Is LeBron James the greatest player of all time?


Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

In the seven decades of the NBA’s history, there has been some truly amazing players. Names like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant immediately spring to mind. But after claiming his fourth NBA Championship with his third different franchise, there is one question that pundits and fans have been debating across the globe: is LeBron James now the greatest basketball player of all time?

Is Lebron the greatest player of all time? LeBrons finals record is the one aspect of his game which will stop him being the greatest player of all time. He is a legend of the game but he will have to win a few more championships for G.O.A.T discussion.

With a career now spanning 17 complete seasons, his ever-growing list of accolades means there is no denying the fact that LeBron is one of the all-time greats. Standing at 6-9, LeBron has almost redefined the game through his athleticism and power and, now at 35-years old, continues to be one of the most energetic and dynamic players on the court. But is he the greatest?

Some of LeBron’s stats are, quite frankly, terrifying.

Throughout his nearly two-decade career, he has career averaged 27.07 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game. For instant comparison, only three other players have a higher points per game average: Elgin Baylor (27.36), Wilt Chamberlain (30.07), and Michael Jordan (30.12).

Beyond this, LeBron stands as a 4x NBA Championships winner, 4x MVP, 4x Finals MVP, 16x NBA All-Star, NBA Rookie of the Year, and 2x Olympic Gold Medal winner.  

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The arguments against Lebron being the Greatest Player of All Time

The first point to note is that across the key NBA all-time stats leader boards (points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, games played, minutes played, 3-points made, free throws made, FG made, FG attempts, 3-point attempts, and free throw attempts), LeBron James’ name doesn’t appear at the top of any of these lists.

In fact, the closest he appears to the top of any of these lists is in third position on total points scored with a tally of 34,241.

To put that into context, not even the great Michael Jordan appears at the top of any of the lists outlined above. There are, however, four names that appear more than once at the top of these leader boards: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John Stockton, Ray Allen, and Karl Malone.

While he may be the first name to do so with three different franchises, LeBron’s tally of four NBA Championships only places him joint 28th on the all-time list alongside Shaquille O’Neal. Names like Kobe Bryant (5), Dennis Rodman (5), Michael Jordan (6), Robert Horry (7), and Bill Russel (11), all eclipse LeBron’s numbers on this front.

For many, the greatest of all time accolade goes to one of the biggest names in sport, not just in the NBA, Michael Jordan. This argument is difficult to go against. Jordan led what was a fairly mediocre Bulls team and transformed them into a to six-times NBA Championships winning team, claiming 6 Finals MVPs and five regular-season MVPs for himself in the process. More than this, Jordan redefined the game throughout the 90s and truly put the NBA on the global map. To make things even more impressive, on top of Jordan’s 10 scoring title, he was also named the NBA’s defensive player of the year in 1988, proving that he had much more to his game than just sinking buckets.

Michael’s individual feats are undeniable. His 6-point game against the Celtics in 1986, his six first-half three-pointers and 35-point haul in the first half of Game 1 in the 1992 NBA Finals, battling the flu during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals and still scoring 38 points and a game-deciding three-pointer, and Game 6 of the 1998 Finals with a foul-line jump shot to steal the Finals from Karl Malone’s Utah Jazz, are all evidence of Jordan’s abilities.

Beyond Jordan, there are very strong arguments for the likes of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bill Russell. What’s clear, however, is that the competition is fiercely tough!

The arguments for Lebron being the greatest basketball player of all time

Stats are there to be debated by officials, journalists and fans, and stats don’t mean anything on the court. If we’re establishing who is the greatest player of all time we need to look at their ability to change a game singlehandedly.

When it comes to big games, Lebron certainly doesn’t shy away. He’s played the most games in NBA play-off history and is top of the leader board when it comes to play-off points and steals, as well as being second in assists and sixth in rebounds. 

The greatest player of all time needs to have the ability to change a game by themselves and lift their team around them. LeBron has this in abundance. Just look back to Game 7 of the 2013 Finals for the Heat against the Spurs in which he grabbed 37 points, 12 rebounds and four assist, or even Game 7 in the 2016 NBA Finals for the Cavaliers against Golden State with the Cavs 3-1 down in the series before a LeBron classic with 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, and arguably the greatest blocks in Finals history. Even at nearly 36-years old, in Game 6 of the 2020 Finals, LeBron still rocked the court with 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists.

In fact, over the past 15 seasons, LeBron has only failed to make it into the post-season once, reaching the Finals 10 times in the process. Within these big games, LeBron has been his team’s outright leader in points, rebounds and assists in the Finals seven times. When you compare that to the fact that only three other players have ever achieved this feat on one occasion (Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, and Jimmy Butler), it makes LeBron’s tally even more impressive.

Is Lebron James the G.O.A.T?

While the debate may never be truly conclusive, one thing for certain is that you would rather have LeBron James on your team than play against him, especially in those important matches when everything is on the line, bodies are tired and you’re relying on one man to make a difference.

His stats, performances, and key moments surely put him within the group of players regarded as the greatest, but the key thing to consider too is that LeBron’s career shows no sign of slowing down. Almost at 36-years of age, his athleticism is still one of the best in the league.

Is he the greatest player of all time today? Possibly. Can he go on to silence all doubters and claim the top spot beyond? Highly likely. With the 2020-21 NBA season about to get underway, the title there for LeBron to claim for his own.

James

A basketball court was built in my local park and at 15 years of age I fell in love with basketball. A late joiner to the game, I have played every season since. Some Indiana friends bought me some Pacers gear for my 17th birthday, and I have supported them ever since (who wants to follow the crowd). I love American sports apparel and the presentation of sports, they do it so well (bar all the advert breaks).

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