Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: The key stats you need to know in the GOAT debate

By | October 17, 2020

The ESPN documentary series “The Last Dance” showed a younger generation of NBA fans that Michael Jordan is much more than a guy who sells retro sneakers. For those who witnessed Jordan’s greatness over the course of two three-peats with the Bulls, it reinforced the belief he is the greatest player to ever touch the court.

A current star has complicated that GOAT (greatest of all time) conversation, of course. There is an argument to be made for putting LeBron James over Jordan, and James’ case only grew stronger after he led the Lakers past the Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals.

MORE: The greatest MJ game you definitely don’t remember

Sporting News’ Bill Bender has a helpful guide with the most important talking points if you’re ready to discuss MJ vs. LeBron, but we’re simply here to provide the facts you need to justify your choice. Don’t be the person yelling “six rings” with no backup plan.

Here’s a closer look at where the GOAT debate stands …

(All stats current as of Oct. 12, 2020)

(Getty Images)

Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Regular season stats

Jordan is superior in the scoring department, but James grabs rebounds and dishes out assists at a higher rate. While both players are known for tenacious defense on the wing, Jordan finished first in the league in steals three times in his career. James has not yet claimed a steals title.

In terms of longevity, James holds a clear advantage. The gap in total numbers will widen as long as James stays healthy, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down at age 35.

Jordan Per Game  LeBron
30.1 Points 27.1
6.2 Rebounds 7.4
5.3 Assists 7.4
2.3 Steals 1.6
0.8 Blocks 0.8
2.7 Turnovers 3.5
38.3 Minutes 38.4
49.7 Field goal % 50.4
32.7 3-point % 34.4
83.5 Free throw % 73.4


Jordan Totals  LeBron
1,072 Games 1,265
32,292 Points 34,241
6,672 Rebounds 9,405
5,633 Assists 9,346
2,514 Steals 2,015
893 Blocks 957
2,924 Turnovers 4,424
41,011 Minutes 48,551

Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Regular season advanced stats

It’s all about which category you choose when it comes to advanced statistics. VORP and Win Shares favor James, but PER and Box Plus/Minus go to Jordan.

Pick a side, nerds! (That’s a term of endearment.)

Jordan Advanced  LeBron
27.9 Player Efficiency Rating 27.5
116.1 Value Over Replacement 133.7
9.2 Box Plus/Minus 8.9
214.0 Win Shares 236.4
56.9 True Shooting % 58.6
33.3 Usage % 31.5
(Getty Images)

Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Playoff stats

The playoff statistics mirror what Jordan and James produce during the regular season. Despite James’ increased usage and efficiency from beyond the arc over the course of his career, it’s worth noting he shoots about the same percentage as Jordan from 3-point range.

Oh, and the lazy narrative claiming James shrinks in big games — his postseason lines are often more impressive than his regular-season performances. That’s not a smart way to argue against him.

Jordan Playoffs Per Game  LeBron
33.4 Points 28.8
6.4 Rebounds 9.0
5.7 Assists 7.2
2.1 Steals 1.7
0.9 Blocks 1.0
3.1 Turnovers 3.7
41.8 Minutes 41.6
48.7 Field goal % 49.6
33.2 3-point % 33.5
82.8 Free throw % 74.1


Jordan Playoff Totals  LeBron
179 Games 260
5,987 Points 7,491
1,152 Rebounds 2,348
1,022 Assists 1,871
376 Steals 445
158 Blocks 250
546 Turnovers 950
7,474 Minutes 10,811

Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Playoff advanced stats

Jordan is the all-time playoff leader in PER and Box Plus/Minus, and he has the highest usage percentage. But James tops everyone in VORP and Win Shares.

So yeah, these guys are pretty good.

Jordan Advanced  LeBron
28.6 Player Efficiency Rating 28.4
24.7 Value Over Replacement 33.2
11.1 Box Plus/Minus 10.2
39.8 Win Shares 55.3
56.8 True Shooting % 58.4
35.6 Usage % 32.1
(Getty Images)

Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James: Accolades and awards

And here’s the big one. Jordan fans have championships in their back pockets. MJ went a perfect 6-0 in the NBA Finals and never needed a Game 7 to win those series.

James has gone 4-6 in his 10 NBA Finals appearances, but he also controlled the Eastern Conference with the Cavaliers and Heat for almost an entire decade.

Jordan Accolades  LeBron
6 Championships 4
5 MVPs 4
6 Finals MVPs 4
11 All-NBA 16
9 All-Defense 6
14 All-Star 16
10 Scoring titles 1