LeBron James vs Michael Jordan: Have your say on the NBA’s greatest debate

Mary Raleigh

LeBron James recently moved into fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, passing Michael Jordan.

The achievement reignited one of the fiercest debates in the NBA — who is the “GOAT,” the greatest NBA player of all time.

Jordan Vs. LeBron 'GOAT' Debate: Most Americans Choose Michael JordanSupporters of Jordan pointed to Jordan’s six championships, his undefeated record in the NBA Finals, and his overall influence in taking the NBA’s popularity to a new level as reasons why he’s the best.

Fans of James point to his longevity, his eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances, of which he won three, and his overall brilliance on the floor beyond scoring. James is also still at his peak and passing Jordan in several statistical achievements.Debating Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James and which NBA legend had the  higher peak | Sporting News

INSIDER polled 1,082 American adults through SurveyMonkey Audience on March 1o, 2019. We asked respondents a few questions. First, we asked how often they watched the NBA, and then we asked who they believed to be the greatest player of all time based on their knowledge of the game. Of those 1,082 respondents, 747 volunteered a basketball player as the GOAT, and we sorted through the responses to clean and consolidate the responses to find out a winner.

Overwhelmingly, Americans chose Jordan as the GOAT.

Michael Jordan vs LeBron James
Most people believe Michael Jordan is the “GOAT,” not LeBron James. 
Yutong Yuan/Business Insider

Two-thirds of respondents, 66%, chose Jordan as the best NBA player of all time. Only 10.4% of respondents chose James. Other names respondents volunteered included Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Stephen Curry. Collectively, those players received just 134 total votes.Shaquille O'Neal chimes in on the Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James GOAT  debate - Basketball Network - Your daily dose of basketball

The responses suggested a strong correlation between age and the pick for GOAT. For instance, of the respondents who picked Jordan, 74% were between the ages of 30 and 44, and 69% were between 45 and 60.

Michael Jordan vs LeBron James
James does better among younger fans, while people over 60 often pick players other than Jordan or James. 
Yutong Yuan/Business Insider

Comparatively, James polled best in the 18 to 29 age group, receiving 20% of his votes from respondents in that age category. Just 6% of his votes came from people ages 45 to 60 and 60-plus.

Those answers may also reveal something about the viewing habits of respondents and their analyses of the game. Respondents were asked how frequently they watch the NBA, with never, rarely, sometimes, usually, and always listed as answers.LeBron James eclipses Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- and Michael Jordan -- on the  same magical night - CBSSports.com

The responses from Jordan voters were fairly even across the board. For instance, 68% of people who said they never watch basketball picked Jordan, 69% who said they usually watch basketball picked Jordan, and 63% who always watch chose Jordan.

Meanwhile, of the respondents who said they sometimes watch, 15% chose James, 11% who said they sometimes watch chose James, and 15% who always watch like James. Only 8% of James respondents never watch basketball.

The data would suggest that younger, more-engaged NBA fans lean toward James, as he’s still playing. Older generations who watched Jordan play and tune in less today lean toward Jordan.

What can James do to catch Jordan?

At this point, it seems unlikely that James will be able to catch Jordan in championships. His Los Angeles Lakers are not going to make the playoffs this season.

But could James help build a contender in Los Angeles and win one more championship, bringing his total to four in 10 appearances? That could sway some voters.

James could also continue racking up statistical achievements. He will likely pass Bryant next season for all-time third in points, and if he scores 1,000 points or more for four more seasons (he has scored 1,600 points or more in every season until this one), then he could contend for being the all-time leader in points.Doc Rivers Spews Confusing LeBron James and Michael Jordan 'GOAT' Take  Prior To Lakers-Sixers - The SportsRush

James is also 10th and climbing in all-time assists, could get into the top 40 in rebounds, will likely make the top 10 in made 3-pointers, and could make the top 10 in total steals.

At 34, James doesn’t have a lot of time to continue playing at his peak — some think there has already been a decline in his game. But even when accounting for age and decline in production, James could hit those statistical achievements fairly easily if he stays reasonably healthy over the next three years.NBA GOAT debate - Big questions on Michael Jordan and the greatest players  ever - ESPN

If James can hang around the NBA for a while longer, continue to put up impressive numbers, and perhaps claim another title, his résumé may be too much for Jordan advocates to ignore.

At the moment, however, James has a way to go to catch Jordan in the eyes of NBA fans.

Related posts