It's official- King LeBron James IS the second coming of Michael Jordan. More than Kobe Bryant, more than Dwayne Wade, more than the next "Next" player. There is no limit to what LeBron James can do and this is why he is this era's MJ. Recently, LBJ claimed that he could win the scoring title EVERY YEAR, if he wanted to. But where is the fun in that, right? It's not as though winning the scoring title every year is pre-requisite for winning championships. Each NBA team has five players on the court at all times. Watching Michael Jordan you would sometimes forget that there was anyone else on the court. Of course, every now and then MJ would pass and you would notice he actually had teammates. Sometimes, a player in a red jersey would pick up a rebound, and who the heck is that guy? He's not wearing number 23!? What I have attempted to do is compare Kobe, LeBron, and Michael (we're on a first name basis here) in each of their first 7 seasons, which is the extent of LeBron's career thus far. I am looking for who was the better all around player during this time. I am not heavily weighing things such as who had a better supporting cast or where their teams ranked during these times. Those are not always direct results of how well these players played, but I admit often times they do go hand in hand. Another factor to consider here is neither Kobe or LeBron played college basketball so their starting ages are significantly younger than Michael, who played 4 years at North Carolina. Let's get to the good stuff first.
The NBA's best players are usually defined by how many points they score. Sure, some players claim to fame is defense ( Bowen and Wallace) but they will never reach the elite status on defense alone. So who had the most points through the beginning of their careers?
And the winner is....
Michael Jordan, who averaged 32.6 points per game.
LeBron follows with 27.8, and Kobe brings up the rear with a surprisingly low 21.5 point per game. It is also fair to add that Lebron played the most games during his seven year span starting 543 games and playing an average of 40 minutes per game during this time.
MJ started 498 games and averaged around 38 minutes per game. Kobe, again, brings up the rear with 349 games started with an average of about 34 minutes a game. Let's dig a little deeper to see who provided the biggest impact totheir team, at least statistically speaking.
LeBron James adds some impressive side numbers to his game and it's easy to argue that he is the most talented all around player of the three. LeBron AVERAGES 6.9 assists per game, added to an average of 7 rebounds per game.
Michael Jordan, who early in his career didn't like to share the ball much averaged 5.9 assists per game along with 6.3 rebounds. As his career continued, the numbers declined to a career average 5.4 and 4.6 respectively.
Kobe, who remember was not an immediate starter and played the fewest minutes of the two averaged 4.2 assists and 5 rebounds a game over his first seven seasons. His carer averages improved to 4.7 and 5.3. I know, I know, anyone who has seen all three play will say you can't just go by numbers to sum up the careers of players. Others could argue that these are just small windows that aren't showing the big picture of their contributions. As I said, I have no weighed different aspects of their careers. I am simply talking numbers here. I also understand many are going to say, we're talking about the regular season here, championships aren't won in the first 82 games, so tell me something important. Fair enough.
In his first seven seasons Kobe played in the most playoff games.
He totaled 97 games during this time averaging 22.2 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game, and 4.2 assists per game. These numbers are just about on par with his regular season numbers so one could argue that he stayed consistent, but never truly 'rose' to the occasion.
Michael Jordan had the second most appearances in the playoffs playing 70 games during these 7 seasons. It's fair to note that the playoff format changed from Jordan's first seven years to Kobe and LeBron's, but we aren't concerned so much with how many games they played, as we are with what they did in those games. In the law of averages Michael Jordan averaged 34.6 points per game, 6.8 rebounds, and 7.1 assists. Talk about rising to the occasion!
Now, looking at their career playoff numbers in the fullest (Kobe's from start to present and Jordan's from start to finish) :
Jordan 179 33.4 5.7 6.4
Bryant 175 25 4.7 5.1
LeBron James playoff stats over his seven year period, which is also the extent of his career : 60 games played, 29.4 points per game, 8.3 total rebounds pergame, and 7.3 assists per game. LeBron improved in all three categories from his career regular season numbers to the playoffs. He easily outdoes Kobe in all three statistical categories and bests Jordan in all but points per game. It's scary to think of what Lebron is still capable of. One has to admit, we feel like LeBron has only TAPPED the surface of his playing career and he will be soon tapping the cash register. I will now add my personal opinion to all of this and that is that LBJ is the most well rounded player. yes, Jordan had more steals than the two and that was always an important part of MJ's game. We can remember plenty of times that MJ robbed aguy and broke it down court for a an easy two points. But then one can point to LeBron's blocks per game, which outdo both MJ and Kobe. How many times has he swatted one plucked it out of the air and brought the ball down for a sweet tomahawk? Kobe is considered the assassin and Jordan was always quick to put the nail in the coffin. You don't see LeBron do it as often, but I think it's the most impressive part of his arsenal. The fact that his points per game are so close to MJ's averages along with the additional 'hidden' points in LBJ's assist total push LeBron's points above MJ's.
The most interesting of all of this is that Kobe had Shaq most of these numbers and I believe that Jordan had Pippen for 4 years during this window. Who has LeBron had? Big Z scored the second highest season point total of anyone who has played alongside LBJ and that was 16 points. All others averages 15. Scottie Pippen and Shaq are two easy Hall of Famers and LBJ has yet to play with one. It's scary to think that he could realistically be combined with a player after this season who could truly provide the 1-2 punch that Jordan and Kobe had. Numbers don't lie. You can point to championship rings, but I can point to the numbers showing the help that MJ and Kobe have had. If you take Kobe or MJ and place them in place of LBJ on these Cavs teams you'd be hard pressed to find more success than LBJ has had. I'm just sayin'.