 18x NBA All Star, 13x All NBA First Team, 5x All NBA Defensive First Team and 1x Scoring Title. Jordan has 5 MVPs, 14x NBA All Star, 10x All NBA First Team, 9x All NBA Defensive First Team and 10x Scoring Title.

James has more All NBA teams than Jordan, but less MVPs, scoring titles and defensive team selections. And for MVPs, with a difference of one, let’s look at total MVP votes:

Jordan: 7,956.8

James: 10,494

James sweeps the floor.

But, with more offensive and defensive accolades in the form of scoring titles and defensive selections, Jordan wins.

After examining the two categories, the two tied, making neither the winner of our competition. Stats wise, LeBron James still has a valid case for being the greatest player, but you can say it’s the other way around for Jordan with his accolades. If we consider who the “best” is, we’re splitting hairs with Jordan and James.