These Stats Suggest LeBron James Is The Greatest Basketball Player Ever

2020 NBA Finals - Game Six

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers exults after winning the 2020 NBA Championship over the … [+] Miami Heat in Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals on October 11, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Fans, pundits and former players can obviously make a very sound and sensible argument that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player that has ever lived. A convincing, compelling case can also be made for the criminally underrated and underappreciated Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Yet, at this point, in the wake of a 35-year-old LeBron James capturing his fourth NBA championship, only those three names belong in the GOAT conversation. 

However, there will be plenty of time to compare and contrast LeBron and MJ. For now, let’s take some time to appreciate what the kid from Akron, Ohio, has been able to accomplish these past 17 years.

I’ll avoid using flowery language or superfluous prose. Let’s get right down to the raw data. 

In order to appreciate LeBron’s statistical domination among his contemporaries, take a look at the leaders in each of these categories in the playoffs this century (notice the gap between first and second place):

Points:

  1. LeBron James: 7,491
  2. Kobe Bryant: 4,376
  3. Tim Duncan: 4,274

Assists:

  1. LeBron James: 1,871
  2. Tony Parker: 1,143
  3. Jason Kidd: 1,046

Defensive Rebounds:

  1. LeBron James: 1,954
  2. Tim Duncan: 1,880
  3. Dirk Nowitzki: 1,234
  4. Kevin Garnett: 1,107

Steals:

  1. LeBron James: 445
  2. Manu Ginobili: 292
  3. Dwyane Wade: 273

Made 3-pointers:

  1. Stephen Curry: 470
  2. LeBron James: 414
  3. Klay Thompson: 374
  4. Ray Allen: 366

2020 NBA Finals - Game Six

LeBron James, No. 23 of the Los Angeles Lakers, chugs through the fourth quarter against the Miami … [+] Heat in Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals on October 11, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Here’s where LeBron ranks on the NBA’s all-time postseason list:

Points:

  1. LeBron James: 7,491
  2. Michael Jordan: 5,987
  3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 5,762

Assists:

  1. Magic Johnson: 2,346
  2. LeBron James: 1,871
  3. John Stockton: 1,839

Steals:

  1. LeBron James: 445
  2. Scottie Pippen: 395
  3. Michael Jordan: 376

Made 3-pointers:

  1. Stephen Curry: 470
  2. LeBron James: 414
  3. Ray Allen: 385

In terms of total rebounds, LeBron ranks sixth, behind only Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem.

Now, let’s talk about his most recent accomplishment.

James took home his fourth NBA championship on Sunday night and was named NBA Finals MVP for the fourth time (second only to Jordan). LeBron is the first player ever to win NBA Finals MVP honors as a member of three different franchises (Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavs, LA Lakers).   

In the 2020 Finals, a couple of months shy of his 36th birthday, LeBron averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists, while shooting a scorching 59% from the floor and 41.7% from 3-point territory. 

In the clinching Game 6, LeBron tallied 28 points, 14 points and ten assists. Incredibly, it was his 11th triple-double in the NBA Finals, which means James has more trip-dubs in the Finals than all other active NBA players combined. It was also LeBron’s 12th NBA Finals game with more than 25 points, more than ten rebounds and more than five assists. Nobody in league history has more than four such games (Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan each have four). James has more 25/10/5 games in the Finals than dis Larry Bird, Magic, MJ, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Durant, Bill Russell and Steph Curry combined.

Over the last 15 years, LeBron has advanced to the postseason 14 times. He’s made it out of the first round each and every year and has reached the Finals ten times. Over the past decade, there have been 57 games played in the NBA Finals. LeBron James has played in 51 of those 57 contests.

He’s never missed a single postseason game (Game 6 was his 260th consecutive contest), while averaging over 42 minutes a night. According to Basketball-Reference, James has been his team’s outright leader in points, rebounds and assists in the NBA Finals seven times. Only three other players in league history have accomplished this feat even once (Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, and Jimmy Butler). Other than LeBron, no player has done so more than once.

As far as the myth of LeBron not being able to deliver in the clutch, that oft-repeated fallacy has long been proven untrue. James has more game-winning buzzer-beaters in the playoffs than any player in history (including more than Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant combined). LeBron also has the NBA’s highest career-scoring average in Game 7’s (34.9 points per game) and elimination games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, James is 39-11 (.780) in his career in closeout games, the best record by a player in NBA postseason history (min. 25 games).

Of course, LeBron’s regular-season numbers are incredible as well. In 2019-20, he was named to the All-NBA First Team for a league-record 13th time after averaging 25.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and a league-leading 10.2 assists. He is just the sixth player with both a scoring title and assist title on his resume. He is only the second player 35 or older to average at least ten assists per game. James leads all active players in scoring and is the first and only player in NBA history with more than 9,000 career points, 9,000 rebounds and 9,000 assists.

LeBron James, who still clearly has plenty of gas left in the tank, already has more career points than Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, more career assists than Isiah Thomas or Gary Payton, more career rebounds than Larry Bird or Willis Reed, more career steals than Allen Iverson and Magic Johnson, more career blocks than Scottie Pippen or Yao Ming, more career 3-pointers than Kevin Durant or Peja Stojaković, and more career triple-doubles than Wilt Chamberlain or James Harden, while posting a higher career FG% than Moses Malone or Michael Jordan.

2020 NBA Finals - Game Six

LeBron James, No. 23 of the Los Angeles Lakers, rejoices after winning the 2020 NBA Championship … [+] over the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals on October 11, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

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