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A 2012 New Year’s Resolution: Stop Chasing 23

The 2011 NBA playoffs laid low two of the best, and probably the two most famous, players in the entire league. LeBron James‘ struggles in the NBA Finals are well-chronicled, of course, and remain a subject of fascination mystery seven months later. Kobe Bryant was brought down two rounds earlier in arguably the most embarrassing playoff loss of his career, capped off by the Game 4 white flag that continued a disturbing trend of lay down-and-die performances in elimination games (see ’03, ’04, ’06 and ’08 as well), forming a jarring contrast to his considerable successes.

Both players have spent most if not all of their careers being compared to Michael Jordan, and each at times has been described as even better than Jordan. Well, in light of their recent flops, and with 2012 now upon us, I call upon all basketball fans (including myself) to make the following New Year’s resolution. Repeat after me:

“I resolve to never again compare any active player to Jordan, and to never again proclaim any active player to be as good as, or better than, Jordan.”

That wasn’t so hard, was it?

I get why many fans, in particular David Stern and the folks in charge of NBA marketing, would be reluctant to make this resolution. It would be tantamount to an admission that, in some sense, the game has peaked and can’t get back to where it was. Some fans consider Jordan to have been overrated (including Brown Mamba) and to have gotten all the calls in crunch time as the league’s pet. Fans of the Knicks, Cavs, Jazz, etc., whose teams were victimized time and again by Jordan’s heroics in the late-80s and throughout the 90s, still bear a grudge against #23. But it is time to put all of that aside and to acknowledge the following:

#1:  Michael Jordan was the greatest player the NBA has ever seen, and this is not open to reasonable dispute, nor is it likely to ever change.

#2: The urge to compare active players to Jordan unfairly demeans such players and, in my view, diminishes our enjoyment of the game.

Let’s discuss each of these in turn:

1.) The statistics make a compelling case for Jordan’s pre-eminence, among them:

-10 All-NBA First Team selections (surpassed only by Karl Malone, who played six more full seasons than Jordan);

– 30.1 regular-season points per game (the highest ever, just ahead of Wilt);

-33.8 playoff points per game;

-10 scoring titles (the most ever);

-9 All-Defensive First Team selections (tied with Gary Payton for the most);

-5 regular season MVP awards (surpassed only by Kareem, who played seven more full seasons than Jordan); and, of course:

-6 NBA titles; and

-6 NBA Finals MVP awards (the most ever).

I’d like to focus on two of these stats in tandem for a moment.  First is his playoff points per game average, which is nearly four points per game higher than his regular-season points per game average, against tougher competition and on nearly as good shooting from the field (just under 49% in the playoffs, as opposed to just under 50% during the regular season).  Second is the combination of 10 scoring titles AND 9 All-Defensive First Team selections. Think about that: will we see anyone combine those two distinctions ever again, or come close to doing so? I say no. Wilt might have been more dominant offensively, but was not nearly as good defensively. Russell might have been better defensively, but was not nearly as good offensively. To put it in hockey terms, no one in NBA history was, or is, in Jordan’s class as a two-way player.

2.) Dominance

But as usual, the stats tell only part of the story. They don’t convey the shadow of dominance that he cast over the NBA during the 90s. Once he got the Bulls over the hump in 1991, in each of his remaining full seasons with the Bulls, there was no reasonable doubt that each such season would end with the Bulls as champions (with the possible exception of 92-93, when they were going for the first three-peat in 27 years, but then in the 93 Finals Jordan showed us how silly it was to have doubted him in the first place). The same goes for his ability to consistently come through in the clutch; every time the game was on the line, you knew that #23 would take the last shot, and each time that he missed felt like a where-did-that-come-from surprise. Nor do the stats convey the non-stop burden that Jordan bore as the singular focal point of every team’s defense every night, with two of the most physical, rugged and dirty defenses ever (the Bad Boys Pistons and the Ewing Knicks) particularly geared to stopping him.[1] Jordan played in an era when defenses had much freer rein than they do today, with regards to hand-checking and the like. Can you imagine what his production would have been like under the more offense-friendly rules that were installed last decade?

3.) Intangibles:

The stats leave out certain other essentials when it comes to Jordan as well. They don’t convey his single-minded dedication to improving, and then staying on top of, his game, or his sheer force of will; no one embodied the ideas of “will to win” and “refuse to lose” as well as he did.[2] Nor do they convey the artistry that he brought to the game, whether through his dunks (which as imprinted on his Nike line constitute one of the iconic images in all of sports), his acrobatic layups or the follow-through form on his jumpshots.

Add all of this up and, at least in mind, there’s no room for arguing against the notions that Jordan was the best ever, and that we are highly unlikely to see his like ever again.

4.) “The Supposed “Next Michael Jordan”:

The list of players which, over the years, have been touted as the “next Jordan” or “better than Jordan” includes Harold Minor (!), Grant Hill, Jerry Stackhouse, Kobe, Vince Carter, LeBron and Kevin Durant. Granted, many of these players never came close to living up to their potential. But in the cases of Kobe, LeBron and maybe even Carter, I am convinced that our perceptions and criticisms of them over the years have been colored at least in part by the comparisons that have been made to Jordan (the same thing may very well start happening to Durant soon).

I can say with certainty exactly when public opinion began to turn against Kobe; it was on the afternoon of February 1, 1998, when the Bulls visited the Lakers in what turned out to be Jordan’s last game at the Forum.  It was widely believed that the 1997-98 season would be Jordan’s last (and it did turn out to be his last as a Bull), and NBC saw an opportunity to tout a “changing of the guard”, so for much of its telecast that day, it showed the stat-lines for Jordan and Kobe next to each other, even though Kobe had yet to crack the Lakers’ starting line-up and the two of them spent hardly any time going head-to-head on the court.  Earlier that same week, Kobe had been voted onto the starting line-up of the Western Conference All-Stars (again, even though he hadn’t yet cracked the Lakers’ starting line-up).  I am convinced that many basketball fans were still in denial about, or trying to come to grips with, the impending end of Jordan’s career (or so we thought) felt that they were having a successor forced upon them, and have at some level held that against Kobe ever since.

A similar dynamic unfolded, albeit to a lesser degree, when we first started hearing about LeBron in high school, wearing #23 and instantly evoking comparison to you-know-who.  Kobe and LeBron are not absolved of responsibility for feeding into the comparisons to Jordan, whether it be LeBron wearing #23 until 2009, or Kobe changing his jersey number from #23 to #24 (to literally one-up Jordan).  For the New Year, each of them (plus everyone else who winds up drawing comparisons to Jordan) should resolve to never again solicit such comparisons on their own.

Nor can Kobe and LeBron avoid responsibility for the professional and personal missteps that each has had along the way; those were things that Kobe and LeBron did on their own, and they cannot point the finger at anyone else for those.  In evaluating their professional missteps, however, we should avoid the temptation to reflexively say, as many have, “Jordan wouldn’t have done that” or “Jordan wouldn’t have let that happen”, whether referring to the Lakers’ lay down-and-die performances in elimination games, or Kobe’s disappearing act in the second half of Game 7 of the 2006 playoffs, or LeBron’s meltdowns in the 2010 playoffs and 2011 Finals, or even LeBron’s decision to join Miami (which in my view was definitely not a misstep, but which spawned many, many “Jordan wouldn’t have done that” comments in response).

It is absolutely legitimate to point out the numerous instances in which they, and other players that have been compared to Jordan over the years, failed to perform to expectations and to analyze their flaws and shortcomings, be it bad shot selection, ball-hogging, lack of a post game or lack of mental toughness.  But in my view, there is no point in applying the criticism, “So-and-so is no Jordan.”  So what?  No one is, and in all likelihood, no one will ever be again.  Making this comparison, which in my view is impossible to meet, can only frustrate us as fans. I consider it far preferable to evaluate and appreciate the players as they are, warts and all, and to critique their flaws and shortcomings on a more objective basis than applying an unrealistic standard. This will enhance our enjoyment of watching players such as Kobe, LeBron and Durant play, and we should enjoy watching them play (unless, of course, they are excelling at the expense of our favorite team) because they often play at such a high level and produce a form of artistry in their own right when they do so. Poking holes in that on the basis that none of them measure up to Jordan is a form of basketball sadomasochism; by tearing them down this way, we tear down our own enjoyment of the game. Why must we insist on doing that? I see no good reason for us to do so.

Michael Jordan as an on-the-court force is gone, and I highly doubt that we will ever see anyone of his caliber again. There will never be another Michael Jordan. Let him be, and let those who have been compared to him be as well. Let’s all resolve to pay due respect to the memory of Jordan as a player, but let’s also resolve to enjoy this game without burdening those who play it, and ourselves as fans, with that memory.

[1] Actually, one “semi-stat” conveys a flavor of this, namely the fact that his career field-goal percentage as a Bull was higher than 50% (his stint with the Wizards brought this down a bit), in the face of the non-stop attention that was paid to him by every opponent’s defense on a nightly basis.

[2] Actually, one stat conveys this as well: Jordan’s teams NEVER lost a playoff series in which they had home-court advantage, and won six playoff series (including two NBA Finals) in which they did not.


28 Responses to “A 2012 New Year’s Resolution: Stop Chasing 23”

  1. Thank you. I am so sick of these comparisons. Everybody needs to listen to Charles Barkley when he says that nobody even comes close to how good Jordan was. In his ROOKIE YEAR, Jordan put up 28pts/game on 52% shooting. Two years later he’d put up 35pts/game on 54% shooting. Those are unbelievable numbers for any player (not to mention one who received the kind of defensive attention that MJ got), but what makes them all the more impressive is that he did them as possibly the best wing defender in the game.

    Posted by Mark | January 14, 2012, 11:56 am
    • Even though I agree that Michael Jeffrey Jordan is the Greatest of All Time and better than Lebron James, they are very close in terms of statistics and everything else not involving championships. I would also like to say that many people like to emphasize Jordan’s points production as to why he is better even though I think Lebron could drop 35-40 every night. Their field goal percentages are near identical 49% to Jordan’s 50% and Lebrons FG% is only going to go up from here. Lebron’s points per game never reach Jordan’s level because of his unwillingness to shoot that many shots. A point I like to add is that Jordan has 7 instances in his career in which he shot an insane 40+ field goals in one game! Even more insane is that Kobe
      has done that 9 times in his career while Lebron has never attempted 40 field goals in one game, ever. So with that being said, Lebron has all the talent and power to be able to score just as much, if not more than Jordan.
      michael jordan
      pts/fg: 2.6486 points per field goal
      pts/fga: 1.3201 points per field goal attempt
      ft/fga: 0.2986 free throws per field goal attempt
      %pts off 3p: 5.3976%
      %pts off ft: 22.6898%

      lebron james*:

      pts/fg: 2.7889 points per field goal
      pts/fga: 1.3679 points per field goal attempt
      ft/fga: 0.3207 free throws per field goal attempt
      %pts off 3p: 14.5154%
      %pts off ft: 23.4477%

      if both of their ft/fga were the same:
      ft/fga: 0.3000,
      Lebron James pts/fg: 2.7466 points per field goal
      pts/fga: 1.3471 points per field goal attempt
      Michael Jordan pts/fg: 2.6514 points per field goal
      pts/fga: 1.3174 points per field goal attempt

      points w/o ft: 13078+3060=16138+4623.3=20761.3
      pts/fg: 2.7466
      pts/fga: 1.3471
      points w/o ft: 23222+1743=24965+7361.1=32326.1
      pts/fg: 2.6514
      pts/fga: 1.3174

      *stats taken as of june 8, 2013
      points: 32292 through 1072 games played
      points: 21081 through 756 games played

      Posted by GOATwriter | June 8, 2013, 10:46 pm
  2. Great post E-Dog. In my mind, Jordan’s greatness can be summed up in 3 ways:

    1.) Impact on Winning: You astutely mentioned it in your article, but MJ’s greatest accomplishment is that he made the most of his opportunities and got the most out of his teams. Jordan-lead teams never lost a playoff series to teams that they were supposed to beat. Moreover, his teams overachieved in 1988 and 1989 by beating teams who were better. In other words, in a game where winning can only be achieved when given a sufficiently talented supporting cast, MJ won EVERY time he had a legitimate opportunity, with no let downs. The only other player’s who came close are Hakeem Olajuwon and Bill Russell.

    2.) Individual Brilliance – Most people look at career stats and fail to realize that MJ’s Washington Wizard stats significantly lowered his overall career averages. However, prior to the Wizards, and when he was playing at a high level, his career stats with the Bulls were 31.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.5 steals 51% FG and 58% true shooting.

    Moreover, when measuring his stats while in his prime from 88-93, his numbers were 32.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.8 steals on 53% FG and 60% TS. No other player has ever peaked with the same balance of performance AND efficiency.

    3.) Clutchness/Big Games – I think we covered this the past, but Jordan’s game winning shot percentage and 5/5 crunchtime percentage validate him as the greatest clutch performer to ever play. Moreover, no player has as many “Big game” performances on his resume.

    4.) Awards/Accolades – You hit on this in your article

    5.) Impact on the Game – Arguably the greatest impact of any player to ever play.

    I can go into infinite detail with addition facts/stats, but the combination of each of these cateogories, and particularly winning AND stats is what separates MJ from the pack.

    Posted by The NBA Realist | January 14, 2012, 1:10 pm
  3. Finally!!

    Someone from Chasing 23 echoes all that I have posted about regarding the MJ to Kobe to LeBron to whoever comparisons.

    The record is too vast to be incorrect.

    Neither Kobe nor LeBron has had nor ever will have moments like MJ had against Cleveland and Utah and Portland and the Lakers and on and on.

    What do Barkley, Stockton, Malone, Ewing, Drexler, Payton and Kevin Johsnon all have in common? They were 1 Michael Jordan away form getting their ring.

    Posted by Paulie Walnuts | January 14, 2012, 11:01 pm
    • Paulie Walnuts, thanks for writing, and my compliments on your survival skills on “The Sopranos”. I take it you’re working for Butchie now? :-)

      One minor correction: Drexler did get his ring (95 Rockets), as did Payton (06 Heat), although it could legitimately be claimed that Drexler got his only due to Jordan’s first retirement.

      By the way, your later comment about Olajuwon reminds me of one of the great what-ifs in league history. Legend has it that the Rockets were offered two chances to pair Jordan with Olajuwon, by trading for his draft rights in 84 or by trading for him in 86. Each time the price was Ralph Sampson. Each time the Rockets considered the price too high and said no. Can you imagine both of them on the same team for the entirety of their primes?

      Posted by E-Dog | January 18, 2012, 5:09 am
      • on Drexler’s ring
        it couldn’t be claimed that it was due Jordan’s first retirement. Jordan played in 1995, and he was playing just as good as in following championship years. If Bulls didn’t bring some additional players, no titles would have been from ’96-98.

        Posted by NEW-DOG | May 17, 2012, 7:25 am
  4. I get it when people compare Kobe to be as good as Jordan (even if its bit of exaggerated).Well, he has 5 rings but LeBron ?
    Come on ! 10 years in NBA as a supersuperstar and he still cant and didnt play like a GOAT contender one single series in playoff. Not to mention his crunchtime skills, this man should not carry a ball in crunchtime but a diaper. One 3-pointer with Orlando does not change the fact that he simple suck when comes to be a clutch guy.
    LeBron James = BDOAT
    Biggest dissapointment in NBA history, most hyped sportsman ever (altought Tebow is chasing him) , beat the Iverson and Messi/CR7 easily.
    I remeber the video that was posted on YouTube by NBA during Cavaliers – Magic Conference finals. LeBron with the sunglasses was so sure that “we aint go fisinh yet”. Next game and what ? They lose… Then the video was deleted. I think she should go to some place with big frozen lake like right now, make a hole and start to hunt poor fishes not with a fishing rob but harpoon, think about how much he suck at cruchtime, why he suck so badly, hire a shirk and work on it. Then win something and talk.
    And make me some fishsticks.
    I think the hunting part would be only thing that make him as deadly as Jordan was.

    Posted by Owl_Duderino | January 15, 2012, 6:27 am
    • Sorry for some mistakes
      Not a fishing rob but fishing rod.
      Not my mother language.

      Posted by Owl_Duderino | January 15, 2012, 6:30 am
      • Owl_Duderino, thanks for writing. It’s totally fair to rag on LeBron for his crunch-time deficiencies, among other things. My main point is that it’s not fair to rag on LeBron, or anyone else, for not being the next Jordan, even if LeBron instigated the comparison himself. In my view, Jordan is an impossible standard to meet, and we shouldn’t hold anyone to it because it will only frustrate us and reduce our enjoyment of the game for no good reason.

        Posted by E-Dog | January 17, 2012, 5:10 am
  5. Great article overall, and for the most part I do agree with your views. However, I would like to point out a few things.

    In terms of playoff scoring average, I think that it’s only a rough sketch/incomplete comparison when you take all the NBA greats and sum up their career playoff averages for comparison. To me this doesn’t work out because of the different contexts in which some of the averages were produced. Were they in a legit championship/conference final contender? Over how many playoff games/sustained seasons are we looking at? (TMac has a higher playoff ppg than Kobe, 28.5 vs 25.4, but never advanced past the first round… double ::sigh:: lol) Did they have another star/dominant player as a teammate? Did the coach imprint a more/less uptempo style of play, etc… Not that 33.8 ppg doesn’t amaze me, quite the contrary, but I do believe that such stat is dominated by a) the pre-championship era games where Jordan HAD to score over 40 for the Bulls to have a chance at winning (ie 63-pt game in a loss vs Celtics) and b) the fact that his albeit short stint with the Wizards did not involve any playoff games (as that would possibly have lowered his average by ~0.5 to 1.5 ppg). That being said, I favor the career regular season averages and totals for it brings in a greater sample size and also an even playing field because all players go through the inexperienced -> ascension -> maturity -> decline cycle throughout each career.

    Here are some of my thoughts concerning the great individuals that people tend to compare with MJ, whether these players solicit it or not:

    Kobe Bryant- i think he’s disliked disliked being compared to Jordan for quite a few years now during public statements/interviews (“C’mon man, you gotta let Michael be Michael and me be me…”). Whether he feels the same way inside is indeed another story, but unfortunately for him, everything from his physique, marketability, playing style, competitiveness, stats, and career path/accomplishments are just too similar. So I think that as long as a sports media exists, the comparisons will be inevitable, like it or not, Kobe’s fault or not. In his ball-hogging ways Kobe has surpassed MJ, as attested by the 81-point game (still mind-boggling), the 4 consecutive 50+ performances, and in Pau Gasol/Andrew Bynum’s lackluster stats (imagine how many championships Jordan could’ve won with 2 quality big men like that!). To his credit, Kobe is a better 3-point shooter but as a counter-point has also relied much more on 3s to keep up those scoring averages. Finally, as for him trying to 1-up MJ with the jersey change (#8 to #24, slight typo in your article), I think that’s a tad speculative. He did indeed wear that number in HS, and not that many people seem to be aware that his dad, Joe Jellybean, played professionally as #23 before MJ was even in UNC Tar Heels blue. So who knows, the number change (and him wearing that number in HS to begin with) could have more to do with his father the way I see it.

    LeBron James- I don’t care what Mike Brown says, to me this guy is COMPLETELY different animal than Kobe and MJ for that matter. I think he falls much more closely under the Oscar Robertson/Magic Johnson category, being a triple-double threat on a nightly basis that he is. Sorry to say this, but LeBron is a much more gifted passer and playmaker than Kobe or Jordan ever were/ever will be. I also think that KB and MJ are much better (maybe just more natural) shooters, as well as much more stylish dunkers. LeBron, as physically imposing as he is, consequently is a better rebounder as well as an unstoppable breakaway force, but to me what stands out the most b/w LBJ and the aforementioned 2 is his unselfishness. He just doesn’t seem to be that badass mofo 4th quarter killer because he dominates the game in so many different ways other than pure scoring, so perhaps people should lay off him a little bit. That’s not to say he’s not a reliable closer, because he’s done it many times before and will continue to do so for his teams throughout his career, but to me it’s ludicrous that people are holding him to the same MJ/Kobe standards when clearly he does not have the same mentality nor the pure jump shot stroke of the other 2. In my estimation James will finish his career as the most complete/versatile player of all time right up there with the Big O.

