The NBA GOAT debate between Michael Jordan and LeBron James has gotten even louder after James won his fourth title and fourth Finals MVP. LeBron led the LA Lakers to the 2020 championship over the Miami Heat in six games. He’s now two rings and two Finals MVPs away from tying Jordan.
MJ, whose last season in the league was in 2002-03 with the Washington Wizards, went 6-0 in the Finals with the Chicago Bulls during the ’90s. He three-peated twice and could have won eight rings in a row if he didn’t retire to play baseball after his third championship in 1993 over the Phoenix Suns.
Meanwhile, James is 4-6 in the Finals and has been swept twice. However, The King is the only player in NBA history to win three Finals MVP awards with three different teams. LeBron is also the lone player to rank top-10 all-time in points and assists in the regular season.
There have been four players who have played with both Michael Jordan and LeBron James. They are Scott Williams, Larry Hughes, Jerry Stackhouse, and Brendan Haywood. Each guy recently talked to Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype and discussed who the GOAT is between Jordan and James.
Jerry Stackhouse doesn’t think it’s fair for him to compare Michael Jordan and LeBron James
Michael Jordan and Jerry Stackhouse were teammates for one season back in 2002-03. Stackhouse averaged 21.5 points per game that campaign, while Jordan put up 20.0 before retiring from the NBA for good.
LeBron James and Stackhouse were teammates for only seven games during the 2010-11 season, which was James’ first year on the Miami Heat. Stackhouse was waived in November of 2010.
During his interview with HoopsHype about the Jordan-LeBron GOAT debate, Stackhouse admitted it’s not fair for him to compare the two NBA legends.
“I don’t think it would be fair to give a comparison on them,” Stackhouse said. “I played with LeBron at the prime of his career and I played with Michael in the last year of his career. I just think both are unbelievable players. They’re probably one and two in the history of the game. That’s where I’ll leave it.”
Brendan Haywood has Michael Jordan as the GOAT, but he can see LeBron James catching MJ
Brendan Haywood and Michael Jordan shared the same locker room for two seasons on the Wizards. Meanwhile, LeBron James and Haywood were teammates on the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2014-15 season.
While Haywood has Jordan as the NBA’s GOAT, he won’t rule out LeBron catching His Airness since James is still dominating the league despite being 35 years old and having a lot of mileage on his body.
“I think LeBron has been closing the gap on MJ slowly but surely every year. Coming back against the Warriors, that was the best regular-season team in NBA history yet LeBron still won,” Haywood said. “Then winning the title this year in the bubble. I still have Michael at one but now I have LeBron at two. For years, I had Kareem at two. Now after the title he just won, I’ve got LeBron. There’s still work to be done. Can he catch Michael? It’s a possibility, man. Because for some reason, Father Time isn’t knocking on his door as he knocks on everybody else’s.”
Larry Hughes and Scott Williams are going with MJ, but they won’t knock LeBron
The biggest knock on LeBron James is that he has as many Finals losses as Michael Jordan does championships. James also had one of the all-time choke jobs in the 2011 Finals against the Mavericks. Jordan never choked in the Finals and was the better scorer and killer in the fourth quarter during his time with the Bulls than James has ever been with the Cavs, Heat, and Lakers.
Jordan has more regular-season MVPs and scoring titles than James. LeBron is undoubtedly the better all-around player, but basketball has always been about getting buckets and Jordan was a superior scorer than James.
Both Scott Williams and Larry Hughes have Jordan as their NBA GOAT. However, neither guy will take anything away from James since it’s difficult to compare different eras of basketball.
“MJ is the greatest basketball player of all-time, in my eyes. If we look at the Jumpman symbol, LeBron is right there on his shoe. That’s really how I look at it. He’s not too far behind,” Hughes said. “If I had to answer then I’d say MJ. But I’m never going to discredit what LeBron is doing. It’s just a different time. I give credit where it’s due.”
“The only thing that I will say that is probably a separation is that Michael has had a nastiness and ferocity to his game that LeBron may not possess,” Williams said. “LeBron will try to beat you. He definitely wants to beat you. But MJ wants to beat you in a way where you will be embarrassed to go on a ride home with your spouse after the game. He wants everybody in the stands, your friends and your family and your fans, to know that you can’t come close to ever beating him. He wants you to think, when you go to sleep at night, you won’t even dream about beating him. He wants to tear your heart from your chest and show it to you and to everybody that is in the stands. He wants everyone to know when you walk out of the arena that he was the baddest man in a pair of basketball shoes that night. He did that every night! That was about the only difference between Michael and LeBron that made me think that his competitiveness and fuel were a little bit more than what LeBron had and that’s why MJ would never lose in the NBA Finals.”
Michael Jordan finished his NBA career with averages of 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. LeBron James, the best player in today’s NBA even after all these years, has career numbers of 27.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.4 assists.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.