LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have been playing MVP-caliber basketball this season, but are they earning all the hype they’re getting? James is drawing comparisons to Michael Jordan, an ongoing barrage of praises never ceasing since he entered the league in the 2003-2004 season. Bryant, however, has been drawing his own accolades of unique greatness for the majority of his 12-year career.
James and Bryant are both worth the hype, no doubt about it. Both are great players that have made an outstanding impact straight out of high school, with James being drafted first overall in 2003, and Bryant being taken third overall in 1996. This already puts them slightly ahead of the curve against Jordan, as he attended the University of North Carolina before entering the NBA as the third overall pick in the 1984 draft.
On to the statistics, the most-telling, measurable gauge of performance throughout a career. As for James, he has, in less than half the games that Jordan played, gotten more than twice the double-doubles than Jordan. Also, James has a higher assist/ turnover ratio, meaning that he is essentially a smarter passer and better ball-handler. Furthermore, James averages one more assist and one more rebound per game than Jordan. Without his rookie year averaged in, James averages about 30 points per game. Without his rookie year averaged in, Jordan averaged 29.5 points per game.
The major edge that Jordan has on James is the number of championship rings on his hand, currently sitting at six for Jordan and none for James. James basically is on a fast-track to trumping Jordan in every statistic in professional basketball. These statistics seem to say that James is better than Jordan was or is getting to that point very soon, if he can win an NBA championship.
As for Bryant, there's pretty much no question that Jordan was better. Both are the same height, standing at 6-foot-6, with Jordan weighing only 10 pounds more, but that’s about the only way that Bryant was even with Jordan. The only stats that Bryant may have an edge on Jordan for is double-doubles and triple-doubles. Bryant has 133 double-double games and 16 triple-doubles, while Jordan had 51 double-double games and only one triple-double.
Jordan averaged five more points per game than Bryant as well as one more assist, one more steal, and one more rebound. Bryant has a slightly lower assist-to-turnover ratio as well. Bryant does have something very important in common with Jordan, though. He has three championship rings, which isn't quite as great as Jordan’s six, but not quite as unaccomplished as James’ zero. The fact of the matter is that Bryant is as clutch on big stages as Jordan was, but he is not as good statistically as Jordan was.
Both of these fantastic players are definitely worth all the hype they get from the media, but James is more deserving of the comparisons to legends like Jordan. He matches up very well against Jordan in basically every statistic except championships, and he’s still young. James is getting better every day that he is playing in the league. He is already, arguably, the best player in the league in the past decade. He will continue to elevate his game until he is, hands down, the best ever to play in the NBA.