Who is the greatest NBA player ever?
When Michael Jordan made his last shot for the Chicago Bulls in the next month 20 years ago, that question was easy to answer. While longevity was the order of the day for Bill Russell based on championship rings, Wilt Chamberlain on statistical dominance, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the consensus was clear: Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time.
And then came LeBron James, a challenger on the throne like no other before him. The earlier premature comparison between James and Jordan is now fair. This is James' NBA season, matching Jordan's overall, and he has already played 71 more season games and an incredible 49 playoff games. Since James is still the best player in the league at age 33 and expands the playoff games in the week for the playoff winner, the question is: Jordan or LeBron?
Championships added: James closes fast
Two years When ESPN faced the best players in NBA history (score: Jordan first, with James third behind Abdul-Jabbar), I developed a metric that became the biggest stars in the history League over the decades on a level playing field could rate. The result was winning championships using BasketballReference.com's profit share to gauge how much a player has increased his team's chances of getting away with the title this season based on the regular season and playoff performance.
At that time Jordan was first and James third by the numbers too ̵
Let's take a look at James vs. Jordan added by championships (regular season and playoffs combined), season over season
Year after year, Jordan has had an edge over James during her career. James narrowed the gap in their 10th seasons – that's when Jordan returned after his first retreat in the last 17 games of 1994-95 – before Jordan retired during the Bulls' second three-goal lead.
Because of the way championships rewards added only quality seasons, not mere accumulation of statistics, Jordan added almost nothing to his total amount by returning with the Washington Wizards at the age of 38. (His combined championships in two seasons added to the wizards: .01.)  James James has almost caught up with his career by getting so close to his career. Regarding unregulated season and playoff championships, the count added to the end of the regular season 2017-18 Jordan 4.74, James 4.48. When James approaches last year's playoff run (.35 championships added), he'll give Jordan in career championships to be added next month.
Playoffs vs. Regular Season
A comparison of Jordan and James added by championships, Jordan's current advantage is entirely due to the performance in the regular season. Although James now has more career victories than Jordan (he passed Jordan this season and came third behind Abdul-Jabbar and Chamberlain), Jordan estimates he has more championships in the regular season because his value is in his best concentration lay seasons. That is, the contributions from MJ's biggest regular seasons were more valuable, while LeBron made up ground in cumulative value.
Championships Added Breakdown
|Season||James RS||James PO  Total||Jordan RS||Jordan PO||Total|
|3||.17||.03  .20||.18||.02||.20|
|4||.10||.16||.27||.37||.07  .44|
|8||.15||.15||.30||.21  .17||.38|
|9||.22  .31||.53||.20||.25||.45|
|13  .10||.24||.34||.15||.25||.40|
|14||.09||.35||.44  .00||.00||.00|
The two GOAT Contestants are added in e Stimulated Championships based on awards, the third component of the formula. Jordan (3.05) is ahead of James (3.01) due to his modest lead in MVP shares . James will probably take the lead when this year's MVP voting is included in the equation.
This leaves the playoff value as the James & # 39; strongest argument. His 2.24 championship play-offs are more than Jordan's (2.05) and everyone else in league history. That might be tough enough to get Jordan's six championships against James & # 39; three and James & # 39; Teams with 3-5 in the NBA Finals to master, but James comes out for several reasons.
First, James has simply accumulated more opportunities in the playoffs due to the deeper runs in the seasons, which ended shortly before a championship. While his advantage in the played games owes something to the NBA, which extends the first round of postseason from best-of-five to best-of-seven after Jordan's playoff career, James has already played in 43 playoff ranks and scored Jordan's 37 – without the upcoming Eastern Conference Finals. And of course James earns the lion's share of the merit that his teams have won enough to play in these additional series – and get more chances for the NBA title, including more finals appearances than Jordan's teams. Second, for the most part, James's teams losing on the biggest stage can not be attributed to his own performance. This day was exactly in 2007, James' first finals appearance at the age of 22 and 2011 when he fought poorly as the Miami Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks. Since then, James's performance in Finals, which has lost his team (2014, 2015 and 2017), compared to Jordan's performance in the finals of his team – and even to James & # 39; its own – compared to the WARP metric during its three title seasons, when it won three Finals MVP trophies. That's the end of six finals in which James's performance has matched well with Jordan's performance.
Final Value, LeBron v. Jordan
|James||WARP / G||Jordan||WARP / G|
|2017||.289||1993  .305|
|2014||.263  1996||.158|
Jordan may have a comfortable lead in Finals WARP per game, but James has lost on the basis of the Both additional appearances have accumulated more WARP in the Finals (10.9) than Jordan (10.1) or anyone else since the ABA-NBA merger.  The Great Debate: Quality of the Game
The respective camps in the Jordan-LeBron d Ebate reach their wildest place when discussing which player had a hard time dominating in his era. To hear that Jordan's backers are telling it, the defenders were allowed to do open fistfights to prevent him from getting in the basket. In the meantime, James's defenders would have you believe that Jordan beat five guys from the Y to win his championships.
There is a kernel of truth in both arguments. In the heyday of Jordan, physical defense was the order of the day when hand control was tacitly allowed, even though it was officially banned. At the same time, the sophistication of NBA defense has increased dramatically since the rule of illegal defense was eliminated in 2001. It's impossible to say exactly how James could have reacted in an era with less ground clearance and more physical play. Jordan could have counted more on a 3-point shot than getting in the basket.
That is, the consideration of the game quality is an important factor in the GOAT discussion. For example, Jordan would fall behind George Mikan without a timeline adjustment for the championship added in the playoffs, dominating a growing NBA that is still racially integrated.
So I adjust the league quality depending on whether returning players play more or less minutes per game. If the league improves, the minutes per game will go back for the returnees. If it declines like expansion, they tend to play more minutes per game.
Since Jordan and James were not separated for long, the difference is not as dramatic as with Mikan. But James's leagues are on average still 12 percent better than Jordan's, which makes sense given the influx of international talent in this area. My guess is that the pool of talent from which the NBA draws players has grown 28 percent since 2003, while the league has only added one team.
If I focus on league quality, James is no longer catching Jordan as the biggest player in cumulative value. He has already added Jordan in his rearview mirror, with 4.66 overall championships to Jordan's 4.28.
A Divided Decision
Part of the challenge of the GOAT debate is by definition: does it refer to the player who reached the highest heights or the one who had the best career?
In the hypothetical where we choose sides to win a single game or series, such as "The Mars Premise," Bill Simmons in "The Book of Basketball" deals with the best possible team of NBA players against aliens, Jordan the choice remains. His 1990/91 season was the best we've ever seen – a superstar that combines sheer individual size with the ability to fit (godily, perhaps) into the team concept of Phil Jackson's delta offense.
The alternative hypothesis is: Imagine a design where we select every single NBA player at the beginning of his career. The team will receive the player's career just as they played without anyone being able to bring their talents to South Beach. That's exactly the question that championships try to answer, and to the extent that it's tight right now, James's ultimate superiority is almost inevitable. Let's take a look at what happens when we plot the championships by age and not by experience.
Now James is advancing at any age, not only because he starts earlier, but also because he has achieved peak performance in the past. Before entering the playoffs this season and without adjusting for league quality, James has already added more championships through his age 33 season than Jordan at 34. Barring injury or an unlikely decision to get away from the game, like MJ, James Jordan will soon pass in career points. He is already far ahead in career rebounds and assists.
A team that has designed James' entire career would argue for more than a decade due to its metronomic consistency and its ability to avoid injury. Jordan might have been better, but James has already put together the best NBA career we've ever seen.