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The Most Popular Basketball Debate: Jordan or LeBron?

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The topic I have chosen is a debate between Lebron James and Michael Jordan. This is one of the most popular sports debate topics of the decade. It’s the debate about who is the G.O.A.T. which is an acronym for Greatest of All Time. In my opinion greatest of all time means the most dominant player to play the game. These two are arguably the most famous basketball players and athletes of the decade. Lebron James is still playing basketball now, while Michael is retired. This situation brings some conflict in the debate, because James is still playing it’s hard to argue that one is better than the other. Either way both have excelled in their sport and changed the game of basketball forever. When we look at the acronym G.O.A.T. it’s truly hard to define everything in the acronym. This means that the athlete is the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball. We must realize that this means past, present, and future, that there won’t be another player this dominant at basketball.

First we must look at the definition of great: of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average [cite]. This implies that the player is way above average, so we must look at all aspects of the game of basketball. This includes the roles of offensive, defense, leadership on and off the court, and being a teammate. An ESPN columnist named John Hollinger created a way to measure performance with his PER rating. PER stands for Player Efficiency Rating. This means that it rates a player per minute that they are playing in the game. This takes into account all factors, including turnovers and blocks, when playing the game of basketball. One thing that the PER doesn’t take into account in the game of basketball is the way a player has changed the game, or their life on and off the court. Which is something that both of these athletes have done. But to determine who is truly the G.O.A.T. we must look at everything.

Let’s look at Michael Jordan and his background to start our comparisons. Michael Jeffrey Jordan was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 23rd in 1963. When he was very young the family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. His parents both worked to support Michael and his four other siblings. His mom worked at a bank and his father was a General Electric plant supervisor. When Michael was young his parents kept him off the streets and taught him to work hard. His mother taught him how to sew, clean, do laundry, and to have a good work ethic.

Jordan had a love for sports and had always had a very competitive edge and always wanted to win. While attending Emsley A. Laney High School he played football, baseball, and basketball. He had a love for the game of basketball, but shockingly when he tried out for the high school basketball team as a sophomore he was cut. This fueled him to get better at basketball and over the summer he grew five inches. The next year he made the high school team and averaged 25 points per game. After playing two years at the varsity level he earned a scholarship to play basketball at University of North Carolina.

While playing for the Tar Heels he became a important member of the team and helped the team win a National championship when he made a clutch jump shot versus Georgetown. During his rookie season he was named the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) rookie of a the year. The next two years he went on to lead the ACC in scoring and then declared to the NBA draft. He was picked 3rd by the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 1984 NBA draft. Jordan went on continuing his success at the professional level drawing large crowds to the United Center. People were eager to catch sight of the new rookie with his incredible hang time abilities. He then went on to win Rookie of the Year, and was selected for the NBA All-Star team. In 1991 Jordan won his first NBA ring with the Chicago Bulls. Then he led the bulls get win again in 1992, and again in 1993.

After the 1993 season Jordan unexpectedly retired and decided to pursue playing professional baseball. He played for the Chicago White Sox minor league team, the Birmingham Barons and never made it into Major League Baseball. After a season in the minors he returned to the NBA and ended up winning 3 more NBA titles, for a total of 6 rings. Jordan’s career accomplishments consist of 6 NBA Championships, 5 time league MVP, 9 time All Defense First team, 10 All-NBA First Team, 14 time NBA All Star, 1 time Defensive Player of the Year, 2 Time Slam Dunk Champion, 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist, and 1 time Rookie of the Year. All of these accomplishments show how great Michael Jordan was at the game of basketball. Now we must look at Lebron James and his story.

Lebron Raymone James was born in Akron, Ohio on December 30th 1984. His parents are Gloria James his mother and Anthony McClelland his father. James’ father, an ex convict, wasn’t interested in raising him, so it was just his mother. His mother Gloria was just 16 years old when she had Lebron. After not having a stable childhood his mother allowed Lebron to live with another family, the Walker family. When James was nine years old they introduced him to the game of basketball. He began playing for an AAU team called the Northeast Ohio Shooting Stars. He chose to go to a white private school, St. Vincent–St. Mary High School. Through AAU basketball a lot of people already knew who Lebron was, but as freshman he began to get national attention for his basketball skills, as well as hi s football skills. He was recruited as star wide receiver from big time Division 1 schools such as Alabama, Ohio State, and Miami just to name a few. Coaches believed that he could play more than just one position on the football field, based on his size and athleticism standing at 6’7′, 230 pounds. But Lebrons love for the game of basketball kept growing as he excelled at basketball leading his high school team to multiple state championships. He was such a standout basketball player in high school that he was drafted into the NBA out of high school, instead of going to college. He was selected as the number one pick in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The high school superstar inked a 90 million dollar shoe contract with Nike before he played in his NBA debut.

Lebron was no disappointment when he was taken as the number one pick in the draft. His presence was felt immediately when he got to Cleveland. It was a fresh start for the Cavaliers after tying for the worst record in the NBA the previous year. James brought a plethora of fans to the Quicken Loans Arena game in and game out. Basketball fans, sports enthusiasts, celebrities and critics were very eager to see the 18 year old star perform at the highest level. James contributed to the team right away and became the youngest player to score 40 points in a game. The Cavaliers went on to improve their record by 18 wins from the previous year. This is truly an accomplishment as an 18 year old kid playing against grown men in the NBA. James ended up winning Rookie of the Year and averaged 20.9 points per game, 5 and a half rebounds, 1.6 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.

