Why LeBron James Will Be Better Than Michael Jordan When All Is Said and Done

May 5, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (center) holds his fourth MVP trophy next to head coach Erik Spoelstra (left) and Heat president Pat Riley (right) at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Eric BostContributor IIIMay 8, 2013

LeBron James will eventually surpass Michael Jordan as the best NBA player ever.

Two years ago, after the Miami Heat failed to beat the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, the argument that the “Chosen One” was better than the greatest of all time was inconceivable.

Now that the 2012-13 Miami Heat have had one of the best regular seasons in league history, the debate has come back from the grave, but this time, with some credibility.

James won his fourth league MVP award this past week and received 18 first-place votes for the Defensive Player of the Year and had many believing he should have won that award instead.

With the season LBJ has had, many think that he has the ability to take over the No. 1 spot as the greatest basketball player to ever walk this earth.

In life, like records and rules are meant to be broken, rankings are subject to change. Just because something is labeled the greatest of all time doesn’t mean it will last at the top spot forever. Something better eventually comes along and takes over.

That’s what LeBron is in the middle of doing.

He dominates the opposition to a degree we haven’t seen since Jordan in the mid-90s. He’s a scoring machine who is also a walking triple-double.

While he’s certainly this generation’s version of MJ, LeBron is far from becoming the great one himself. Jordan was too good for too long, and this is only LeBron’s 10th year in the league.

However, that doesn’t mean overtaking Jordan can’t be done.

So what does LeBron need to do to pass Jordan? It’s simple. OK, maybe not simple in the minds of you and me, but for LeBron, it is certainly achievable. And with how he has improved these past few seasons, it’s extremely possible.

While James is far from Jordan in terms of legacy, the numbers don’t lie. He is every single bit the player Jordan was if we look at the stats. The biggest hindrance to the discussion is that James doesn’t have the titles Jordan had at this point in both of their respected careers.

LeBron can be better than Jordan, one day.

Let’s first take a look at overall career stats.

Jordan: 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 50 percent shooting, 33 percent three-point shooting, six championships, five MVPs, 10 scoring titles

LeBron: 27.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 6.9 APG, 49 percent shooting, 33 percent three-point shooting, one championship, three MVPs, zero scoring titles

Right now, LeBron is close to MJ when it comes to per-game stats. But when it comes to titles and sustained excellence, it’s all Jordan.

For James to pass MJ, he has to keep up the dominance we have been accustomed to seeing for the next five years, all while winning at least four more championships in the process.

That means he has to continue to be the best NBA player into his mid-30s.

In five years, James will be 33 and in his 15th NBA season. To be able to continue putting up the numbers he has for such a long period of time can be difficult to even the greatest of players.

Jordan was able to keep his numbers steady for the duration of his career with the Bulls, even after coming back from a year-and-a-half hiatus because of his baseball stint (per after the 1993 season.

LeBron has shown he has been able to increase his level of play each season he has been in the league. He has shown this season that he is nowhere near the end of his prime. Actually, he’s getting better. If anybody can keep up 27-7-7 averages for the next five seasons, it’s LeBron James.

The biggest advantage to LeBron’s career is also his biggest disadvantage: coming into the NBA fresh out of high school.

Jordan dominated the college level for a couple years at the University of North Carolina. He was able to mature his game and use college as a stepping stone to the pros. When he was drafted, Jordan was ready for the NBA, and his stats prove it.

James, on the other hand, chose to skip college and immediately join the professional ranks.

He didn’t have the preparation Jordan had, which takes away from his early career statistics.

Take a look at both players’ numbers through their first 10 years:

Jordan: 32.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.9 APG, 51 percent shooting, 30 percent three-point shooting, three championships, three MVPs, seven scoring titles

LeBron: 27.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 6.9 APG, 49 percent shooting, 33 percent three-point shooting, one championship, three MVPs, zero scoring titles

But if James needs to continue putting up numbers for the next few years, then coming into the league at age 18 was the best decision he ever made. It allows James to remain in his prime longer. Although he is in his tenth year as a pro, James remains full of youth and doesn’t show signs of slowing down.

While Jordan was and forever will be a more dangerous scorer, LeBron is something we have never seen before.

James doesn’t have a position. Offensively he handles the ball, hits threes, drives to the basket and can post up all while being the team’s main distributor. On defense he can guard anyone from a healthy Derrick Rose to a super-scorer in Kevin Durant.

While LeBron can’t score like Jordan, he can do everything else at a better rate. In 2012-2013 he has become a better rebounder, better passer and more efficient player than Jordan ever was.

James is already having one of the best years in NBA history, but he’ll only pass Jordan if he continues on that same pace for the next few years.

Not only that, but LeBron has to hold off Kevin Durant in that time span, someone who has been knocking on the door to take away LeBron’s top spot.

To some, it might be impossible, but at the level James is playing at right now, the task may be easier than one might think.

So I’m going to come right out and say it: LeBron James will eventually surpass Michael Jordan as the greatest player in NBA history.

Just give it some time.

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