    In agreement with the OP, I find it funny that here we are in 2012 having this discussion about people having this chasing 23 discussion at all. Having grown up in the 90s myself, I’ve often wondered what would’ve happened had Jordan not retired the first time. Who would even dare raise the question of who is the GOAT had Phil Jackson/MJ/Pippen’s Bulls won EIGHT straight championships? Perhaps Jordan would’ve gotten bored after a 5-peat and called it quits, but 5 straight rings/finals MVPs and ending a career with reg season 32 ppg… would that have settled it once and for all? I certainly think so =).

    Posted by TMacAttack | January 15, 2012, 10:23 am
    • TMacAttack, thanks for writing. Your point about evaluating the context of Jordan’s playoff heroics is well-taken; early in his career, there were indeed instances when the Bulls needed him to go off every night just to have a shot. (In the first round of the ’88 and ’89 playoffs, both against the Cavs, Jordan averaged over 42 ppg in 10 games, capped off by “The Shot”.) However, he still had plenty in reserve for the toughest rounds. I don’t know his career average for the conf. finals, but he certainly had some big games in that round (54 vs. the Knicks in 93, 45 vs. the Magic in 96, 41 vs. the Pacers in 98). As for the Finals, it wouldn’t surprise me if his career average for that round were even higher than 33.8; he averaged 41 ppg for the 93 Finals.

      You hit the nail on the head as far as Kobe vs. LeBron and their differences in mentality. I would add that, in my view, your description of LeBron’s mentality goes a long way towards explaining why LeBron is susceptible to disappearing in crunch time (deferring to Wade, to a fault). Two things to keep in mind on this, both of them coming in the wake of Game 4 of last year’s Finals:

      1. His post-game admission that his passivity stemmed in part from Wade and Bosh playing well and not wanting to mess that up; and

      2. A column from Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald, in which he noted that LeBron didn’t want to be the reason the Heat won, he just wanted to win.

      Both of these, I think, fit well with what we’ve seen of LeBron’s on-the-court personality.

      Posted by E-Dog | January 17, 2012, 4:29 pm
    • TMacAttack, thank you also for noting the correction to Kobe’s original pro jersey number. It was indeed #8; my brain was on auto-pilot there.

      I also goofed in spelling Harold Minor’s name (aka “Baby Jordan”); it’s actually Harold Miner.

      Posted by E-Dog | January 17, 2012, 4:37 pm
  6. I would like to say MJ was the best player in the game in his time and Kobe was the future the player that watch the likes of mj.magic,B.king etc… I feel Kobe is better. The player today has way more to deal with. They bigger,fast, smarter. The game changed alot. Mike shot over 1500 shots to get them numbers Kobe done that once look at the stats. MJ was the best nut on the planet. But you have to give these players the respect they should have. LB is 6’9 270 handle,skill level etc.. he is gifted. ppl don’t look and see how mike got them numbers he didn’t play with a bum. scottie is one of th greatest like come on. MJ played with vet centers that was very good. to prove my point i put links to career stats in this post. PLS keep in mind also Kobe,LB,KD came straight from HS mj went to college and one of the best programs and coaches (Dean smith if you don’t know) to learn from. alot has to be token in. not just stats. Mj was the first player that did the things he did on a stage where everyone could see. So when you see it after you say Oh thats not MJ! no its not its the next level….

    84-85 CHI 3,144 837-1,625 9-52 630-746 167 367 534 481 196 69 291 285 2,313
    85-86 CHI 451 150-328 3-18 105-125 23 41 64 53 37 21 45 46 408
    86-87 CHI 3,281 1,098-2,279 12-66 833-972 166 264 430 377 236 125 272 237 3,041
    87-88 CHI 3,311 1,069-1,998 7-53 723-860 139 310 449 485 259 131 252 270 2,868
    88-89 CHI 3,255 966-1,795 27-98 674-793 149 503 652 650 234 65 290 247 2,633
    89-90 CHI 3,197 1,034-1,964 92-245 593-699 143 422 565 519 227 54 247 241 2,753
    90-91 CHI 3,034 990-1,837 29-93 571-671 118 374 492 453 223 83 202 229 2,580
    91-92 CHI 3,102 943-1,818 27-100 491-590 91 420 511 489 182 75 200 201 2,404
    92-93 CHI 3,067 992-2,003 81-230 476-569 135 387 522 428 221 61 207 188 2,541
    94-95 CHI 668 166-404 16-32 109-136 25 92 117 90 30 13 35 47 457
    95-96 CHI 3,090 916-1,850 111-260 548-657 148 395 543 352 180 42 197 195 2,491
    96-97 CHI 3,106 920-1,892 111-297 480-576 113 369 482 352 140 44 166 156 2,431
    97-98 CHI 3,181 881-1,893 30-126 565-721 130 345 475 283 141 45 185 151 2,357
    01-02 WAS 2,093 551-1,324 10-53 263-333 50 289 339 310 85 26 162 119 1,375
    02-03 WAS 3,031 679-1,527 16-55 266-324 71 426 497 311 123 39 173 171 1,640
    CAREER 41,011 12,192-24,537 581-1,778 7,327-8,772 1,668 5,004 6,672 5,633 2,514 893 2,924 2,783 32,292

    1996-97 18 LAL NBA 71 6 1103 176 422 .417 51 136 .375 136 166 .819 47 85 132 91 49 23 112 102 539
    1997-98 19 LAL NBA 79 1 2056 391 913 .428 75 220 .341 363 457 .794 79 163 242 199 74 40 157 180 1220
    1998-99 20 LAL NBA 50 50 1896 362 779 .465 27 101 .267 245 292 .839 53 211 264 190 72 50 157 153 996
    1999-00 21 LAL NBA 66 62 2524 554 1183 .468 46 144 .319 331 403 .821 108 308 416 323 106 62 182 220 1485
    2000-01 22 LAL NBA 68 68 2783 701 1510 .464 61 200 .305 475 557 .853 104 295 399 338 114 43 220 222 1938
    2001-02 23 LAL NBA 80 80 3063 749 1597 .469 33 132 .250 488 589 .829 112 329 441 438 118 35 223 228 2019
    2002-03 24 LAL NBA 82 82 3401 868 1924 .451 124 324 .383 601 713 .843 106 458 564 481 181 67 288 218 2461
    2003-04 25 LAL NBA 65 64 2447 516 1178 .438 71 217 .327 454 533 .852 103 256 359 330 112 28 171 176 1557
    2004-05 26 LAL NBA 66 66 2689 573 1324 .433 131 387 .339 542 664 .816 95 297 392 398 86 53 270 174 1819
    2005-06 27 LAL NBA 80 80 3277 978 2173 .450 180 518 .347 696 819 .850 71 354 425 360 147 30 250 233 2832
    2006-07 28 LAL NBA 77 77 3140 813 1757 .463 137 398 .344 667 768 .868 75 364 439 413 111 36 255 205 2430
    2007-08 29 LAL NBA 82 82 3192 775 1690 .459 150 415 .361 623 742 .840 94 423 517 441 151 40 257 227 2323
    2008-09 30 LAL NBA 82 82 2960 800 1712 .467 118 336 .351 483 564 .856 90 339 429 399 120 37 210 189 2201
    2009-10 31 LAL NBA 73 73 2835 716 1569 .456 99 301 .329 439 541 .811 78 313 391 365 113 20 233 187 1970
    2010-11 32 LAL NBA 82 82 2779 740 1639 .451 115 356 .323 483 583 .828 83 336 419 388 99 12 243 172 2078
    2011-12 33 LAL NBA 14 14 528 163 351 .464 16 63 .254 106 127 .835 14 69 83 75 17 6 54 32 448
    Career NBA 1117 969 40673 9875 21721 .455 1434 4248 .338 7132 8518 .837 1312 4600 5912 5229 1670 582 3282 2918 28316

    Posted by winfield | January 15, 2012, 2:38 pm
    • Who are these veteran centers that MJ benefited from?

      Bill Cartwright?
      Bill Wennington?
      Luc Longley?
      Robert Parrish at age 43?
      John Salley for 17 games?
      Will Perdue?

      Would you rather have ANY of them or Shaq?

      or Bynum?

      or Gasol?

      Pippen was a great player, but his skills were sublime. He played great defense and was an excellent passer, but could not create his own shot and had poor shot selection.

      Jordan was far from the first to do anything that anyone ever saw. the 1979 NCAA title game with Bird and Magic is still the highest rated and it is so because those two were playing.

      You should look at your stats again, and if you do, you should see that Kobe is not anywhere close to Jordan in anything.

      Posted by Paulie Walnuts | January 15, 2012, 7:26 pm
      • Jordan more than benefited throughout his career from having a more than imposing-defending back court. If you want to say he didn’t talk to Lebron and Dwade.

        Again, taking the centers out of the equation, and that fact that the triangle system evolved from Tex Winter- that doesn’t require a dominant big, or point guard, but that thrives on ball movement and spacing… DEFENSE STILL wins Championships.

        Case in point the 1994 Chicago Bulls who without Jordan: Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and 6’10 Toni Kukoc had a total of 175 blocks between them.

        For example the year Dwight Howard took the 2009 Magic to the finals, he had 228 blocks by HIMSELF.

        That’s a small sample size, but if you add Jordan who was an aberration- good blocker for a shooting guard, there is no fuel to the myth that Jordan had bad teams or whatever. Hell even Lebron James with a very good-defensive team, was able to take the Cavs to the 2007 finals.

        If you want to go further back to look at another example – the last year a team, like the Magic from 2009, had a dominant blocking center, went to the finals and won it was during Shaq’s MVP 3 peat years. The team was front heavy with Horace, and others, and had a pretty good Fisher averaging 11 pts as a starter, and Kobe 28. It was a balanced team but again it proves that defense wins.

        So Scottie Pippen was not Allen Iverson, but he still had 22 pts a game without Jordan. The “idea” Scottie wasn’t an offensive player is another myth, to further give Jordan a higher latitude than it deserves, as GREAT as those Bulls teams were. You couldn’t even say the same for Kobe, who basically only played with Gasol (a nondefensive-undermanned PF with a bunch of skill), decent but not great bench play or wing help, and pretty average 3pt shooting.

        Jordan had all of those bases covered, except for having a very strong front-court.

        Posted by DODOO | January 21, 2012, 4:29 pm
    • Winfield, thanks for writing. I personally think that when you look at Jordan’s superior record of achievements and his better stats while also factoring in that he had to be The Man every night (Kobe had the luxury of playing wingman to Shaq who commanded more attention from opponents), played in an era of more defense-friendly rules and didn’t have the supporting cast that Kobe has had, it’s pretty clear that Jordan was better. But there’s no denying that Kobe has had a tremendous career, and we should appreciate it for what it is, rather than trying to judge it through the Jordan prism.

      Posted by E-Dog | January 18, 2012, 5:41 am
  7. haha I’ve never understood the assumption that MJ was the reason the greats of his era did not win a ring. MJ dominated because he had the best teams and he was the best player, period. But how many times did MJ DIRECTLY stop those greats from winning it all?

    MJ has beaten barkley 3 times in the playoffs, he played 16 seasons in the NBA, what happened the other 13 times? Stockon and Malone only played MJ twice in their careers yet they enjoyed extra LONG careers, 19 each. What happened the other 17 times? Drexler, KJ and Payton only went against him once. The only player that could maybe lean on that excuse is Ewing who was eliminated by MJ 5 times, he made it to the finals both years after MJ’s retirements (94 and 99).

    Anyways my point is MJ was a great, great player but let’s not give him undeserved credit for others lack of success, there’s only so much one man can do.

    Posted by stillshining | January 16, 2012, 8:25 am
    • There is direct corallary to those players I listed, with the exception of Ewing, matching up with Jordan in the NBA Finals.

      What you may wish to reconsider is how seldom teams actually make the Finals itself, let alone win the finals.

      Utah had it’s only 2 appearances against the Bulls
      The Sonics had their lone appearance since 1979 against the Bulls.
      Likewise Phoenix since 1975-76.

      Had Jordan not been on the Bulls, they likely win.

      It could also be argued that Olajuwan won his rings only due to Jordan’s absence.

      Posted by Paulie Walnuts | January 16, 2012, 9:08 am
  8. @Paulie…Utah doesn’t likely win…they do win both those series. If Chicago even makes the finals those years which I doubt. Indiana pushed them to 7 games one of those years and Chicago only won because of its home court I think. Reggie Miller played out of his mind in that series, he was amazing. Without MJ to counter that I don’t see Chicago even getting to the finals that year.

    But I agree there is no question that MJ is the greatest of all time. I will even go as far to say that he is the greatest sports player to ever play the game.

    Kobe fans can stop now. MJ never choked in the playoffs like Kobe does(and did last year in getting swept).

    Posted by Nightbladehunter | January 16, 2012, 10:28 am
    • Kobe didn’t choke, his team did.

      And Jordan already said: Kobe is the only player to compare to him. IF Kobe wins his 6th this season, which would inevitably put Kobe in the position of thrusting one of the worst offensive teams this season, ahead of the 3headed monster from Miami .. or already proven Bulls, Thunder, Magic, whoever. It would catapult Kobe’s legacy because his team with injuries and a bunch of other misgivings, was able to put forth a good season. This achievement by itself would more than solidify Kobe as Jordan’s heir.

      Posted by DODOO | January 21, 2012, 4:13 pm
  9. Totally agree. Let a player have his career, then argue about his place in history.

    Posted by Lochpster | January 17, 2012, 9:47 pm
  10. How many times does Kobe have to quit/lie down and die in the playoffs before anyone stops trying to compare him to Jordan?

    Posted by Eric | January 31, 2012, 1:07 pm
  11. I’m not arguing MJ isn’t the greatest player ever, but LeBron still has a chance. The window is closing fast, and outside of Wade and Bosh that team is garbage. LeBron took a team thats second best player was Drew Gooden to the finals. That’s impressive. And he has 3 MVP’s already, also impressive. As for his shooting touch, he has out scored Kobe almost every year from outside the paint. Kobe and MJ both benefited from who they are, so always got BS calls and were able to hit free throws. To me that’s where they shot better than LeBron. LeBron has a way higher 3 point % than Kobe this season. The difference is he takes smart shots, is that bad? As for importance to a team, LeBron’s importance to the Cavs was higher than Kobe/MJ with their teams for sure. If Kobe left the Lakers still have the best post duo since Robinson/Duncan. When Michael left the Bulls produced 3 all-star players and lost in the Eastern Conference Finals. But, the following year 2 of the all-stars left and the team tanked. MJ then came back along with Rodman and another former all-star. LeBron leaves and look what happens? Cavs were terrible last year, and didn’t get any better til they drafted Kyrie Irving number 1 overall. Now I am by no means arguing he is better than Michael, but he has a slim chance to get their. And yes, he is better than Kobe. His stats alone prove it. Shaq averaged 35 ppg and 15 rpg during Kobe’s first 3 trips to the finals. If LeBron had that he’d have a ring for sure. LeBron is a better passer, rebounder, stealer, blocker, and scores more efficiently than Kobe could ever dream of. Kobe’s proved that he needs a 20-10 guy in the post or he can’t win. LeBron finally got help by going to Miami and the team has had great success. Sure they didn’t win it the first year, but went to the Finals. That’s a start. LeBrons only fault is he doesn’t have the selfishness of Kobe/MJ and when he finally gets it, he will explode.

    Also, how has Wilt’s name not popped up? Everytime people talk about the greats they mention Bill but not Wilt? Over 30 ppg and 20 rpb is scary. Yes he played in a different time, but the average height of an NBA center than was 6’10” which isn’t as small as everyone makes it out to be. And when him and Bill squared off he destroyed him. What Wilt did the NBA will never be lucky enough to see again. Pure and total dominance. He averaged of 50 ppg at one point? Now it’s an accomplishment to get that I one might, he did it all year long. 100 points in a game, 55 boards in another, 48.5 mpg(a game is only 48), and never once fauled out. He even led the league in assists one season for the hell of it. You have to mention him in the top 3 players, you have to. Not to mention they didn’t keep track of blocks. I read in an article that the guess is he averaged 8 bpg… Yea, impressive. Everything about him speaks “greatest ever” but not a single person says it because of his time. Seems unfair to me…

    Posted by Ty | May 17, 2012, 7:48 am
    • You’re wrong that no one gives Wilt his due. You may wish to check out some articles on this very site that offer evidence of Wilt’s greatness.

      There are many many Wilt haters largely because they simply cannot fathom how one player could be so dominant and not win every year. This is because they fundamental fail to understand that basketball is more than just one player, regardless of how great that one player is.

      You alluded to having some type of hierarchy of players. Can you tell us what you list is? Again, many toss out “this guy is top five” and seldom realize that they have just listed 7 names for their “top five”

      Posted by Paulie Walnuts | May 17, 2012, 8:19 am
  12. Albeit MJ has the moments, as well as stats and accolades, I believe everything that happens in the NBA in terms of teammates, your coaches success leading your team, front office management, matchups, its all circumstancial. Whats not circumstancial, is that MJ, like Kobe, have both been successful with sufficiently talented teams, a great if-not-alltime coach, plus a front office that makes daring yet undoubtedly positive moves. Whats also fact is, in MJ’s first 6 years, as well as Lakers 04-07, MJ and Kobe’s stats reach there peak, without championship coaching and surrounding talent, yet the team is extremely unsuccessful in comparison to when the 2 players named have championship coaching and surrounding talent. While Jordan had careers numbers in… everything, the Bulls posted an overall losing record as well as a 1-9 playoff record with (obviously) no progression past the 1st round. Similar with Kobe post Shaq and pre Pau and Bynum(emergence), he posted career numbers in scoring but his team ultimately entered the playoffs as a low seed and didnt make it past the 1st round. Comparable, are the high scoring-low winning seasons of Jordan and Kobe to the career of Allen Iverson, one who scored lots, but didnt result in many wins. Is it safe to assume that scoring alot of points doesnt directly result in winning games? I’d say so. So, taking into effect that titles are circumstancial, and these same named “champions” dont have the skill-set to directly result in wins in any scenario, meaning good or bad teammates, then how do we rate the success of Lebron James years in Cleveland? Is it fair to compare the “contenders” Cavs teams to the teams MJ and Kobe contended with? Well, both MJ and Kobe’s contender teams had atleast 1 other all-star, and a shooter who was previously proven, or generally considered to be a lockon 3 point shooter (Fisher, Horry, Paxon, etc etc). Well, those Cavs had 1 allstar, just Lebron, none of the “top shooters”, etc etc. Is it more fair to compare those Cavs teams with MJ and Kobe’s team from there years when they were surrounded with less talent? Answering that is very opinionated, but i’d have to say yes. Here’s where it gets tricky. Although in some peoples opinion, there rosters are comparable, the level of success is not any where comparable. While Lebron has NEVER been eliminated in the 1st round, MJ and Kobe have never made it out of the 1st round without all-star contributions from teammates. Also, Lebron made the finals at age 21, just 4 years into his career, surpassing the same Pistons team that previously defeated Kobe,Shaq,Malone and Payton in the 03-04 season. Lets go over that again. A team with 4 soon-to-be, superstar or has-been superstar, hall of famers, lost to a Pistons team who in all accounts, lost to Lebron James leading a team filled with great bench players, forced into starting positions? Where im getting at is, Lebron’s playstyle, is SO dominating, that it results in wins. Not like that 37 ppg year where Jordan only won 40 games, and lost first round, or the 35 ppg season where Kobe won 45 and also lost 1st round. I truely believe that since Lebron’s 4th year, he has been the best player in NBA history. I believe this because he has an instinct to make the right play unlike any player we’ve ever seen, and his team-oriented playstyle and maturity is that of a 20 year during his 4th year. No doubt that if on paper, the Cavs had a team comparable to MJ’s Champion Bulls or Kobe’s Champion Lakers, LBJ wouldve won the title in his 4th year. Am I over exaggerating, pushing it to hard, or am I on to something? And please, only intelligent replies. No need to antagonize me if you disagree with my comments.

    Posted by L | October 30, 2012, 11:46 am


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