LeBron James moved a rung higher on the all-time playoff scoring list on Thursday. In fact, he’s on the top step, passing Michael Jordan who had reigned supreme since the 1997-98 season.
James zipped right by Jordan’s 5,987 career playoff points Thursday in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. His third-quarter 3-pointer splashed through on James’ way to 35 points in the game. He’s now at 5,995 career playoff points. The two closest active players: Tony Parker (4,012 points, 10th place all-time) and former teammate Dwyane Wade (3,871, 12th place).
No one will threaten James’ top spot for some time. But there’s a bigger question looming, speaking of titles: Is James threatening Jordan’s title of Greatest of all Time?
Jordan played 15 seasons in the NBA, was a five-time MVP, six-time champion, 11-time scoring champion and a defensive juggernaut.
James is nearing the end of his 14th season in the NBA, has won the MVP Award four times, is sitting on three NBA titles and has never won a scoring title.
But James’ jump in playoff scoring has rekindled the conversation over which player is better, James or Jordan.
Let’s comment on a few arguments for and against James taking over as G.O.A.T.
This would be an extremely big hit to James’ case for taking the crown, except for the fact that, while accurate, it doesn’t tell the whole story. First and foremost, Jordan was a pure scorer while James is part elite scoring machine and part distributor (think: Jordan and Magic Johnson combined). Second, the number of postseason shots taken by each is very close, somewhat erasing the games played argument.
Here’s another set of numbers that shows James is creeping i non Jordan’s status:
The main issue with this argument is that fact that is lends too much credence to the team and not enough on the individual. Sure, both players were the catalyst on their respective teams and both had an epic No. 2 and great supporting cast, but this hands too much credit (or deficit) to the player for what the team did.
Plus, to truly count this take you’d ave to take the entire league (or at least the playoff teams) into consideration. Has Cleveland’s (or Miami’s) path been easier than Chicago’s because of playoff competition?
Here’s another apples-to-oranges comparison. To really use this one, we’d have to know why those Chicago teams exited early. How stiff, once again, was the competition compared to James’ team’s path?
Look, the only way we’ll ever know which player was truly the G.O.A.T. is to have them play one-on-one in the prime of their careers. Give me 2007-08, 2009-10 or 2013-14 James versus anywhere from 1986 to 1989 Jordan. Who wins that game most out of 10 contests?
The person that can give me that… I’ll let them decide who the G.O.A.T. was. Until then, everyone will have their own opinion.
For what it’s worth: I’m still on the Team Jordan, but I also know James has year’s left to change my mind.