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Michael Jordan vs LeBron James: Comparing the Two GOAT Contenders’ Top-Scoring Season

Michael Jordan and LeBron James have dominated the GOAT conversations for the past several years. While Jordan managed to win six championships for the Chicago Bulls, James has won championships for each of the three franchises that he’s represented across his illustrious career.

Both these legends made the game look easy. While they performed at the highest level, they also could improve the teammates around them. Another trait common between them was their scoring tendencies. While MJ won a total of 10 scoring titles, Bron has recorded more points than any other player in NBA history. However, we’ll only compare the two megastar’s top-scoring seasons – Jordan’s 1986-1987 campaign vs James’ 2005-2006 campaign.

Michael Jordan: 1986-1987 season

Points Per Game: 37.1

Michael Jordan had already established himself as one of the best scorers in the league during his rookie season. However, after missing out on 64 games in his sophomore campaign, no one could’ve projected the 6ft 6” star to erupt for a 31.7 PPG season in only his third year. Goes without saying that the Bulls guard was the scoring leader, winning his first out of 10 scoring titles.

Assists Per Game: 4.6

Scoring 37.1 points per game, Jordan saw a dip in his productivity as a playmaker. In his highest-scoring season, Jordan recorded the least (full season played) assists in his first ten years in the league. The 377 assists he dished out that season were only good enough to finish 30th on the total assists leader.

Rebounds Per Game: 5.2

Playmaking wasn’t the only trait in his game that took a hit due to his scoring. Jordan’s rebounding stats also took a massive hit during the 1986-87 campaign. Other than the 1985-86 campaign, when he only played 18 games in total, Jordan’s 5.2 rebounds per game was the least across his 15-year career.

Field Goal%: 48.2%

Attempting almost 29 shots per game to record 37.1 points, it is understandable that Jordan’s efficiency would take a slight hit. Apart from the 1985-86 campaign, the 48.2% was Jordan’s worst season, efficiency-wise, before he first retired in 1993.

Free Throw%: 85.7%

Michael Jordan vs LeBron James: Comparing the Two GOAT Contenders' Top-Scoring Season
Credits: IMAGO / Camera 4

Free throws were a huge reason, helping Michael finish the season with 37.1 points per game. On average, the combo guard would toss up almost 12 shots from the charity stripe. Out of those, he’d convert 10.2.

Three pointers Made & Three Pointer%: 12 & 18.2%

Jordan was never a long-distance shooter. Instead, he would take over the game with his accurate mid-range jump shot. Thus, out of 66 attempts, he could only find the bottom of the net on 12 occasions.

Blocks Per Game: 1.5

While Jordan is lauded for being a sensational offensive player, his abilities on the defensive end of the floor are often overlooked. MJ’s 1.5 blocks per game were better than several legendary big men – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, and Artis Gilmore among others. In fact, Jordan ranked 18th in the league in blocks per game. The next guard on the list was Ron Harper, only good enough for the 36th spot.

Steals Per Game: 2.9

Having extremely good reflexes and being able to read his opponents, Mike was able to steal the ball with ease. Trailing Alvin Robertson, MJ finished the league 2nd in total steals as well as steals per game.

LeBron James: 2005-2006 season

Points Per Game: 31.4

LeBron James had already taken a huge step by improving his points per game by almost 7 points from his rookie season to his sophomore season. Similar to MJ, Bron also had his top-scoring performance in his third campaign. However, Bron’s 31.4 points per game wasn’t good enough to clinch the scoring title. In fact, he was not even second in the league. The 21-year-old finished third, behind Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson.

Assists Per Game: 6.6

James left fans in awe with his scoring. However, his court vision and playmaking were also pretty impressive. Other than being third in scoring, James finished the season 10th on the total assists list.

Rebounds Per Game: 7

Standing at 6ft 9”, James is able to assert his command in the paint. This would also help him in rebounding as well. However, his 0.9 offensive rebounds per game from the season was the lowest that he lodged across the first ten years of his career.

Field Goal%: 48%

James has been a highly efficient scorer all his life. He improved his field goal percentage from 47.2% in the 2004-05 season to 48% in the 2005-06 season.

Free Throw%: 73.8%

Michael Jordan vs LeBron James: Comparing the Two GOAT Contenders' Top-Scoring Season
Credits: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

LeBron James hasn’t been an exceptionally great free-throw shooter. For the larger part of his career, he shot just above the NBA’s average free throw percentage. Bron connected 7.6 out of 10.3 attempts per game.

Three Pointers Made & Three Pointer%: 127 & 33.5%

While LeBron was a force to reckon with in the paint, he was a respectable long-range shooter. During the season, he shot 127 out of 379 attempts, finishing the season with the 28th most three-pointers made.

Blocks Per Game: 0.8

Despite his physical stature, LeBron was never really a threat on the defensive end.

Steal Per Game: 1.6

James managed to finish in the top 15 list of steals per game and was 16th in the total steals list with 123, tied with Luke Ridnour.

Who had the better season?

From what the numbers suggest, Michael Jordan had a far superior 1986-87 campaign than LBJ’s 2005-06 season. The Chicago Bulls legend recorded more points, blocks, steals, and even had a better field goal and free throw percentage than the King. However, as surprising as it may seem, MJ was not rewarded with the Most Valuable Player trophy. According to the stats, Jordan (16.9 win shares) was the more valuable player for his team than James (16.3 win shares) was for the Cavaliers.

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