February 14, 2013
Now that he has his first NBA Championship ring, LeBron James seems to have relaxed a bit and is currently putting his most productive season together. For those who have missed it, he has had a remarkable two-week period. His productivity got me thinking about comparing him to Michael Jordan during one of Jordan’s most successful seasons.
Jordan, in 1993, averaged 33 points, seven rebounds, and six assists a game en route to destroying Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals.
Just a small bit of research led me to thinking that one could easily make the case that today’s version of LeBron is at the exact same point of his career as 1993 Michael Jordan.
LeBron James — the best?
The 1992-93 vintage of Jordan was at the absolute peak of his game. In a year and a half, he sandwiched two NBA rings over two of his biggest rivals around a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics. James was last year’s NBA title while also turning in a gold medal performance at the Olympics. If Miami repeats in the NBA this season, LeBron would match Jordan’s exploits over an identical period of time.
Let me continue with the comparison between the 1993 Jordan and the 2013 James.
Jordan scored more than James but James is the better scorer. LeBron is far more efficient. Learning this surprised me as the 1993 Michael Jordan was one of the most efficient scorers we had ever seen. Jordan shot almost 50% from the field including 35% from beyond the three point line.
James easily is topping those numbers. 2013 LeBron is shooting seven fewer shots a game than ’93 Jordan while shooting a much higher percentage. LeBron is shooting a dazzling 56% from the field and a staggering 42% from beyond the three-point arc.
Jordan fans will counter by saying that it was harder to score 20 years ago. This is just not true. Between 1991 and 1993, there were never more than three teams in the league that averaged less than 100 points per game. Last season, only three teams averaged over 100 points a game. It is very clear that points are harder to come by these days in the NBA. That memo has not reached James’ desk.
For those of you who still want to claim it was harder to score in Jordan’s era, it is just not true. The athletes today are bigger, stronger, and more athletic than they were in Jordan’s day. In Jordan’s prime, there may have been three guys in the entire league that could match his athleticism. Today, every team has two or three guys that are as big, fast, and athletic as Jordan.
Michael Jordan, back in his heyday
Improved defense from athletic players is the primary reason why there are only nine players are averaging 20 points per game this season. Back in the early 90’s, there were always over 20 players averaging over 20 points a game. Defenses today are built to stop great individual scorers.
Summing it up is rather easy. James scores almost as many points as Jordan and does it much more efficiently while taking seven fewer shots a game than Jordan.
James also has better rebounding and assist numbers. 2013 LeBron is averaging almost a rebound and a half more per game than 1993 Jordan. LeBron is averaging almost an assist and a half more than Jordan did.
What about defense you ask? In 1993, Jordan was rarely asked to shoulder a huge load defensively. It was Scottie Pippen who would hound the other team’s best player for 48 minutes while Jordan was free to roam around looking for steals. LeBron, on the other hand, guards the other team’s best wing player.
I am not saying James is a better basketball player then Jordan. I am just saying that he is more productive.
Duke vs. UNC
It is Blue Devils/Tar Heels week again within the ACC. I have always loved the intensity in this matchup and marvel at how hard the teams play when they square off. I was thinking about the long rivalry and asked myself the following question. Who has the better NBA players?
I will list the current NBA players the schools have and you can go ahead and (objectively I hope) pick the better five man squad. Here is my list.
North Carolina starters - Tyler Zeller, Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Harrison Barnes and Ty Lawson. My bench would be Ed Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, Marvin Williams, Raymond Felton, and John Henson.
These days, only Ty Lawson is the lone star in the league.
Duke starters - Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, JJ Redick and Kyrie Irving. My bench would be Shane Battier, Chris Duhon, Mike Dunleavy, Gerald Henderson, Grant Hill, Austin Rivers, and Kyle Singler.
The days of Duke not producing good NBA Players are gone. Kyrie Irving is already a top ten or fifteen player in the league. JJ Redick has quietly become a starting guard in Orlando that teams all over the NBA are trying to trade for him.
Deng is a fringe All Star while Boozer and Brand are still productive.
I would have to go with Duke if these pro’s matched up in a pick-up game. What do you think?
Romo And His Reputation
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has a reputation among many NFL fans of not performing well in pressured and stressful situations.
It is also widely known that he is very good golfer. Both traits came full circle last weekend in the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am PGA Tournament.
Romo and his partner had the lead heading into the final round. That was before Romo lived up to his reputation and added to his legacy. Romo again came up short when it counted as he and his teammate finished in third place. Oh, by the way, Romo and the Cowboys finished third in the NFC East last season.