Michael Jordan and LeBron James are two of the greatest NBA stars ever. The argument over who is the best is destined to rumble on and on for years and decades to come. They both have millions of diehard fans and there are good reasons why either could claim superiority over the other.
However, based on their mutual legacies and achievements, Jordan simply edges the debate. His iconic status goes way beyond anything that James will ever hope to achieve. His on-court contributions for the Chicago Bulls and his off-the-court influence in the athletic apparel market were truly one-of-a-kind. Perhaps you agree and perhaps you don’t so check out the 20 reasons below why James will never be Jordan via The Grueling Truth and How They Play.
20. Finals Master
We know that Jordan has won two more NBA Finals victories than James. But this is even more impressive when it’s broken down. First, his six titles came in 13 seasons. In comparison, James won four out of 10 attempts in 18 seasons. All of Jordan’s successes occurred during a more condensed career, and this also makes his achievements all the more impressive.
Furthermore, Jordan is a six-time NBA Finals MVP. This is outstanding and shows his consistency throughout his Finals career. He never slowed down and continued to perform at a very high level. James deserves respect because he is the only player to win a Finals MVP award with three franchises. This is incredible, but many purists feel Jordan’s loyalty is the more impressive quality.
Of course, this comes with the disclaimer that Jordan was a shooting guard and James is a small forward. But Jordan’s scoring record is insane compared to his counterparts. In 17 seasons, James has won just a single NBA scoring champion award. Meanwhile, Jordan had a remarkable 1o scoring titles to his name. His ability was insane, especially considering the level of competition in the league.
Their impact in the playoffs is also profoundly different. Jordan managed to average over 40 points per game in five playoff series, falling short in 1989. James never managed to achieve this throughout his many years in the league. It’s also worth mentioning that Jordan achieved all of this before the NBA changed the rules to make scoring much easier.
Jordan played during a different era. Later, we’ll talk about how the NBA was much tougher in the 1990s. But attitudes towards gamesmanship were less forgiving in his day. First, let’s be real: James is a flopper. This might be hard for some fans to swallow but it’s true. It’s not necessarily a criticism because almost every NBA player flops these days. But this would have been unacceptable during Jordan’s heyday.
Of course, James is also one of the most targeted players in the NBA. His fame puts a massive bullseye on his back so he attracts many fouls. Sometimes he makes the most of these. But Jordan played during an era when men were men. No doubt he flopped upon occasion, but it definitely wasn’t with the frequency of today’s athletes. That must be respected.
Jordan provides so many iconic moments compared to James. While they have different roles on the court, James doesn’t contribute game-winners as Jordan. The Bulls’ icon produced some crazy winners in the final moments of the fourth quarter. There was ‘The Shot’ against Cleveland. He secured a game-winner over his future teammate Dennis Rodman in 1989.
Then, there was his winner in 1998 to win his final ring. These are some of the most iconic moments in NBA history. People still talk about them because they witnessed greatness. James just doesn’t have the same profound game-changing influence. This isn’t necessarily a criticism because his role isn’t the same. But it means it’s easier to put Jordan ahead of him in this context.
Jordan maintains a level of charisma that James simply doesn’t have. During his time with the Bulls, he was almost untouchable. The likes of Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman both treated him with the utmost respect. While he was occasionally brutal, Jordan was a winner who forced his teammates to be better. It’s safe to say that James hasn’t had that impact.
For example, it’s difficult to imagine Jordan accepting that one of his teammates slept with his mother. That’s exactly what Delonte West did with Gloria James. Furthermore, James never exerted the same influence over a franchise as Jordan did. His most powerful ability was being able to walk away. But he was never able to force his GMs to build teams around him.
Many people regard James as a mercenary. When he left Cleveland for the first time, it was extremely painful for the city. James infamously made the decision and became a villain because of it. From there, he won two titles with Miami before returning to Cleveland. Then he left the Cavs again but this time for one of the biggest markets in the NBA, joining one of the league’s most marketable franchises in the Lakers.
This is a stark contrast to Jordan’s career. He spent all of his competitive years with the Bulls before enjoying a couple of twilight seasons in Washington. While it’s fair to point out that the Bulls built a great team around him, he still secured his own legacy. Sure, he was lucky that Chicago was a massive market, but he helped define basketball for an entire generation.
