With all the success LeBron James has had over the last several years, it’s only natural that he would be compared with the all-time greats, especially given the constant noise of the 24-hour news cycle. If LeBron James will ultimately go down as the greatest player who ever lived, that would mean (naturally) that he was better than Michael Jordan.
After his performance over the last two games, especially in Tuesday’s 36-point defeat to San Antonio in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, it’s really difficult to make a case for LeBron as being even close to Jordan.
So please, do yourself a favor. Stop comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan. Please.
LeBron James was 7-for-21 shooting with 15 points in Game 3, and 7-for-17 shooting with 17 points in Game 2. Michael Jordan never scored fewer than 22 points in an NBA Finals game. James hasn’t even come close to Jordan’s level of assertiveness in this year’s Finals, nor has he reached 20 points in a game this series.
In the worst Finals game of Jordan’s life, his 22-point effort in Game 4 of the 1997 Finals against Utah, he at least shot 11-for-27 from the field. That’s still a higher shooting percentage than James had on Tuesday against San Antonio.
James is shooting 38.9 percent from the field through the first three games of the Finals. He’s even shooting worse than 30 percent on isolation plays this series, according to ESPN Stats & Info, which is usually regarded as one of James’ biggest strengths offensively.
Would Jordan have had fewer points in a Finals series thus far than Danny Green? Could you imagine Jordan having a three-game stretch in the NBA Finals where he would shoot 7-for-30 from outside the paint, like James has in the first three games against the Spurs? Somehow, I don’t think so.
“Honestly, I just have to play better,” James said after the game. “I can’t have a performance like tonight and expect to win.”
Think about this: In a season where Jordan’s Bulls reached the Finals, the lowest scoring average he had in those six postseasons was 30.7 points per game. These are just numbers that LeBron James cannot approach.
The 50 total points LeBron has scored over the first three games is the lowest three-game total since…the 2011 Finals against Dallas, ESPN points out. While Jordan never lost a Finals in six series, James has already dropped two and is in danger of losing a third if he doesn’t get his act together.
You could argue that Jordan’s Bulls teams teams were better, and that James is still doing a lot of other things besides scoring. He did have 11 rebounds and five assists on Tuesday. But it just seems like Jordan would never be in the kind of shooting slump that James is currently mired in. LeBron James hasn’t shot better than 50 percent in a game since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Indiana. He’s missed more shots than he’s hit in seven out of his last eight postseason games.
Does the greatest player of all time have a stretch like that? Would the greatest player of all time really go 4-5 in a nine-game postseason stretch in what’s considered the prime of his career? You already know the answer.
“We got what we deserved,” Erik Spoelstra said after Miami’s 113-77 loss. “I didn’t even recognize the team that was out there tonight.”
ESPN Stats & Info found that the -32 LeBron James had on Tuesday was the worst mark of his career. In a crucial NBA Finals game. You just can’t lay an egg like that and even be mentioned in the same sentence as someone like Michael Jordan.
One could argue that NBA Finals games where a series is tied, like Tuesday’s game, are the most important. And if that’s truly the case, Jordan’s numbers in those games over his career dwarf James’ stats:
|Even Series||Games||FG %||3 FG %||Points||Reb||Assists||FTA||Win %|
Just look at how much better Jordan’s shooting numbers are! And while James is certainly more of a prolific rebounder and had triple-doubles in two of those eight games, Jordan averaged over 13 more points per game and won eight of his 10 even-series games. James is 3-5, including two defeats to the Spurs this series.
So until James can perform better in the NBA Finals, please stop comparing him to Michael Jordan. Please.
Shlomo Sprung loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is SprungOnSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter.