NBA

Michael Jordan v LeBron James: How the NBA greats' playoff numbers compare

By Sports Desk May 26, 2020

The debate over who is basketball's G.O.A.T has been reignited.

The release of 'The Last Dance' - ESPN's docuseries on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls - has brought Michael Jordan's exploits back to the forefront of people's minds.

And the suspension of the current NBA season due to the coronavirus pandemic means current superstar LeBron James has, for the time being at least, been unable to respond on the court.

However, this week marks three years since James, then with the Cleveland Cavaliers, sunk a deep three-pointer in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals to pass Jordan and become the NBA's all-time playoff points leader.

Stats Perform has crunched the numbers on the two icons of the game to look at how they compare when the spotlight shines brightest.

 

PILING ON THE POINTS

That record-breaking shot from beyond the arc against the Boston Celtics moved James beyond Jordan's all-time haul of 5,987 points in his 212th game.

However, his boyhood hero's tally came in just 179 games, with Jordan having averaged a staggering 33.4 points per game, compared to James' 28.9.

There are still multiple postseason records Jordan holds too, including most points in a game (63 - which he accrued in the Bulls' incredible double-overtime loss to the Celtics in 1986) and consecutive games with at least 20 points (60).

Despite having seven-time All-Star Scottie Pippen also on the roster, Jordan was clearly the go-to guy for the Bulls on offense and he led them in scoring in 168 of his 179 playoff appearances.

James has led his teams in scoring (including ties) in an NBA-record 189 playoff games - out of 239 appearances - despite calling Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving team-mates at specific points.

 

JAMES: AN ALL-AROUND THREAT

While Jordan comes out on top in points per game, James has the edge in most other categories.

The current Los Angeles Lakers star averages more rebounds (8.9 to 6.4), assists (7.1 to 5.7) and blocks (0.97 to 0.88) per playoff game than Jordan, who does average more steals (2.10 to 1.75) - and it was robbing Karl Malone of the ball that famously helped MJ deliver championship number six 22 years ago.

James is, marginally, a more efficient postseason shooter, scoring from .491 of his attempts compared to Jordan's .487, though the two are neck and neck (.332) from three-pointers.

The all-around threat of James is perhaps best highlighted by the fact he has 23 playoff triple-doubles - second only to Magic Johnson's 30 - while Jordan made just two across his illustrious career.

 

COUNT THE RINGS

Of course, the ultimate goal for any successful team is to end the NBA Finals holding aloft the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, something Jordan has done on six occasions, twice as many as James.

Jordan went 6-0 in Finals - and was named MVP of each series - while James has a 3-6 record - and three Finals MVP awards - across stints with the Cavaliers and Miami Heat.

The Bulls' success in the 1990s - when they twice three-peated - means Jordan won 66.5 per cent of the playoff games he appeared in, a number that James (currently 65.3 per cent) will surely soon eclipse with his Lakers team primed for a deep playoff run when this season resumes.

Would another three rings see James surpass Jordan in the eyes of many? For now, it remains a fascinating debate.

Related items

  • Wizards confirm Westbrook capture as Wall joins Rockets Wizards confirm Westbrook capture as Wall joins Rockets

    The Washington Wizards confirmed the acquisition of former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook in a trade that sent franchise favourite John Wall to the Houston Rockets.

    Westbrook leaves the Rockets after just one season alongside James Harden in Houston, the nine-time All-Star moving to Washington in exchange for Wall and a future lottery-protected first-round draft pick on Wednesday.

    The shock trade comes amid uncertainty over Rockets superstar Harden, who is reportedly eyeing a move to the Brooklyn Nets, while the Philadelphia 76ers have also been linked.

    Wall heads to Houston, having not played since rupturing his left Achilles tendon in January last year. He initially underwent season-ending left heel surgery.

    The five-time All-Star, who has appeared in just 73 games since the start of the 2017-18 season, is fourth for career points for the Wizards after being drafted first by the Washington franchise in 2010.

    "Having the opportunity to acquire a player of Russell's calibre and character was something that we could not pass up when looking at both the immediate and long-term future of our team," said Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard as Westbrook prepares to team up with Bradley Beal.

    "With that said, the decision to part ways with John, one of the greatest players in franchise history, was extremely difficult. What he has meant to our organisation and our community is immeasurable and will not be forgotten."

    Harden and Westbrook – who played together at the Oklahoma City Thunder – became the first pair of team-mates in NBA history to average 25.0-plus points and seven-plus assists per game in the same season.

    Westbrook averaged 27.2 points and seven assists per game for the Rockets, who had their 14th consecutive season at .500 or better but failed to reach the NBA Finals – the longest streak of its kind in NBA history.

    But Westbrook's struggles were evident in the playoffs – shooting just 24.2 per cent from three-point range and 53.1 per cent from the free-throw line.

    Westbrook was the first player in NBA history to shoot under 25 per cent from three and under 60 per cent from the line in a single postseason (minimum 30 attempts in both categories).

    Houston had a 29-13 record when Westbrook shot less than five times from beyond the arc compared to 10-13 when attempting five or more.

    Westbrook, meanwhile, has a career average of 19.6 points, 9.0 assists and 6.1 rebounds in Washington.

    Wizards head coach Scott Brooks added: "Russell's accomplishments and honours on the court speak for themselves, but his drive and will to win are what separate him as a truly unique player.

    "As much as I'm looking forward to reuniting with him, I'm equally sad to say good-bye to John. He is one of the toughest and most gifted players I've ever been around and we all wish him nothing but the best moving forward."

    In 573 career games with 561 starts for the Wizards, Wall averaged 19.0 points, 9.2 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.70 steals. He joins Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history with career averages of at least 19.0 points per game, 9.0 assists per game and 4.0 rebounds per game.

    Over the past six seasons, Wall is the only player in the league to have averaged at least 20.0 points per game and 10.0 assists per game.  

  • Kawhi eager to bounce back after Clippers' failures – Lue Kawhi eager to bounce back after Clippers' failures – Lue

    Tyronn Lue said star Kawhi Leonard is eager for the season to get underway after the Los Angeles Clippers' failures in 2019-20.

    Lue will lead the Clippers in 2020-21 after replacing head coach Doc Rivers following the team's stunning Western Conference semi-final exit in the NBA playoffs.

    The Clippers were one of the favourites to claim their maiden title following the arrivals of All-Stars Leonard and Paul George but squandered a 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets at Walt Disney World Resort amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Keen to make amends after last season's woes, Lue – who guided the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first championship in 2016 with a team headlined by LeBron James – hailed two-time NBA winner Leonard.

    "Just as far as me talking to Kawhi, he is excited to get back on the court," Lue said during his virtual news conference on Wednesday.

    "When you are dealing with great players, when you lose early on in the playoffs, you are always eager to get back. That is what great players do. We all failed at our goal last season and we all know that.

    "Kawhi has done a great job of taking [initiative] to get guys on the phone, talking to guys, seeing guys more.

    "He has done a great job of that. He is excited to get back on the floor just from talking to him and we are all excited as well."

    Th 2019-20 campaign was the ninth consecutive season they finished with a winning record (49-23) but failed to reach the Conference finals – the longest streak of its kind in NBA history.

    Former Clippers assistant Lue is no stranger to working with superstars, having enjoyed a successful partnership with James in Cleveland.

    "Anytime you coach LeBron James, there is a lot of media scrutiny, a lot of pressure to win," Lue, whose Clippers will begin their season against defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers on December 22, said.

    "And just being able to deal with that calibre of player, with Kawhi and PG being our two best players on the team, I think it translates over to just being the Clippers coach and being able to relate to those guys, understanding stars in this league, how they perform, what they like, what they want to do. Just being around guys like that, it's definitely helped me out a lot."

    George – who averaged 21.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists in the regular season – struggled to produce when it mattered most and shot the ball much worse in 2019-20 when he shared the court with Leonard. The difference was even greater during the playoffs.

    With Leonard on the court in the regular season, George's field-goal percentage was 41.1 compared to 48.2 without him. During the playoffs, George boasted a 53.8 shooting percentage while Leonard was sidelined, a significant improvement on the 36.8 per cent he managed together with the former Toronto Raptors favourite. 

    Combined, George has a 48.8 percentage while Leonard is off the court, compared to 39.9 during the duo's time together.

    "It was tough because we were confident," George said on the All The Smoke podcast when discussing the Clippers' collapse against the Nuggets. "We went up 3-1, we felt like, we're going to win the next one. We lost. We [were] like cool, we're up 3-2, we gonna win the next one.

    "We lost. But during that whole process, we never worked on adjustments. We never worked on what to do differently. We just literally having the same s*** happen over and over again. It started to play a trick on you like man, what's going on?

    "We are talking amongst each other like the conversation is, we are going to be all right. The conversation should have been like, nah, we need to change this, we need to switch this up. I don't think we deserved it. We wasn't prepared enough going into it. ... We didn't put the work into it. It was kind of just like, yo, we got PG, we got Kawhi, Lou [Williams], Trezz [Montrezl Harrell]. We going to be straight, we are going to figure it out."

    There are some news faces for the Clippers after Montrezl Harrell joined city rivals the Lakers – Serge Ibaka arriving from the Raptors and Nicolas Batum landing in Los Angeles after clearing waivers, while Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris re-signed.

  • Warriors star Curry 'excited' for season-opening clash with Durant's Nets Warriors star Curry 'excited' for season-opening clash with Durant's Nets

    Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry is relishing his reunion with former team-mate Kevin Durant on the opening night of the 2020-21 NBA season.

    The NBA announced its national TV schedule for the first three days of the season, with the Warriors-Brooklyn Nets clash part of a December 22 doubleheader also featuring defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers and city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers.

    Durant – who won two championships and as many NBA Finals MVP awards in the Bay Area – is set to make his long-awaited debut for the Nets as he returns from an Achilles injury.

    Former MVP Durant left the Warriors via free agency ahead of the 2019-20 season, but he missed last term through an Achilles injury sustained with Golden State in the 2019 Finals.

    The Warriors will also face reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas Day and Curry told reporters on Wednesday: "It's exciting.

    "Throw us right into the familiarity with K [Durant] but also with teams that are expected to be at the top of each conference, or the Eastern Conference.

    "And then, we kind of get a good gauge of where we are right out the gate.

    "We're going to have to play every team at some point. I know the excitement around the NBA being back and the Christmas Day slate and all that ... it's going to be dope."

    Golden State – coming off a forgettable campaign – will be without star Klay Thompson again due to a ruptured Achilles, having missed the entire 2019-20 season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

    The Warriors reached five straight NBA Finals between 2015 and 2019, winning three titles, but slumped to a 15-50 record at the bottom of the Western Conference in 2019-20.

    Curry's own injuries limited him to just five games last term and he added: "I've got to figure out what we're going to do in Milwaukee for Christmas.

    "But other than that, it's going to be pretty awesome just to be playing basketball again. I'm excited, man, it's going to be here before you know it."

    "Watching the bubble was weird," Curry said. "It was nice to be a fan for a little bit, but I definitely want to be playing competitive basketball and in games that matter."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.