ESPN Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James Poll: The LeBron Hate is Real

LeBron James, Lakers, and Michael Jordan, Bulls

Getty LeBron James, Lakers, and Michael Jordan, Bulls

Perhaps it is because we have not seen LeBron James play in two months. Or perhaps it is because we’ve just come off 10 hours of friendly programming at which Michael Jordan was the central hero. But when it comes to the Jordan vs. James all-time great debate, the votes have been counted.

And Jordan is the big winner.

According to an ESPN poll of 600 NBA fans, a whopping 73% believe that Jordan was the better overall player. The fans were asked their preference on 17 questions of comparison and Jordan came out on top on all 17 questions, from defense to scoring to being a better teammate.

While the results are not surprising, the lopsidedness of the poll is and some of the results show a puzzling anti-LeBron bias. Even among different age groups, including those who have grown up watching James vs. those who grew up with Jordan, Jordan was the big winner. Jordan was the winner in the 35-plus age group, at 79%. But he also won the 18-to-34 group, with 66% of the vote.


Michael Jordan was a Better Passer Than LeBron?

There are, too, some questionable aspects of the poll, mostly in the category of passing and mostly indicating a bias toward Jordan.

Jordan was a smart, talented passer and when the offense ran entirely though him, he put up good assist numbers. In 1988-89, his last year before joining forces with Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, Jordan averaged a career-best 8.0 assists. He also played a league-high 40.2 minutes that season and had a usage rate of 32.1%, also most in the league.

But James is clearly the better passer. He has averaged 7.4 assists per game in his career, compared to 5.3 per game for Jordan. James has a career assist percentage of 36.4%, where Jordan’s was just 24.9%.

James has embraced a pass-first mentality this season with the Lakers, as he has been playing point guard most of the year. Some suggest that comparing James to Jordan is wrong from the get-go because the more natural comparison is between James and Lakers point guard Magic Johnson.

“Now he is really truly playing the point guard, right?” Johnson said this year. “He was point-forward before. He’s just doing an amazing job. He’s the leader in assists in the NBA and he is averaging close to 30 points a game, every night, as well. … I think we do play similar and we have similar ways in terms of coming down and making our teammates better, we’ve won championships the same way. Our games are much alike especially now that the ball is in his hands most of the time as a real, true point guard.”


Jordan has a Bigger Off-Court Impact Than LeBron?

Jordan also won several categories that might show a bit of why the poll was so disproportionately slanted toward Jordan—it could be that many of the fans who were voting simply don’t like James. That’s to be expected with a player who is still active, especially one who has bounced among teams during his career (James has left three teams in free agency over the year) and left angry fans behind each time he’s done so.

Jordan won two sneaker categories, one “better for fashion” with 79% and the other “better to ball in” with 77%.

In all, 65% of respondents said they’d rather have a drink with Jordan, despite his reputation for vindictiveness and the litany of ex-friends he has alienated, including Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas and Charles Barkley.

Most questionable was the category of positive impact off the court. James has dedicated himself to the cause of social justice and has started the I Promise school in Akron to inspire kids in his home town most at risk of not graduating from high school.

Jordan, famously, has shunned public embrace of social causes. Yet Jordan won the ESPN vote, with 62% of those polled saying he has more, “positive impact off the court.”

READ MORE: 11 Hall of Famers Weigh In on LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan Debate


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