Critical Breakdown: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James


** UPDATE: If you like this kind of thing go check out BLACK MAMBA MYTH **


The start of a new NBA season is around the corner, which can only mean one thing: time to start arguing about who the best player is, usually by comparing him to Michael Jordan. Now, in a league where scoring points is over-appreciated and celebrated, many fans equate “the best” player almost exclusively with a player who scores a lot, not bothering to consider efficiency or many other facets of the game. For anyone interested in seeing a fuller picture, I’ve made this sort-of-infographic showing regular season and playoff stats and achievements for Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Download the full res file to see all the stats in detail.

I cover totals, averages, game highs, shooting percentages – including shots made and missed, and a number of game milestones (30+ points, 10+ assists, etc.) There’s also the requisite ring count plus other accolades.

Kobe has been a very good player for many years and is heading into the twilight of his career inching up on a few MJ milestones, namely total points, and undoubtedly aiming to tie him with six championships. LeBron is entering the season having won his first ring, a second gold medal and having put together one of the finest 10 months of basketball ever from an NBA player. So how do they compare, at this point in their careers, to Michael? I went to Basketball-reference.com to get the numbers and then indulged my NBA nerd side and my design side to put this together.

A few things I noticed…through the 2012 season, Kobe has logged the most games and minutes, yet MJ has more of virtually everything – Kobe does have more total assists in the playoffs. Pretty impressive since Kobe has played over 2,000 more minutes (regular season and playoffs) than him. LeBron ties MJ in terms of averages a couple of times and leads the way in rebound and assist averages. Should be interesting to see what happens now that he is allegedly entering his prime. He’s not too far behind Kobe’s totals already and he’s played 10,000 less minutes. LeBron’s averages already best Kobe across the board, except for 3PT and FT percentages. Work on those free throws, LeBron!

Obviously, LeBron and Kobe are still playing so their numbers will continue to change (let’s hope Mike doesn’t unretire for a third time). Maybe an update will be in order after this season? This one will have to do for now. I’m realizing as I post this that I forgot to include a couple of notes about using averages based on seasons when the player averaged more than 30 minutes a games and that I had to do a bit of math to figure out some of MJ’s numbers because basketball-reference.com didn’t include all the stats for his rookie year.

In the future, I might spend some time creating an infographic that gives a better sense of the players stats season by season, so that the element of time and individual categorical growth can be viewed in relation to the other players. I’ve been thinking about a series of sorts around these three players and all the crazy stats that are available these days. We’ll see.

Looking forward to tip-off next Tuesday.

PS, if you notice any errors in the data, drop me a line so I can correct it.