In LeBron James‘ chase of the the GOAT title, fans might see his latest finals loss as a setback for him in the LeBron-Jordan debate. The defeat to Durant, Curry & Co puts his career finals record at 3-5 compared to Michael Jordan‘s 6-0. It looks as if Jordan is firmly in the lead. But a player’s impact can’t be judged solely by Finals wins and losses. Here are three reasons why LeBron James’ Legacy shouldn’t be hindered by his latest defeat.
3 Reasons Why LeBron James’ Legacy Should be Intact
1. LeBron’s playoff record is just as good as Jordan’s
Jordan’s 6-0 finals record doesn’t quite tell the whole story. The six Championships are incredibly impressive, but it doesn’t explain his exits early in the playoffs. James has fewer Finals wins, but also had more deep runs into the Finals.
If you look at their overall playoff record they are virtually the same with LeBron at 144-73 (.664) through 12-straight playoff runs. Jordan is at 119-60 (.665) through 13 playoff runs. Obviously LeBron has more wins because he’s gone deeper into the playoffs more often than Jordan.
2. LeBron played better in these finals than Jordan ever played
LeBron’s impact on these finals was easy to see. He was phenomenal, but was up against a star-studded Warriors team.
The only finals performance that Jordan came close to having the same impact was his series victory over the Suns in 1993. Jordan played out of his mind in these games, breaking records for most points and field goals in a six-game series. But if you break down their stats per game, LeBron’s 2017 finals were more impressive.
Michael Jordan averaged 41.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 6.3 APG, and a 50.8 FG% on 101-199 shooting. While LeBron did him one better averaging 33.6 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 10.0 APG, and a 56.4 FG% on 66-117 shooting.
MJ averaged more points per game, but that stat is inflated because he took 33.2 shots per game compared to LeBron’s 23.4. LeBron also became the first player to ever average a triple double in the finals and now holds the finals record for most triple doubles with nine.
3. Jordan never faced a team as good as the 2017 Warriors
Jordan went 6-0 in the finals, but never faced a team of the 2017 Warriors caliber. The Warriors went 67-15 in the regular season and 12-0 in the playoffs leading up to the finals. The lineup featured two-time MVP Steph Curry along with All-Stars Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and former MVP Kevin Durant who joined the team after the Warriors went 72-9 the year before.
Jordan never played a team in the finals that was that impressive. The closest team would’ve been the 1997 Utah Jazz who went 64-18 in the regular season and 11-3 in the playoffs leading up to the finals and featured MVP Karl Malone and All Star PG John Stockton.
You could argue the ’89 Pistons were a tougher matchup than the ’97 Jazz. The team went 63-19 in the regular season and 7-0 in the playoffs leading up to their series win against the Bulls. Detroit was led by All-Star PG Isiah Thomas and all-NBA defensive man Dennis Rodman. But either way, the Warriors had a more talented team.
We’ll never know what would’ve happened if it was 32-year-old Michael Jordan on the 2017 Cleveland Cavaliers instead of LeBron. But I have a hard time seeing the finals playing out differently. Because of this, it doesn’t make sense to ridicule LeBron for losing in these Finals. By no means does it prove that he is better than Jordan, but it certainly doesn’t prove he’s not.
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