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John Hollinger: LeBron James the best NBA player since Michael Jordan

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 John Hollinger: LeBron James the best NBA player since Michael Jordan
Unread 03-31-2010, 12:51 AMJoined Aug 2008 - away - #1
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When it comes to regular-season dominance since 1973-74, only Michael Jordan can top King James.

Normally at this time of year, we would be writing breathless articles about the MVP race, rallying our support behind one candidate or another and sifting through torrents of angry e-mails supporting that player's rivals.

Not this year.

The MVP race has been over since about mid-January. LeBron James has run so far away from the pack that he could shoot 0-for-100 from the field over his final eight games and still win the award going away. (For fun, I fact-checked this: Even with 100 straight misses, no a.ssists and no rebounds in his next 200 minutes, he'd still lead the league in PER.)

Only two items of interest remain. First, will some sycophant homer screw up what should be a unanimous decision with a completely indefensible vote for his local guy? And second, is this the best individual season a player has ever had?

As you might suspect, today's topic deals with the second of those questions. Some of this may sound familiar, as this time a year ago I mentioned that James was en route to one of the best statistical seasons in history.

Here's the thing: This season, he's been better.

Once again, a hallowed record (at least in my world) is in play for James as we enter the final eight games: He could surpass Michael Jordan's 1987-88 campaign for the greatest single-season PER in the modern era. I have to add the "modern" qualifier because the league didn't keep track of things like blocks and individual turnovers before 1973-74, rendering the PER exercise a guessing game for players from previous eras.

James' current PER of 31.81 is second best in "modern" history, and with eight games left (of which he'll probably play only five or six), he retains an outside shot at breaking Jordan's all-time mark of 31.89. At the very least, he's going to be within hailing distance.



Regardless, James will almost certainly set another record: The best two-year PER stretch of any player in history. James was no slouch last season, finishing at 31.76 for the third-best PER ever (well, until he bumped it down to fourth this season); combined, that gives him a two-year average of 31.78. The best Jordan mustered was 31.55.

Obviously, the larger James versus Jordan argument won't be much of a debate until LeBron picks up some hardware in the postseason. Nonetheless, I can't emphasize enough what an extraordinary accomplishment James' past two seasons represent. We've flinched at comparing current players to Jordan after several previous "next Jordans" were found wanting. But that has put up a mental barrier to a declaration that the numbers see as obvious: In terms of regular-season performance, we're watching the next Jordan.

I'd argue that we can extend that comparison further. When Jordan was at the same stage of his career as LeBron, the press treated him almost exactly the same. Like James, he was a wondrous regular-season performer who had never won anything important and thus couldn't be compared with the likes of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Looking back, that whole notion seems laughable, if not downright quaint yet we're falling in the exact same trap. Jordan, remember, didn't win a title until his seventh season. As luck would have it, James is in his seventh season, and his odds of winning a crown have never looked better. With the Lakers faltering down the stretch and the Celtics succumbing to age, only James' nemesis from a year ago -- Orlando -- would rate as an even-money proposition to stop him from winning the trophy.

That part of the James-Jordan comparison won't be settled for another two months, his regular-season one in a little more than two weeks.

James leads the league in scoring, at least for the moment (Kevin Durant is only 0.2 behind, and if James rests the final couple of games, Durant will have a number to shoot for, David Robinson-style, in the season finale). But LeBron is not just scoring. He's getting his 29.8 points per game with incredibly high-percentage shots. James' true shooting percentage of 60.4 ranks in the league's top 25, and most of the players ahead of him are snipers with much smaller offensive roles.

Yet for me, his passing is the most amazing part. In fact, for a wing player, it's eye-popping: James has cracked the league's top 15 in pure point rating even though he plays small forward. (Except for James and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili, every player in the top 40 plays the point).

Or try this one on for size: No forward in league history has ever averaged more than eight a.ssists per game until this season; Larry Bird's 7.6 a.ssists per game in 1986-87 came the closest. James is averaging 8.6, even though he's playing in one of the slow-paced eras in league annals and averages a relatively modest 39.0 minutes per game. Put him at Bird's pace in 1986-87, and he'd be averaging a whopping 9.3.

The same applies to most of James' numbers. On a per possession basis, his triple-crown stats of 29.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 8.6 a.ssists crush Oscar Robertson's triple-double season in 1961-62 or Jordan's 32.5-8.0-8.0 season in 1988-89 or just about any statistical season in history.

All except one, that is. James' output still trails Jordan's peak campaign in 1987-88 by a whisker. He has a chance to glide past him in the final two weeks but, with Cleveland throttling down to coast into the postseason, probably won't.

