Point/Counterpoint: Who’s the G.O.A.T.: Michael Jordan or LeBron James? 


On late Tuesday night, LeBron James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most points scored in NBA history. Coming into the game, James needed 36 points to pass The Captain, who had held the record from 1984-2023 (38 years), and it only took him three quarters to reach that number. Becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer is another argument that can be made in the debate between Michael Jordan and Lebron James. In the wake of the historic accomplishment, Campus Correspondents Sam Calhoun and CJ Dexter take sides in the debate for the greatest basketball player of all time. 

Sam — I’ll begin my argument with this: if LeBron James wins another NBA championship in his career, I think the debate can come to an end and he’s the greatest of all time. However, I still believe that Michael Jordan is the greatest player in basketball history and I will start with the accolades. There’s no doubt that neither player wasted any time becoming a superstar in the league, with both winning Rookie of the Year. Jordan is a six-time NBA champion compared to James’ four, which includes two three-peats as the Chicago Bulls dominated the ‘90s. In those six NBA championships, Jordan was named the Finals MVP in every single one of them. I know, James is a four-time Finals MVP as well, but he hasn’t been absolutely perfect in the NBA Finals. Despite James being the all-time leading scorer, Jordan is a ten-time scoring champion. Jordan is also a much better player on defense, winning the 1988 Defensive Player of the Year and being named to the All-Defensive First Team ten times, while James has only been on the first team five times. 

CJ — To this day, Michael Jordan still has the greatest prime the game of basketball has ever seen. Breaking into the league scoring 28 points a game as a rookie and then winning 11 scoring titles over the next 12 seasons, along with six rings and six finals MVPs, is as good a 12 year stretch as any player has ever had in NBA history. When it comes to comparing the two greatest players to ever play the game of basketball, it is important to consider the longevity of elite play in the league. Jordan played at an elite level for 13 years in the league before showing a statistical decline in his 14th and final season.  

James has played at an elite level in the NBA for all 20 years he’s been in the league with no signs of slowing down. At age 38, James is averaging 30.2 points per game (PPG), which is on pace to be his fourth highest of his historic NBA career. Not only did James break the all-time scoring record, he did it while still in his prime. With many years of elite play appearing to be in the tank, James is only going to continue to shatter the record to a number that will be almost impossible to eclipse.  

James has already passed Jordan in points, assists, rebounds, field goal percentage, blocks, 3-point percentage and all-pro selections and will only continue to climb up all the time ranks as his stellar career goes on. While the debate remains arguable for both players right now, the king will only continue to cement his case as the greatest player who ever lived as his career progresses and as the accolades pile up. 

Sam — Longevity is important, and only 14 seasons from Michael Jordan was due to his two retirements. Imagine if he played those seasons that he was temporarily retired in. He had 32,292 points in his career, and would have easily broken the scoring record if he had those five seasons he was retired. I will give you the percentages, which is impressive considering how long he’s played. James is a better rebounder, it’s unlikely Jordan would have gotten approximately 4000 more rebounds in five additional seasons. Also, Jordan didn’t start to decline in his final season. In his final season, he averaged 20 PPG and played all 82 games. Outside of the 2017-18 season, James did not play all 82 games in a season, while Michael Jordan did that eight times in his 14-years in the NBA. James was a better passer, but don’t knock Jordan’s passing ability. Jordan’s career points-per-game average is an NBA record. Add that with five more seasons and potentially more NBA championships, and James doesn’t even hold a candle up to Jordan. 

CJ — The argument of Jordan’s retirements doesn’t really add any weight to his case of being the greatest basketball player of all time. It was his decision to go pursue professional baseball and walk away from the court for all those seasons that he missed. While it is a valid point that his volume statistics such as career points, rebounds and assists would be closer to James if he didn’t retire, I see no value in crediting Jordan with seasons he didn’t play in. I only pay attention to what these players did on the court, and at the end of the day James’ longevity as an elite, all-pro player in this league has spanned much longer than Jordan’s.  

Yes Jordan still averaged 20 PPG in his final season but it is a massive decline from where his career averages were sitting. In year 15, Jordan’s 20 PPG equates to a 33% drop off from his career PPG scoring clip of 30. In James’ 20th season in the league, his per game scoring is 11% higher than his career 27.2 PPG clip. He is continuing to somehow get better and maintain elite play through two decades in this league and is the only player in basketball history to average 30 PPG in their 20th season. The debate remains a close one for now but years down the road the G.O.A.T. debate will be undisputed with the king sitting on top.  


  1. Don’t count what he didn’t do in retirement only count what he did on the court yup Lebron was 4 for 10 meaning he lost as many as Jordan won

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