How LeBron James Really Stacks Up Against Michael Jordan
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With one of the most impressive performances in an NBA Finals Game 7, LeBron James put an end to the San Antonio Spurs' hopes of a fifth title in 15 years and helped lead the Miami Heat to repeating as NBA Champions.
James has now reached the benchmark of having won multiple NBA Titles to go along with his multiple (four) MVP trophies.
Although more and more NBA fans and analysts are opening up to the possibility of James' eventual ascension to being the "Greatest Of All Time," few, if any, give LeBron the nod right now - And for good reason.
Michael Jordan's resume is much longer and more prestigious.
It is interesting, however, to put the comparison into perspective and this slideshow will give a year by year comparison of LeBron James' and Michael Jordan's basketball careers from high school age through LeBron's current age of 28 (or high school plus ten seasons).
The High School Years
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James attended St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio and was a varsity men's basketball starter from day one of his freshman season. He averaged 21 points and six rebounds as a freshman and led his team to a state title.
As a sophomore in high school, LeBron James was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with his now famous moniker—"The Chosen One"—as the caption. He earned Ohio's Mr. Basketball honors (given as a "state high school MVP" award). Again, he led his team to the state title.
As a junior, James' school did not repeat as state champions; however, he did earn his second straight Mr. Basketball crown and actually appealed the NBA to allow him to declare for the 2002 NBA draft, a year before graduating high school. This was denied.
James' senior year was a media circus. His popularity had sky-rocketed to a point where his games were being nationally televised. The team practices could no longer be contained in their small high school gymnasium and were moved to Akron University. Celebrities, such as Shaq, would frequently attend his regular-season games. James secured a third straight Mr. Basketball title (unprecedented) and a third state title.
MJ attended Emsley A. Laney High School in North Carolina. Jordan got a late start in comparison to LeBron but tried out for the varsity men's basketball team as a sophomore. Although he did not make the team, he thrived on the junior varsity squad.
His junior year, MJ made the varsity team and played varsity his senior year as well.
Jordan did not win a state title in high school but gained enough recognition to be recruited by Hall of Fame Head Coach Dean Smith from the in-state powerhouse University of North Carolina.
Out of High School and Turning 19
James was the most anticipated draft prospect, possibly ever. Speculation gathered around whether or not the Cleveland Cavaliers had intentionally tanked regular-season games in order to secure the worst record and best chance at drafting LeBron. Intentionally or not, Cleveland did finish in last place and did win the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA draft, where they selected LeBron James.
In his rookie season, James averaged 20.9 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game. James was awarded the 2004 Rookie of the Year award. He also became the youngest player in NBA history to score over 40 points with 41 against the New Jersey Nets.
Playing on an athletic scholarship at the University of North Carolina, Jordan helped the Tar Heels win the National Championship.
In his freshman year, Jordan averaged 13.5 points, 1.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game.
20 Years Old
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LeBron continued his impressive dominance in the NBA, averaging 27.2 points, 7.2 assists and 7.4 rebounds per game, setting more records as the youngest player ever to record an NBA triple-double (Jan 19, 2005: 27 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists at Portland) and the youngest player ever named to an All-NBA squad.
James was also selected to play in his first All-Star game, where he had 13 points, six assists and eight rebounds.
In his sophomore year at UNC, Jordan was allowed a much larger scoring role in Coach Smith's offense and saw his scoring average rise to 20 points per game. His assist average stayed almost identical to his freshman season at 1.6 assists per game and his rebounding improved slightly to 5.5 rebounds per game
Jordan was named an NCAA All-American.
21 Years Old
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In his third year in the NBA, LeBron once again added to his legacy, averaging MVP-like numbers (finished second in MVP voting to Steve Nash) with 31.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. James became the youngest player in NBA history to average over 30 points per game in a single season.
Along with that, James was named to his second All-Star game, where he was awarded the MVP (again, youngest player to ever do so).
He was selected to the All-NBA First Team as well.
James led the Cavs to their first playoff appearance since 1998 and recorded a triple-double in his playoff debut with 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, becoming the third player in NBA history to accomplish this. He led the Cavaliers past the Washington Wizards in 6 games in round one and lost to the 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons in seven games in round two.
In his junior year, which would end up being his final collegiate year, Jordan averaged similar numbers to his previous year with 19.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
He was also named an NCAA All-American for his second straight year and was named the ACC Player of the Year as well as the Naismith College Player of the Year.
22 Years Old
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LeBron continued his spectacular play, averaging 27.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and six assists.
He was again selected to the NBA All-Star game, and All-NBA second team.
I just his second ever playoff run, James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, where the star-studded Spurs easily swept the Cavs.
Michael Jordan declared for the draft one year before his senior year at UNC. He was selected third overall by the Chicago Bulls after fellow Hall of Fame inductee Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie went to the Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers, respectively.
Jordan wasted no time and hit the ground running in the NBA averaging 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game and won Rookie of the Year. He was also selected to start in his first NBA All-Star game. Jordan was also selected to the second team All-NBA.
Jordan led the Bulls to the NBA playoffs, where they lost in four games to the Milwaukee Bucks.
23 Years Old
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James recorded another banner year, averaging 30 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists.
That same year, LeBron made his fourth straight All-Star team, where he earned his second All-Star MVP award. He was named NBA scoring champion for the first time in his career and again was named to the All-NBA First Team.
He led the Cavaliers once again to the playoffs, this time losing to the 2008 champion Boston Celtics and the newly formed "Big 3" in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in seven games.