While Michael Jordan’s career is over, Lebron’s career is still going as he is 34 years old and is currently the Power Forward for the Los Angeles Lakers. So far his accomplishments are 3 NBA Championships, 4 time league MVP, 12 time NBA All First Team, 1 time NBA Scoring Leader, 5 time All Defensive First Team, 1 time Rookie of the Year, All Rookie First Team, 15 time All Star, 3 time All Star MVP, and has 3 Olympic Medals.

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As you can see from all the accomplishments, both of these players have excelled while playing in the NBA. It’s tough to say who is truly the better player, because Lebron hasn’t finished playing the game of basketball. But now that we have discussed what both athletes have achieved, we can go into a deeper look into these NBA with players. Looking at a wide range of aspects such as stats, competition, life on and off the court, impact on the game of basketball and the one people seem to forget about, leadership.

In my personal opinion I believe that Lebron James is the Greatest of all Time. Standing at 6’ 8” 250 pounds makes James one of the hardest players in the league to guard. Lebron is one of the few players in the world that can truly play all five positions on the court. His raw athleticism and talent can overpower any player in the NBA today, no one can stop him. There are 450 extremely good players in the NBA and not one of them can guard him. James is elite, the man is the most complete package when it comes to a player. He can do it all, shoot, pass, rebound, dunk, and play excellent defense. Lebron James is arguably the best defender in the NBA and will be in the top 5 for defensive players to ever play the game.

Lebrons leadership on and off the court is impeccable. When he is traded to another NBA team, they immediately become a playoff contender, and a possible championship contender. He has made it to 7 straight NBA finals while playing on different teams. When James is on the floor he makes all of his teammates around him better with his IQ, leadership, and basketball skills. Because of his knowledge and experience Lebron basically becomes the coach after the actual coach. The coaches he has had so far in his career haven’t been superb to say the least. James basically has the power to fire the coach, such as the firing of David Blatt or Tyronn Lue.

Having a good coach is huge in basketball, and Jordan had one of the G.O.A.T. coaches with Hall of Famer Phil Jackson. Jackson has coached some of the all time greats with MJ, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’neal. When Jordan retired from the NBA to play minor league baseball, it didn’t a huge effect on the Chicago Bulls. They still had a great season making it to the Easter Conference Finals, and Scottie Pippen winning the NBA All Star MVP. Compare this to Lebron, when he leaves a team, the team becomes one of the worst in the league, which truly shows how valuable of a player he is.

King James isn’t the G.O.A.T. just riding with his natural talent. The man has two personal trainers so he can stay in top notch shape. Lebron has personal chefs that cook his meals and make sure he is getting the very best. He has a followed specific diets so he can play the game of basketball longer and at the highest level. Whatever team he plays for he has the exact replica gym with all the same equipment that they have for the team for himself. He uses full body cryotherapy, which basically a more advanced ice bath. This help James recover faster, reducing pain from games and keeps him playing at the highest level. It’s estimated that Lebron spends about 1.5 million dollars each year on his body which may seem like a lot, but his net worth is 500 million.

Now let’s talk some statistics, one area that Lebron is without a doubt better than Jordan. When shooting inside the 3 point line Lebron shoots 54% compared to MJs 51% and James has shot a lot more baskets that Jordan. Shooting behind the 3 points arch Jordan shoots a brutal 32% on 1.7 attempts per game. Lebron shoots 34% and shoots 4.0 attempts per game. Lebron also has more career points, rebounds, and assists than Jordan. Looking at playoff triple doubles Lebron has 18 and Jordan has 2. This clearly points out that Lebron is more of a team player who makes everyone around him better. One of Lebron’s latest accomplishments was when he led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA title, fulfilling his promise to win a title for the city. The Cavs came back from a 3-1 series lead against the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are considered to be the greatest team ever assembled, they set a record for most winningest team in NBA history with a record of 73-9.

Now let’s talk about something that doesn’t get brought up much, ability to handle pressure, the differences in era that they played in, the media, and on and off the court life. When lebron was drafted as the number one pick out of high school as an 18 year old he had all the pressure in the world to perform at a high level. Compared to Jordan who was the 3rd pick during his NBA draft class. In close games both players have had the ball to hit the game winning shot, but lebron has now passed up Jordan for made clutch shots because he has played longer.

The era that Jordan played in was much different than the era that Lebron currently plays in. Jordan’s era was filled big men who really aren’t that skilled at basketball. In Lebron’s era everyone super athletic and skilled. It doesn’t matter how big or tall you are, now big men are playing multiple positions, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo for the Milwaukee Bucks. Now let’s look at the Media. The media that Lebron faces v.s. the media that Jordan faced is a night and day difference. While Jordan did receive lots of media, they didn’t cover every aspect of his life they they do with athletes now.

Michael pulled a lot of stuff that wouldn’t have been allowed in todays came. Such as Jordan’s gambling habits before and after games, him elbowing players and punching Steve Kerr in the face. Jordan was seen gambling in Atlantic city a night before a playoff game. It was reported that Michael had 57,000 is losses that night. In the current era, basically anything a player does on social media is news. If Lebron or another player in the NBA likes another team’s post on instagram its headline news. The way NBA and NFL athletes are scrutinized today is absolutely ridiculous, everything and anything is news.

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The Most Popular Basketball Debate: Jordan or LeBron? (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 3, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-most-popular-basketball-debate-jordan-or-lebron/
“The Most Popular Basketball Debate: Jordan or LeBron?” Edubirdie, 21 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-most-popular-basketball-debate-jordan-or-lebron/
The Most Popular Basketball Debate: Jordan or LeBron? [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-most-popular-basketball-debate-jordan-or-lebron/> [Accessed 3 Dec. 2022].
The Most Popular Basketball Debate: Jordan or LeBron? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 21 [cited 2022 Dec 3]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-most-popular-basketball-debate-jordan-or-lebron/
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