Nonetheless, it's a season for the ages -- and his second of the like in a row. We've held off on comparing James to Jordan for some good reasons, especially since he hasn't won a title yet. But at this point, there's nobody else left to whom we can compare him.
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148 comments for "John Hollinger: LeBron James the best NBA player since Michael Jordan"

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Unread 03-31-2010, 12:51 AMJoined Feb 2006 - away - #2
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Unread 03-31-2010, 12:52 AMJoined Dec 2008 - away - #3
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Unread 03-31-2010, 12:52 AMJoined Jul 2005 - away - #4
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Unread 03-31-2010, 12:57 AMJoined Mar 2006 - away - #5
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This f**got writes another article about his made up stat.

Why does ESPN pay him for this s**t? It's embarrassing...
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Unread 03-31-2010, 01:24 AMJoined Oct 2009 - away - #6
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Unread 03-31-2010, 01:34 AMJoined Nov 2009 - away - #7
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this is kinda reckless,but i dont see y people hate on lebron,its pretty easy to see hes no normal player...but with that said 32 8 8 is outrageous and bron tho the only player in the leauge now that could put that up,is not even close to that this season..ther is only one goat
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Unread 03-31-2010, 01:36 AMJoined Jun 2007 - away - #8
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ok cool...will he win the championship....NOPE, so who cares? honestly
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Unread 03-31-2010, 01:50 AMJoined Jan 2010 - away - #9
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Originally Posted by Cambury
ok cool...will he win the championship....NOPE, so who cares? honestly

Wow you sound REEEEAAAAL mad. Either Kobe's fist is up your a.ss or LeBron's foot is on your throat. I mean seriously I feel a lot of heat coming from your IP address. LeBron has millions of fans and you have 0. Honestly. Don't be a hater it's never a good look.

Last edited by MrTripleDouble; 03-31-2010 at 01:56 AM..
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Unread 03-31-2010, 01:53 AMJoined Jul 2004 - away - #10
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holy sh*t this about to get good....
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Unread 03-31-2010, 02:00 AMJoined Jan 2004 - away - #11
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MONTA > lebron
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Unread 03-31-2010, 02:02 AMJoined Jan 2009 - away - #12
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s**ts about to get ugly aaaauuuuuuggghhhhh :jay::jay::jay::jay::jay:
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Unread 03-31-2010, 02:17 AMJoined Jan 2004 - away - #13
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This n*gga Hollinger just blind. He don't know what's goin on, all he knows is his formula. Dude just collects the data from the games and makes up his own formula 2 form an opinion about what actually happens on the court. He was messin around 1 day and made a career out of this bs formula. Wonder what's his formula 2 solve for the player w/ highest B-ball IQ, talent, & athleticism
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Unread 03-31-2010, 02:55 AMJoined Jan 2010 - away - #14
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Originally Posted by franchise
MONTA > lebron

MONTA>MVP


I guess being an MVP don't mean sh*t when MONTA pwns you



Great sarcasm nonetheless
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Unread 03-31-2010, 02:57 AMJoined Apr 2004 - away - #15
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Originally Posted by Cambury
ok cool...will he win the championship....NOPE, so who cares? honestly
I agree.
(and damn what the guy after you said defending him is really really gay)

but anyway....i hate lebron james...but i will recognize him as the best when he wins a title...as long as he doesnt i will keep treating him like KG (before his title)....
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Unread 03-31-2010, 03:40 AMJoined Jan 2010 - away - #16
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Originally Posted by ElMarroAfamado
I agree.
(and damn what the guy after you said defending him is really really gay)

but anyway....i hate lebron james...but i will recognize him as the best when he wins a title...as long as he doesnt i will keep treating him like KG (before his title)....

There it is folks.


Quote me and address me directly. How am I defending James when I'm calling Camburry's illogical nonsense out? This ain't got nothing to do with James, it's funny seeing all these know-it-all slash psychics get all worked up over someones opinion. Attack the writer not LeBron, LeBron didn't write that article. That's just common sense. How you gonna be mad at LeBron for writing a article he didn't write? Maaaaan get out. It's one thing to debate which I'm all for and do a lot on here but some of ya'll be extra sensitive about sh*t for real. Smart people laughing at you while dumb people are laughing with you.

Last edited by MrTripleDouble; 03-31-2010 at 03:46 AM..
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Unread 03-31-2010, 04:00 AMJoined Mar 2008 - away - #17
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Unread 03-31-2010, 06:39 AMJoined Jun 2007 - away - #18
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no more comparisons to jordan for lebron until he gets at least one championship. if he doesn't win it this year, he never will
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Unread 03-31-2010, 07:11 AMJoined Feb 2004 - away - #19
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I didn't hear this guy mention a single reason other than PER for why he thinks Lebron is the best since Jordan.

Do I really think a stat-nerd who MADE UP this stat and flaunts it around like it's the end-all, be-all of basketball metric should even have a voice?

This dude every season talks about some mythical "PER title" that hardly anyone gives a damn about.
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Unread 03-31-2010, 07:16 AMJoined Sep 2006 - away - #20
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When it comes to regular-season dominance since 1973-74, only Michael Jordan can top King James.
Stopped reading after the first sentence....
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