The never-ending GOAT debate between Michael Jordan and LeBron James only grew louder after the latter won his fourth title and fourth Finals MVP in 2020. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in the 2020 Finals behind the stellar play of LeBron at the Walt Disney World bubble.
Seemingly every former NBA player has been asked to chime in on the Jordan-LeBron debate. However, not everyone gave a thought-provoking answer as former Chicago Bulls star Toni Kukoc, who won three titles with Jordan in the ’90s.
Toni Kukoc talks Michael Jordan and LeBron James
Kukoc played with Jordan on the Bulls and won three straight titles with him. However, he told Brandon Robinson of Bally Sports that he can’t say Jordan is better than LeBron or vice versa since the NBA legends played in different eras.
“It’s hard to compare players that never played in the same era, that never played against each other,” Kukoc said. “These days, you can see all the older previous players, and you can get all their moves. You can practice those moves. You can get better because the knowledge of what to eat and how to prepare yourself, how to get rid of your injuries faster, how to keep your body in shape. So when it comes to pure, like OK, Michael from the ’80s and ’90s or LeBron from now, you can’t say one was better than the other. Michael obviously brought world basketball to another level, and from that point on, LeBron is what LeBron is now. He gave a chance for Luka (Doncic) to be Luka or (Nikola) Jokic to be Jokic. You could never imagine that back in the day. I can’t say the best player, but he (Jordan) is the GOAT of basketball. I don’t think it’s selfish. It’s just the way it is.”
Jordan has never called himself the GOAT because he thinks it’s unfair to the players who came before him. The Hall of Famer never played against the superstars of the ’60s or ’70s and isn’t a fan of comparing players from different eras.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion of who the GOAT is. However, what isn’t up for debate is that both Jordan and LeBron are on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore.
Michael Jordan and LeBron James by the numbers
In 1,072 games with the Bulls and Washington Wizards, Jordan averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. He won five regular-season MVPs, 10 scoring titles, three All-Star Game MVPs, the 1984-85 Rookie of the Year Award, the 1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year Award, six championships, and six Finals MVPs.
Along with going 6-0 in the Finals, Jordan is the NBA’s all-time leader in points per game and player efficiency rating. He’s also fifth in NBA history in points, fifth in field goals, and third in steals.
Meanwhile, in 1,310 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Heat, and Lakers, LeBron is averaging 27.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.4 assists. He has won four regular-season MVPs, four championships, four Finals MVPs, the 2003-04 Rookie of the Year Award, three All-Star Game MVPs, one scoring title, and one assist title.
LeBron has a losing record in the NBA Finals. He’s 4-6 and has gotten swept twice. However, he’s the only player in NBA history to win three Finals MVPs with three different teams. The King is also the lone player to rank top-10 all-time in both points and assists. LeBron is the third-leading scorer in NBA history, has racked up the eighth-most assists, is second in player efficiency rating, and sixth in points per game.
The GOAT debate has become exhausting to many basketball fans because it’s all NBA Twitter seems to talk about. Believe it or not, the discussion will get even more raucous if LeBron wins one or two more titles.
The King needs two more rings and two more Finals MVPs to tie His Airness
LeBron needs two more titles and two more Finals MVPs to tie Jordan, his childhood hero. Don’t think for a second that he doesn’t want to get to six rings and six Finals MVPs. After all, LBJ did call himself the GOAT for coming back from a 3-1 series deficit in the 2016 Finals against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors.
It will be fascinating to see if LeBron can win more championships. He lost in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his career in the 2021 postseason, so he could be more motivated than ever to catch Jordan.