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Numbers don't lie... and LeBron is not done yet! ? ?

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LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan: Comparing Career Scoring Totals

By MITCH GOLDICH 

March 07, 2019

LeBron James scored 31 points Wednesday in the Lakers’ 115-99 loss to the Nuggets. It would likely go down as a forgettable result in a season he’d like to forget, save for one major news item: He passed Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time career scoring list.

As his 16th season winds down, LeBron has now racked up 32,311 points, even more than the 32,292 points MJ tallied in his 15 regular seasons. LeBron is now fourth all-time in scoring, trailing just Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant.

So today is the day. I will personally make the case that determines which of these two players is better and we will all agree forever. OK, probably not. There are other places on the internet to read those kinds of takes today. Instead I’ll just present some graphs and charts to compare the scoring outputs from these two all-time greats.

1. Total points by age

Here are their career points scored, broken down by age. In this case age means their n-age season, basically the year they were n years old on February 1, which is the way Basketball-Reference displays ages.

Mitch Goldich/Sports Illustrated

Here you can see the advantage LeBron gained by jumping to the league straight out of high school, as he banked 3,700 points at the same ages that had Jordan wearing Carolina blue.

Then you can see MJ gaining on LeBron until his baseball years (outside of his second season, when he only played 18 games in 1985-86).

Now at 34, LeBron is the same age Jordan was when he finished his Bulls career with a second three-peat.

2. Total points by season

This graph is similar to the one above, but now we go by season instead of age. This takes out the advantage LeBron gets from starting younger and playing all the way through. Jordan’s trajectory is no longer stunted by taking the 1993-94 season off, though you can still see the 1995 year when he played just 17 games in his return from baseball.

By this measure, Jordan was ahead of LeBron when he hung them up after his Wizards stint.

Mitch Goldich/Sports Illustrated

3. Points per game by age4. Points per game by season

These two graphs are the same as the first two, but instead of using cumulative career points, we’ll use scoring average per game during those seasons.

Again, when Jordan isn’t dinged for the seasons he missed, you can see that his scoring average per season was consistently higher for most of his career.

That’s true either way you break it down, although his scoring averages as a 38- and 39-year-old in Washington, his 14th and 15th seasons, show a noticeable dip.

Mitch Goldich/Sports Illustrated

Mitch Goldich/Sports Illustrated

5. Breaking down field goals, free throws and three-pointers

These pie charts basically answer the question: How did they get their points? It shows the career breakdowns for both players, and the percentage of points that came from free throws, two-point field goals and three-pointers.

Mitch Goldich/Sports Illustrated

Their free throw output is very close; Jordan made 7,327 and LeBron has made 7,101.

The key difference is three-point shooting. James has made 1,714 three pointers, while Jordan made just 581. Of course that’s a result of them being products of their era. Jordan was a career 32.7% three-point shooter, while James has made a slightly better 34.4%. If Jordan played today, three-point shooting would likely be a bigger emphasis of his game—more attempts and he probably would have gotten even better at it.

6. Breaking down points by team

One of the key differences between their careers is that Jordan spent almost all of his with the Bulls, until his late run with the Wizards. Jordan’s most famous employer swap was from the Bulls to the Birmingham Barons and back, whereas LeBron left Cleveland for Miami, came back and then again moved to Los Angeles.

This graph simply shows how many points they scored in each of their NBA uniforms.

Mitch Goldich/Sports Illustrated

7. Breaking down points by career stop

If you’d like to take the previous graph and break it down further, this time we’ll consider each of LeBron’s stops in Cleveland separately. And while we’re at it, we can carve out Jordan’s pre-baseball and post-baseball eras in Chicago.

Here’s their total output during each of the various chapters in their careers.

Mitch Goldich/Sports Illustrated

8. Scoring leader race by season

In addition to scoring more per game and more per season relative to LeBron, one thing that stands out about Jordan’s career is the way that he dominated his peers in the scoring race.

Jordan led the NBA in total points 11 times, including every season from 1986-87 through 1997-98 when he wasn’t playing baseball.

LeBron finished second in total points in eight straight seasons from 2004-05 through 2011-12, finishing behind Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant (3x), Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant (3x). He didn’t lead the league in total points until last season, his first time playing 82 games.

This graph shows where they finished in the league scoring (total points, not per game), based on the number of times finishing in each spot.  Jordan led the league 11 times, every season of his career except the two shortened Bulls seasons and the two Wizards seasons. LeBron only has that one season leading the league, but he was consistently in the Top 5. In fact, his first season in L.A. is his only time out of the Top 10, largely because of how many games he has missed due to injury.

Mitch Goldich/Sports Illustrated

If we used points per game to show where they stood among league leaders, the graph would look very similar. Jordan’s career scoring mark of 30.12 points per game is the all-time record, and MJ won the per game scoring title 10 times. LeBron’s mark of 27.15 is fourth all-time, behind Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. (For now at least. It takes three decimal places to separate James and Durant, and LeBron actually leapfrogged KD on Wednesday.)

But again, none of this is to say that Jordan was better than LeBron. Or vice versa. They each have different careers, different skills and different stories. It would be just as simplistic to boil their entire careers down to total points as it is to reduce their careers down to championship rings. They both deserve to be appreciated for what they’ve done, and on a day that’s natural to compare their scoring output it’s fun to compare their careers in a few different ways.

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Hello Again and Thanks for reading it is I David "Top40" Ellenberger with an update on the status of my lawsuit against Alphabet inc case # 4:20-CV-04877-SVK  and the website and life in general. By now if you regularly visit InternetTop40.com you may have read this section "author info" or Bio. So I am adding to it with more bio and more info. I originally liked the idea of voting on the internet 20-25 years ago when I first got online with WebTV (does anyone remember that?). The technology at that time was not advanced enough to easily be able to vote online or watch videos or much else for that matter but I was hooked and look at what we can do now with videos, IOT, and everything else, but I digress. I started InternetTop40.com about 5 years ago and the user base has been going up steadily ever since. I wanted to be another Facebook, with music and voting and that is all coming together slowly but surely. BTW if you want to help or have any interest please feel free to email me anytime.  Now in my previous Author Info or bio page I made it clear or at least I thought I made it clear, I am personally suing Alphabet inc. in Federal Court for Fraud. I have evidence to prove they are not counting all the pageviews, among other things and defrauding myself and probably millions of other website owners and content creators out of Billions of dollars. So if I wasn't clear or you didn't know it's true I am suing Alphabet inc. in Federal Court for Fraud the case was recently moved from my state of Kentucky to N. California to make it easier for Alphabet inc. to steam roll me or so they think. Needless to say if you are interested and I hope you are you can look the case up online under my name "David Russell Ellenberger" or the case # which is 4:20-CV-04877-SVK.

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