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Michael Jordan, Not LeBron James, is Still the GOAT and it’s Not Even Close

So I’ll start off with the formalities by congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers on their Bubble Championship. They were the best team in the postseason.

Now that LeBron James won his fourth championship by leading the Lakers to the NBA Championship in his second season with the franchise, the comparisons to Michael Jordan, and who’s the G.O.A.T. conversations are only going to heat up. There are many that already considered James as the G.O.A.T. It wasn’t the majority, but James has his share of cheerleaders. However, now that James has won his fourth championship in 10 appearances, his cult following are going to label him as the greatest, and that includes many in the media. However, his NBA Finals record is four wins and six losses. While 10 championship appearances is astonishing, he has a losing record.

Should someone considered to be the G.O.A.T. have a losing record in his NBA Finals’ appearances? Jordan made only six appearances, but he won all six of them. The two seasons in between, Jordan missed over a season and a half, and the Houston Rockets won the championship in both seasons. But Jordan never lost in the finals. His record is six and zero. No opposing team ever won more than two games in a series against Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. They were dominant. Even if James were to win two more titles before his career ends, he would have six title wins and six losses at best. Since when is .500 better and 1.000?

When the Tom Brady and Peyton Manning debate was taking place before injuries took its toll on No. 18, the argument was postseason success. Brady had four Super Bowl victories to Manning’s two when he retired. Brady has since won two more and sealed the deal in the minds of the public. The James groupies are not using that same logic.

James won his fourth NBA Final MVP. Jordan has won a record six. James can match that if he were to lead whoever he plays for to two more championships.

As far as key stats:

Regular season:

JordanPer Game LeBron
30.1Points27.1
6.2Rebounds7.4
5.3Assists7.4
2.3Steals1.6
0.8Blocks0.8
2.7Turnovers3.5
38.3Minutes38.4
49.7Field goal %50.4
32.73-point %34.4
83.5Free throw %73.4
  Jordan Totals  LeBron 1,072 Games 1,265 32,292 Points 34,241 6,672 Rebounds 9,405 5,633 Assists 9,346 2,514 Steals 2,015 893 Blocks 957 2,924 Turnovers 4,424 41,011 Minutes 48,551  
   

Playoff stats:

JordanPlayoffs Per Game LeBron
33.4Points28.8
6.4Rebounds9.0
5.7Assists7.2
2.1Steals1.7
0.9Blocks1.0
3.1Turnovers3.7
41.8Minutes41.6
48.7Field goal %49.6
33.23-point %33.5
82.8Free throw %74.1
  JordanPlayoff Totals LeBron
179Games260
5,987Points7,491
1,152Rebounds2,348
1,022Assists1,871
376Steals445
158Blocks250
546Turnovers950
7,474Minutes10,811

While James has the edge over Jordan in a few key categories, I give Jordan the overall advantage in both the regular season and the playoffs.

So, why are so many ready to snatch the status of G.O.A.T. from Jordan and hand it to James? For one, James is the current face of the NBA, it’s biggest star since Jordan retired. He is the biggest draw, so it makes sense that the NBA media will hype him up. He also has a cult following in which many never saw Jordan play live. Trust me, watching Jordan live is much different than watching clips on YouTube.

But the primary reason for the push for James to be the G.O.A.T. is simple. He’s fresh. He’s now. Jordan’s last championship was in 1998, 22 years ago. He retired for a third time in 2003, 17 years ago.

But it’s important not to crown someone the G.O.A.T. just because ‘it’s time’. The way Jordan played was unprecedented. I saw him shred all my favorite teams and players. I only rooted for Jordan once and that was when his Bulls played the Los Angeles Lakers. I rooted against him and his Bulls in every other game they played. I broke many remote controls and punched many holes in my walls when he would hit that clutch shot. I was a hater. But as I got older, I appreciated his greatness. He’s the best I’ve ever seen, and it’s not even close.

Jordan had a killer instinct that James doesn’t have.

Jordan’s performance and record in the regular season, playoffs, and finals are matched by no one, at least not in the modern era. So, based on pure stats and records alone, Jordan is clearly the G.O.A.T.

But then you have the impact one makes on the sport. When Jordan hit his peak, the NBA was trending in the right direction thanks to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Jordan took it to the next level. He made the NBA an international brand. He became the face of sports across the entire fruited plane.

However, this year’s NBA finals reached an all-time ratings low. James and the Lakers game-clinching victory attracted a mere 5.6 million viewers according to Nielsen Media Research. When Jordan beat Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA finals, an estimated 36-million people watched. The NBA ratings have shown that they have lost over half of their audience.

Cord-cutting, live-streaming, and competition from the NFL and MLB have contributed, but the elephant in the room is the fact that the NBA has become politically charged favoring only one group of ideologies, alienating roughly half of its fanbase. This is LeBron James’ NBA. How can you be the greatest of all-time when half, if not more of your fanbase has tuned out?

Think about it, NASCAR became more than a regional sport when Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was dominating. Baseball became America’s past-time when Babe Ruth was predicting his own homeruns. The NFL increased its ratings dominance when Brady and Manning were vying for G.O.A.T. status. And the NBA became a global brand when Jordan was in his prime.

Interest in the NBA has declined on James’ watch. His delve into politics and activism has alienated millions of fans. It’s difficult to label someone as the G.O.A.T. if when they win, very few are watching.

Jordan is still the G.O.A.T. and the gap is wide. James arguably moved up to second, I can accept that, but he’s still miles behind Jordan.

For the record, my top five is

  1. Michael Jordan
  2. LeBron James
  3. Bill Russell
  4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  5. Tie: Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant

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