One of James’ worst traits is his tendency to turn the ball over. He has a significant turnover record in the NBA Finals with 177 total. Meanwhile, Jordan only had 99. Of course, we acknowledge that James was the fulcrum of his unsuccessful Cavs’ teams. He also played in more Finals than Jordan did. That being said, it’s still a wild statistic, but that isn’t the only alarming number.
Forget about the Finals for a moment. James occasionally has poor displays in postseason games. In two playoff games, he turned the ball over 10 times. Jordan never did this despite receiving significant possession. He also played against very tough defensive teams. Nobody ever outscored Jordan from the bench either. Jason Terry achieved this over James.
James is a divisive figure because of his political opinions. He is a committed civil rights activist and outspoken about matters that he passionate about. However, not everybody respects or agrees with his views. While he has the right to freedom of speech, it’s clear that many people would prefer if he stayed quiet. But Jordan had a very different approach to politics.
He stayed clear of them. Jordan very rarely spoke out about civil rights or the conditions of Black America. Why didn’t he? The answer was economical. If he criticized one group of fans, they wouldn’t buy his shoes. Many of his compatriots, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, condemned Jordan for this. However, the Bulls star shrugged his shoulders in response.
There’s little doubt that James played in a weaker conference than Jordan for most of his career. James spent most of his career in the Eastern Conference before he joined the Lakers. As a result, it was easier to increase his numbers. Of course, he was always a brilliant athlete, but it helped that he was in a less competitive conference. Jordan spent his career in the East too. However, the league was very different back then.
Since Jordan’s final NBA Championship win, it’s been all about the West. The likes of the Spurs, Lakers, and Warriors claimed 15 titles between them while the East won just seven. Sure, James played on several of those Eastern teams. Meanwhile, in M.J.’s day, the likes of the Detroit Piston and Houston were always in contention. In sum, the league has changed a lot since then.
Proponents of James” all-time great status say he is an incredible team player. They point out that Jordan was arrogant and selfish on the court. Both of these statements are true but context is important. In clutch situations, Jordan was much more reliable than James. Jordan took responsibility and made it count when James deferred to a teammate.
The other thing is that James isn’t as humble as these fans say. He once infamously claimed to be the best in the world before a dreadful display against the Warriors. Jordan never labeled himself as the best. But he made it clear that he was with his actions on the court. Both of these men were brilliant, but Jordan’s leadership and killer instinct put him in a different class.
One of Jordan’s most popular cultural successes was the movie Space Jam. It starred the Bulls icon alongside the cast of the Looney Tunes. This movie became a classic and entertained children for the next couple of decades. Bugs Bunny and co. enlisted Jordan to help them save the world from an alien invasion. However, the wildest aspect of this is that James will follow in Jordan’s footsteps.
The original Space Jam became a family favorite. But it remains to be seen whether or not the reboot receives the same warmth. Meanwhile, the film attracted some criticism before because of its decision to edit and remove certain characters. Lola Bunny’s outfit is toned down for the 21st century, while Pepe Le Pew is nowhere to be seen. Some believe this is woke nonsense.
In terms of general all-around play, Jordan was much better than James. Jordan even won an NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 1988. This was during an era where there were many great defenders. It was quite an achievement considering Jordan’s ability as a shooter. He played superb defense and gave everything in his six NBA Finals. Defense was just a part of the job for him.
James is also a good defender and made the All-Defense First Team on five occasions. But that falls far short of Jordan’s nine times. Meanwhile, Jordan won three steals titles, which is something James never achieved. The latter’s ability to shut down his opponents is simply not in the same class as Jordan’s. Some may dispute this, but it’s the truth.
It’s crazy to imagine that Jordan almost signed with Adidas. However, he signed with Nike in 1984 and created one of the strongest subsidiary brands ever. It began with the iconic red and black Air Jordan I. Now there are over 3o iterations of the shoe. Meanwhile, Jordan’s apparel range is so big that it sponsors individuals and teams. These include Cowboys’ QB Dak Prescott, Zion Williamson, and Carmelo Anthony.
Even European soccer giants PSG wear Jordan Brand jerseys. Of course, James has his own range of Nike shoes but it is nowhere near as influential as M.J.’s apparel empire. While the LBJ series are excellent basketball shoes, they don’t have the same off-court appeal. Meanwhile, the Jordan Brand has created its own myth. It’s difficult if not impossible to compete with that.
