Who Is Better Under Pressure: Michael Jordan or Lebron James?

A debate that has long divided not only basketball fans but former and current stars of the game is who’s the greatest NBA player of all time, Michael Jordan or LeBron James? While opinions about the superstar athletes can shift because Jordan hasn’t played in years and James is still in the league, it’s always fun to visit this topic and compare their amazing accomplishments on the court.

Every generation has that special player who can be considered great. Jordan was that for his generation and James is that today. So who would take on your team and rely on to perform better under pressure? Here’s a look at their impressive numbers side-by-side and what other NBA stars have to say about the great debate.

No other players considered above them

Michael Jordan and LeBron James composite image
Left: Michael Jordan is considered the all-time greatest NBA player. | Jonathan Daniel/Allsport/Getty Images, Right: But LeBron James is his fiercest competitor for the title. | Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Some people will try to make the argument that neither of these two guys is the best to ever play the game. Instead, they’ll choose Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, or Magic Johnson.

While some of their cases may be strong, the majority of people believe it only comes down to Jordan or James, no one else.

Next: James’ former teammate puts him in the same category as MJ, but …

Dwyane Wade favors Jordan over James

Dwyane Wade looks on during a game against the Nets.
Wade picks the former Bulls player. | Michael Reaves/Getty Images

James’ former teammate Dwyane Wade has admitted that he still would take Jordan over James, but recognizes that James has moved into the same category as the Hall of Famer.

“[James] is one of the game’s greatest players. Arguably the greatest,” Wade said. “I favor Michael Jordan … So it’s one and two of the greatest players of all time and I get an opportunity to play against one of them.”

Next: This former teammate feels differently. 

J.R. Smith thinks James already passed Jordan

J.R. Smith
Current Cavs player Smith thinks James is the one to beat now. | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

If you ask James’ former Cavs teammate J.R. Smith the same question about who is better, you’ll get a totally different response because Smith believes that the King has already surpassed Jordan. Smith’s response came after another former star, Ray Allen, opined that Jordan was “by far” the best.

“By far? Absolutely not,” Smith said “Obviously, don’t get me wrong, growing up, obviously. And I got the jersey tatted on my stomach. MJ was the greatest of all time, in my opinion, up until two years ago.”

Next: Jordan’s old teammate weighs in. 

Scottie Pippen chooses Jordan hands down

Michael Jordan (L) and Scottie Pippen (R) of the Chicago Bulls
Pippen (right) supports his old teammate Jordan (left) in the debate. | Vincent Laforet/AFP/Getty Images

Some of Jordan’s old teammates have weighed in on this debate as well including Scottie Pippen, who has no time for anyone who chooses James over Jordan. “Michael Jordan was the greatest to ever put on shoes and play in our game. No doubt about it,” Pippen said.

And for anyone still doubting that, he took his case further and said the two shouldn’t even be compared.

They both play two different positions. The way LeBron James plays? Michael Jordan was never asked to play that way. Because I took that away from him. I was the point forward. I was the facilitator. Michael Jordan was a scorer. He was a defender. He played the game as complete as LeBron James did when he needed to. But he was asked to score the basketball and that’s what he was great at … There was no game I would ever play in where I’d pick LeBron James over Michael Jordan. Not if I’m trying to win.

Next: This NBA legend got hype talking about who had more pressure on them.

Kevin Garnett has his mind made up about who the GOAT is

Kevin Garnett #21 of the Minnesota Timberwolves
Garnett picked Jordan, hands down. | Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics legend Kevin Garnett couldn’t just sit back and listen to the King vs. MJ debate and who dealt with more pressure and criticism without jumping in and explaining why he believes Jordan was the GOAT.

Michael Jordan was revered as a machine. Are you serious? You saw how hard he wanted it. You saw how hard he was going. And this is with Magic and Bird still in the league! When basketball was on the verge of losing it. When we had addicts. When we had guys coming into camp overweight. Who do you think started coming into camp in shape ready to go day one?

Next: By the numbers

How they stack up against one another under pressure?

LeBron James dunks the rock.
James doesn’t match his competitor when it comes to certain accomplishments. | Elsa/Getty Images

Of course, in order to have a proper debate we need to look at records, rings, and overall accomplishments. Jordan was the league MVP five times. James has received the honor four times (so far).

They each were named an All-Star 14 times and James will likely be named one several more times. They also both have two Olympic gold medals. And when it comes to the ultimate pressure of the NBA Finals, Jordan went to six and won all six. LBJ has been to nine and won three (so far).

So, who’s better? Jordan because he’s won more championships or James because he’s not done adding to his numbers yet?

Next: The winner is …

Jordan wins, but not with millennials

Michael Jordan
Jordan isn’t as well known among the younger crowd. | Vincent Laforet/AFP/Getty Images

When considering who you would want on your team, who’s better under pressure, and just all around who’s the greatest it may come down to something as simple as age.

A good portion of millennials choose James because they were too young to remember Jordan’s greatness or, in some cases, weren’t even born when he played. Therefore, what they are witnessing today from the NBA star seems like something that has never been done before. However, for those who remember Jordan’s career they’ve seen this show before when he dominated the sport and won’t waver on their decision that he is the best.

Follow Michelle Kapusta on Twitter @philamichelle.