As the LeBron James led Miami Heat march through tough series with juggernauts like the Nate Robinson led Bulls and the George Paul led Pacers, the debate is raging once again – is LeBron cementing himself
Let’s not get caught up in the moment. Some perspective – and stats – clearly show that while the Heat are a great team, they, nor LeBron’s personal achievements, are anywhere close to the 1990’s Chicago Bulls teams and the indomitable Michael Jordan.
#1 – Playoff Stats
Jordan’s game rose in the postseason – he averaged 33.4 points, 6.4 RBG, and 5.7 APG, all above his regular season stats, and only once – his Rookie year – did he average less than 30 ppg. And that was 29.3.
LeBron? Inconsistency, ranging from a pedestrian 23.5 during Miami’s 2011 Finals run to a Jordanesque 35.3 in 2009. RPG and APG at at, or below, his regular season averages. 5 times in his career has he averaged less than 30PPG in the playoffs.
#2 – Winning
LeBron – 7 Playoff Appearances, 3 NBA Finals, 1 Ring.
Jordan – 13 Playoff Appearances, 6 NBA Finals, 6 Rings. And no Finals where he averaged only 3 points in the fourth quarter.
#3 – Losing
Here’s the biggest difference. When Jordan’s teams lost, it wasn’t because of Jordan – it was because they were beat.
in 85-86, the Bulls got swept by the Larry Bird led Celtics. Jordan’s Stats:
43.7ppg, 6.3rpg, 5.7apg
In 87-88, they lost in 5 to the physical, bad-boy Pistons. His stats?
36.3ppg, 7.7rph, 4.7 apg
LeBron? When his teams lost, it was because he didn’t show up.
2007 Finals – 22ppg, 7.0rpg 6.0apg – a significant drop from the regular season.
And, of course the 2011 Finals, when his scoring average of 17.8 points per game, an 8.9-point drop from the regular season, was a NBA record for lowest such drop-off in league history.
#4 – Competition – It’s no secret that today’s NBA is small. There isn’t an elite center in the league.
Seeing the struggles that Roy Hibbert, a respectable but not elite center, is giving the Heat, imagine if they have to play against the centers the reigned in Jordan’s day – Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, all hall of famers. Is there even a single Hall of Fame center playing in today’s league?
Jordan’s teams, like LeBron’s, never had an elite big man, but they still won facing much tougher competition than the Heat have.
If the Heat win this year, they’ll have done it without facing the other top four MVP vote-getters (Durant, Anthony, Paul, Bryant), the #1, #2, or #3 scores (Anthony, Durant, Harden), none of the top 7 re-bounders. The ridiculous lack of depth in the East versus the West
Jordan’s teams had to get through Larry Bird’s Celtics, Isiah Thomas’s Pistons, Ewing’s New York Knicks, and Reggie Miller’s Pacers to make the finals. Does any team in today’s Eastern Conference match up to any of those teams. Perhaps one – but Derrick Rose was injured all year.
If the Heat prevail after allowing Roy Hibbert to put up absurd, All-Star stats, and defeat Tim Duncan’s Spurs, then they are well-deserving of praise as back-to-back champions. But LeBron will still need a few more rings against the NBA’s elite before he can be compared to Jordan.