Michael Jordan is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time. Several players in the league have tried to take his crown, but by and large, he is considered the GOAT. However, that may change when LeBron James hangs up his jersey for good. King James has been better than advertised since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003, and he has been the face of the league for the majority of his career.
Jordan and James have not only shared the same jersey number, but they also shocked the entire NBA landscape. When Michael Jordan retired in 1998, he finished his second three-peat in the NBA finals for a 6-0 championship record with the Chicago Bulls. His retirement put a hole in the league, but when he returned in 2001 at the age of 38 with the Washington Wizards, fans were delighted to have him back.
LeBron James signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason at the age of 33 wasn’t as big of a surprise, but the move still shifted how the league will look for the next three or four years. So how does LeBron’s first season with L.A. compare to Jordan’s first season with the Wizards? Here’s a look at our breakdown of the two seasons.
When Michael Jordan signed with the Wizards, they were coming off of a 19-63 season, finishing second to last in the Eastern Conference. He had to sell his ownership rights of the team to join the roster. Along with him came No. 1 overall pick Kwame Brown and veteran Richard Hamilton, and the Wizards should have been a potential spoiler in the playoffs.
LeBron James signing with the Lakers meant that a team full of young players would get thrown into the spotlight, and be expected to make a run in the playoffs. The Lakers signed a number of free agent veterans to round out the roster, and fans wanted to see a fourth or fifth seed in the West.
Jordan played in 60 games for the Wizards in 2001, averaging close to 35 minutes per game. He finished the year 22.9 points per game, to go along with nearly six rebounds and five assists per contest.
LeBron James’ age when he joined the Lakers was nearly five years younger than Jordan’s when he joined the Wizards, but James would be an MVP candidate if the Lakers were in playoff contention. He is averaging more than 27 points per game with eight rebounds and eight assists per contest. James has never been a great free throw shooter (73.6% for his career), but he is shooting a career-low 66% from the line.
The Wizards won 16 more games in 2001 with Jordan in the mix, but they still missed the playoffs and finished 10th in the East. Jordan was relentlessly competitive with Kwame Brown in practices and the young player struggled for much of the season.
The Lakers are more or less out of the playoff hunt this season. They are currently 11th in the West and are six games out of the final playoff spot. Unless the Lakers string together nine or 10 straight wins, this will be the first time LeBron James misses the playoffs in 14 seasons. The last time he missed the postseason was in 2005.
While the Lakers weren’t expected to win an NBA championship this season, the blueprint was supposed to be put in place for them to grab another big-time free agent and make a run at the title next season. This could have ramifications for the entire LeBron James era in Los Angeles.
Who had the better first year?
Looking at two of the NBA’s legends’ first years in with their respective teams, who do you think had the better first season? Our vote is for Michael Jordan. Even though LeBron James has better statistical numbers during his first season in Los Angeles, it was remarkable to see Jordan put up big numbers as he neared 40 years old.