Why LeBron James Would Dominate Michael Jordan in a Game of 1-on-1
The showdown everyone would love to see, LeBron James versus Michael Jordan.
Forget the conversation on who is better. It's premature to make a sufficient case for one career that is complete against one that is in its prime.
What isn't premature to say is that the LeBron of today would beat Jordan heads-up at any point in his career.
When LeBron Is on Offense
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Just think about this simple fact. LeBron James would never face a double-team.
In an NBA game, when the question: "what is the best way to stop LeBron?" is asked, the general answer is: "make him take a mid-range jumper and contest it."
How do you do this? Guard him tight, and make sure your best defensive big man is in the driving lane.
With no help defense, why would James ever take a shot outside the paint?
He's developed a post game that has helped him shoot 56.5 percent this season and has two inches and 34 pounds on Jordan.
If MJ guards LBJ tightly and LeBron even gets half of a step on Jordan, it's a dunk every time. If Jordan keeps his position, LeBron can use his combination of speed and strength to get to the wing near the paint, post-up and use his size advantage off the glass.
If Jordan gives LeBron a light cushion and tries to lure him into taking a jump shot, James will just watch Jordan's feet while he dribbles in closer a few times and have the same options at his disposal.
Additionally, if LBJ fails to connect on his first attempt, by consistently taking close shots and having a height supremacy, there is a good possibility he will grab a couple offensive rebounds.
Even though Jordan has made All-Defensive First Team nine times, he has never defended a player as physically diverse as LeBron.
When Jordan Is on Offense
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What is Michael Jordan's biggest advantage on LeBron? His jump shot.
Is that something you can rely on for an entire one-on-one game? No.
There will be times where MJ can create some separation and make a jumper, but he will need to create some easy looks inside as well.
Is that possible?
If Jordan is able to get half a step on James, he has the quickness to get to the hoop. The problem is, LeBron can block shots and use his wingspan to make finishes a lot tougher at the basket.
Can MJ go against LBJ in the post? Perhaps with a fadeaway, but not by going over the top or into his chest.
Furthermore, by relying on jumpers, a player doesn't just catch fire instantly. He needs to make a few buckets inside or drain a couple open outside shots before the contested ones fall.
Going against LeBron every possession, easy baskets for Jordan will be extremely rare.
With two of the greatest basketball players ever that have similar styles of play, the size advantage prevails.
Rings Are Irrelevant
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MJ is correct, but one-on-one is a different game within the same sport.
If the Jordan supporters or LeBron critics step in and make the claim that rings matter for how clutch Jordan is and how LeBron can't make the big shot, save it.
First it was that James couldn't show up in the fourth quarter. Then he couldn't perform in the final two minutes. Then he couldn't make a game-tying or lead-changing shot in the final two minutes. Now, it's that he can't make the big shot at the buzzer.
Even if that's true, unless there is a 10-second shot clock each possession, that situation will never come up one-on-one.
The main argument for why someone would pick Jordan over LeBron is eliminated.
Throw the Stats out the Window
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Use whatever numbers you want, it's pointless.
In trying to compare two players from two different eras for an individual game, every statistic in a team game depends on too many external factors and situations.
Their career averages are too similar anyway.
Sure, Jordan averages 2.5 more points a game, but that comes on 2.6 more field-goal attempts than LeBron. Jordan has an 83.5 to 74.6 percent advantage at the free-throw line, but that doesn't come into play one-on-one.
The crunching of the numbers should be saved for when James retires, and the debate of who was the better player should actually begin.
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There isn't anyone who can guard LeBron consistently in a one-on-one situation.
It takes at least two defenders to contain him because there has never been a player of his physical stature combined with his skill set to ever play the game.
LBJ would get more higher-percentage shots than MJ overall, and Jordan's possessions would be limited.
It's not a matter of who is the better overall player. It's not the question of who is a better scorer. It's not the Chicago Bulls of 1995-96 against the Miami Heat of 2012-13.
In a one-on-one game with a make-it-take-it format, LeBron outmatches Jordan.
Playing to 11 by one's and two's, the final score would be:
LeBron James 11, Michael Jordan 4