MJ suffered a down year when he broke his foot and missed 64 games. In the games he did play, he averaged 22.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
Jordan returned in time for the playoffs and despite scoring a still unbroken record 63 points against the Celtics in Game 2 of the opening round of the playoffs, the Bulls were swept. Those Celtics went on to win the NBA Title.
24 Years Old
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In 2008-09 LeBron averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game for the season in which he won his first NBA MVP trophy. James became the third player in history to lead his team in all five major statistical categories for a season (points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks).
James tallied another All-Star selection (his fifth) and First Team All-NBA honors (his third). This was also the first year James was named to the NBA All-Defensive team.
James led the Cavs to the playoffs, where they lost in the Eastern Conference finals to the Orlando Magic in six games.
Jordan more than rebounded from his down season the year before, averaging 37.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. Jordan won the scoring title that year.
He was named to his third All-Star game and won the slam dunk champion title. He was also selected to the First Team All-NBA for the second time.
Jordan led the Bulls to the playoffs, where they again faced the Celtics in the first round as the No. 8 seed and again were swept.
25 Years Old
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James continued the dominance, averaging 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists on his way to winning his second consecutive league MVP honor.
He added another All-Star game appearance (six), First Team All-NBA selection (four) and First Team All-Defensive selection (two).
James once again led the Cavaliers to the playoffs, where they met the "Big 3 + Rondo" of the Boston Celtics in the second round and were ousted in six games.
Other notable milestones James achieved: He became the only player since Oscar Robertson to have 40 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists in a regular-season game and became the youngest player to score 15,000 regular-season points.
Jordan continued paving his legacy with his dominance as well, averaging 35 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game, and really had a breakout award year.
Along with tallying another All-Star appearance (four) and First Team All-NBA selection (three), MJ won his first All-Star MVP, was named Defensive Player of the Year, was selected to his first NBA All-Defensive team, earned his second scoring title and was named league MVP first the first time.
Jordan again led his Bulls to the playoffs, where he cracked the first round exit curse, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games (3-2). The Bulls lost to Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons "Bad Boys" in five games in the second round.
26 Years Old
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James set the sports world on fire when he decided to leave Cleveland and head for Miami to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Even with the two other superstars beside him, LeBron averaged 26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and seven assists per game.
James again tallied another All-Star game appearance (seven), a First Team All-NBA selection (five) and an NBA All-Defensive First Team selection (three).
Jordan had another stellar year, averaging 32.5 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, winning the NBA scoring title once more (three).
Michael added another All-Star game appearance (five), All-NBA First Team selection (four) and NBA All-Defensive First Team selection (two).
Jordan led his team once again to the playoffs. Once again, they faced the Pistons, this time in the Eastern Conference Finals. The result, however, was the same and the Bulls were ousted from the playoffs in six games by Thomas and the "Bad Boys" after leading the series 2-1.
27 Years Old
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James continued his MVP-like numbers averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game, earning him his third MVP trophy.
James also notched another All-Star game appearance (eight), All-NBA First Team selection (six) and NBA All-Defensive First Team selection (four).
Nine years after leaving high school, LeBron James won his first NBA title, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team that was picked as pre-finals favorites in five games. James was also named the finals MVP.
Michael continued scoring the basketball better than anyone in the NBA and attained another scoring title (four), averaging 33.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists.
He added another All-Star game appearance (six), All-NBA First Team selection (five) and NBA All-Defensive First Team selection (three).
Jordan led the Bulls to the playoffs again and for the third straight year, they met up with the Detroit Pistons in the playoffs. Again, Thomas led the "Bad Boys" past the bulls, defeating them in seven games.
28 Years Old
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade celebrating consecutive championship victories.
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A season after winning his first NBA title, LeBron James came out right where he left off, averaging 26.8 points, eight rebounds and 7.3 assists per game.
James was also the most voted player to play in his ninth All-Star game. He also notched another All-NBA First Team selection (seven) and NBA All-Defensive First Team selection (five).
For the fourth time in five years, James won the NBA's Most Valuable Player award. His fourth MVP put him in an elite group of players with four or more MVPs, joining Kareem Abdul Jabbar (six), Bill Russell (five), Michael Jordan (five) and Magic Johnson (four).
MJ had a truly iconic year in the 1990-91 season, averaging 31.5 points, six rebounds and 5.5 assists earning him yet another scoring title (five).
Jordan continued adding to the trophy case as well, notching another All-Star Game selection (seven), All-NBA First Team selection (six) and NBA All-Defensive First Team selection (four). He also won his second Most Valuable Player award.
By far, the highlight of MJ's season was finally overcoming the championship hump, beating the Magic-Johnson-led LA Lakers in five games, LA having won Game 1.
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So, given equal looks at every year both men have had in their basketball careers up until their 28th birthdays, here's how the numbers stack up:
Rookie of the Year
All-Star Game appearances - 9
All-Star Game MVP- 2
NBA All-Defensive First Team - 5
All-NBA First Team - 7
NBA Scoring Champion
NBA Finals appearances - 4
NBA Champion - 2
NBA Finals MVP - 2
Rookie of the Year
All-Star Game appearances - 7
All-Star Game MVP
NBA Defensive Player of the Year
NBA All-Defensive First Team - 4
All-NBA First Team - 6
NBA Scoring Champion - 5
NBA Finals appearances - 1
NBA Champion - 1
NBA Finals MVP - 1