When it comes to numbers in the bank, Jordan is way ahead. Forbes estimate that his net worth stands at about $1.5 billion. This compares to James’ $500 million. Of course, he is 22 years older than James, so this isn’t an entirely fair comparison. However, Jordan’s commercial empire is simply untouchable. It remains to be seen if James maintains his earning power after his retirement.
The Jordan Brand is massive and transcends basketball in a way that James’ personal label doesn’t. Meanwhile, Jordan attracted millions of dollars worth of endorsements throughout his career. He opened the door for athletes in other sports, like David Beckham, to build their own personal brands. Now Jordan even owns his own NBA franchise in the Charlotte Hornets. Although, they probably wish he didn’t.
We’ve already spoken about the divisive nature of James’ views. However, the worst aspect is his stance on China. James openly condemns police brutality and racial inequality in the USA. He is very vocal about it and this rubs some fans up the wrong way. However, the problem is that he goes quiet when money is involved. Of course, we’re talking about China.
The NBA is massively popular in the Middle Kingdom. Obviously, James is the face of basketball in the 21st century. His comments attract massive attention and he also has a lot of influence. Activists in Hong Kong criticized the Lakers’ star because he refused to speak out about Chinese brutality in the region. They claimed that he is a hypocrite because he only talks about things that affect him.
Let’s face it, James doesn’t deal with the physical side of the game as well as other players. Sure, he attracts more fouls because of who he is. But while he is a physical specimen, he doesn’t relish rough play like Jordan did. M.J. rolled with the blows throughout his career. Remember, he played during the late eighties and through the nineties. This was a far more physically tough era.
The Detroit Pistons maintained a deserved notorious reputation for their brutality on the court. But they weren’t the only ones with a fondness for the dark arts. The likes of the Knicks were also very tough. Jordan faced these challenges in the East and never received an easy ride to the NBA Finals. In contrast, James faced weaker competition and took advantage of this.
The Chicago Bulls and Jordan won a combined six NBA Championships together. Meanwhile, James has four rings to his name. Of course, he had the chance to win another in his first season with the Miami Heat. But the franchise failed miserably that season. Big questions remain about the influence of the pair upon their respective teams. Jordan was the driving force behind the Bulls.
His desire to win and his ability to raise the game of his teammates was beyond belief. Jordan had a ferocious winning drive and was uncompromising throughout his 14 NBA seasons. The manner in which he returned after a season in baseball’s minor leagues says it all. It’s difficult to comprehend this level of total dedication to a sport. Jordan gave the sport everything.
As we already discussed, Jordan scored more than James. Furthermore, he was more accurate than his younger rival. Their records in the Finals speak for themselves. Jordan never shot under 40 percent, but James did so on two occasions. Meanwhile, Jordan also shot over 50 percent in three of his six finals. James only managed this in two Finals. In short, the difference is clear.
Also, Jordan’s jump shot was one of his most useful skills. It’s something that James definitely doesn’t use as effectively. When defenses try and crowd him out, he occasionally struggles. But Jordan batted them off with utter contempt. Sure, James has an excellent record in the regular season. But he suffers a decline when it comes to postseason statistics.
It’s fair to say that none of James’s teams were iconic. Sure, he helped to create a legendary moment when he won a ring with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But he never created a dynasty with any of his franchises like M.J. The closest he came to this was with the Miami Heat. James won two NBA Championships with Miami but lost his first attempt. Then, he opted out of his contract.
But Jordan stayed loyal to the Bulls and built a dynasty. Furthermore, he helped them to overcome tough challenges. The likes of the Pistons, the Rockets, the Jazz, and the SuperSonics challenged for supremacy. But Jordan and his supporting cast stayed loyal and stood firm. The Bulls became the most storied franchise in the history of the NBA because of them.
Jordan is a cultural icon in a way that James will never be. This is because M.J. brought global attention to the NBA. His legacy is far more influential than James’. While James is a spectacular player, his overall significance pales in comparison. Arguably neither of them are the greatest players ever. The likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabber and Wilt Chamberlain were also magnificent.
Meanwhile, James confronted rivals such as Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. But nobody commanded the attention of audiences like peak Jordan. He was a force of nature that went beyond the Chicago Bulls. Unless James becomes President of the USA, he can’t beat Jordan in this regard. That fact that everybody talked about “The Last Dance” 20 years after Jordan retired says a lot.