10 Ways in Which LeBron James and Michael Jordan Are Actually Very Similar

  • Nike LeBron 12
    Both have legendary signature sneaker lines

    A little obvious, but we have to start somewhere and what better place to do it than this? The Air Jordan line still has a stranglehold on the game despite MJ being out of the league for over 10 years now, but the Nike LeBron line isn’t too shabby, either. Last year, LeBron blew away the field, selling $300 million. The next closest guy was Kevin Durant at $175 million, effectively playing the role of Penny Hardaway to LeBron’s MJ perfectly.

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  • Both won their first NBA championship at age 27

    Pretty amazing, right? The two players both won a championship at the same age, even as ‘Bron came out of high school into the NBA. Both rings also validated the public’s long-held belief about them as well: That they were the game’s greatest players.

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  • Both didn't win until they got help

    Everyone loves to make fun of LeBron, saying he took the easy way out by going to team up in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Can you really blame him, though? Everyone says MJ always stuck it out in Chicago, but that’s because the franchise’s brass actually made moves to help him. They drafted Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, two future All-Stars, in 1987. They first hired Doug Collins, a great coach, and then Phil Jackson, a GREAT coach. Before the Bulls got Pippen and Grant, do you know what Jordan’s playoff record was? It was 1-9.

    During LeBron’s first run in Cleveland, he was teamed with running mates like Drew Gooden and Sasha Pavlovic, while being coached by the likes of Mike Brown.

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    Jordan Brand

    Both had signature dunk poses

    We all know about the Jumpman. LeBron? His Statue of Liberty jam, something he’s been doing since high school, is an image any basketball fan will never be able to get out of their head.

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  • Both overcame haters who said they couldn't win

    LeBron James suffered claims for years that he wasn’t clutch, that he wouldn’t take the last shot like Jordan did, and that he’d never win anything. Haters just wanted to hate, honestly, because none of those claims ever made sense. James was SO much more successful in the playoffs during his early years than Jordan was, and has multiple game-winners in the playoffs.

    Jordan did the same, advancing farther in the playoffs almost every year during the 1980s until he could finally take out Detroit and win the Eastern Conference in ’91.

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  • Both developed jumpers late

    One of the most amazing stats I’ve ever seen was recently uncovered by ESPN. Incredibly, had LeBron made seven more field goals during the 2006-07 season, he would’ve had a run of 10 consecutive seasons with an improved field goal percentage. That’s ridiculous. Also, after coming into the league as a sub-30 percent three-point shooter, James has now shot at least 36 percent in every season since 2011.

    Jordan never truly developed the deep jumper, but he was one of the best midrange shooters in NBA history, and crafted the skill because teams were so fearful of his drives.

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  • Both dominated from their first minute in the NBA

    LeBron James, at 19, in his first NBA game: 25 points, six rebounds, nine assists, four steals against Sacramento.

    Michael Jordan, at 21, in his third NBA game: 37 points, four rebounds, five assists

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  • Michael Jordan

    Focus On Sport/Getty Images

    Both topped 30 in PER four times

    If we’re just going by PER (per Basketball-Reference), Jordan had a seven-year run from 1986 to 1993 that could constitute his prime. He led the NBA in PER every season. James, before losing out to KD last year, nearly matched that, leading the NBA in PER for six straight years from 2007 to 2013. During his prime, Jordan never had a PER any worse than 27.7 and he topped out at 31.7. During James’ prime, he never had a PER any worse than 27.3 and topped out at 31.7. You can’t make this stuff up.

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  • Both didn't develop a post game until the age of 27

    Jordan in his early years created a lot off the dribble. He didn’t really start using the post until later in his career, once he bulked up with almost 30 pounds of muscle. Eventually, the fadeaway became his signature, and during the second three-peat with Chicago, it was in the post where he did most of his damage.

    James has had a similar trajectory, and didn’t start playing in the post until he moved on to Miami and had to figure out ways to fit his game — lots of dribbling and creating and offense-running — with Wade’s and Bosh’s.

    Lost in all this is that at exactly the same time these two players started going into the post coincided with them finally winning it all.

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  • LeBron James


    Both switched numbers mid-way through their careers...then switched back

    Michael returned to the NBA in March of 1994 and decided to wear No. 45, which he did until switching back to 23 during the playoffs. He played 22 games in that number. LeBron? He switched to No. 6 when he left Cleveland for Miami, and is back to 23 now that he’s come home. He played four years in No. 6.

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  • Michael Jordan
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Because Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan for third place on the all-time NBA scoring list earlier this season, the old debate about Kobe vs. Michael resurfaced and clung to the public for weeks on end, overshadowing the fact that LeBron James and Michael Jordan might be a better comparison after all. Yes, on looks alone, Kobe is basically Jordan reincarnated, but it’s James who has a legit chance to catch MJ as the best player of all time. The sneaker legacy. The potential for more titles. The years remaining in his career. Plus, his career arc just makes more sense in this instance, as it is oddly similar to Jordan’s.

Today, LeBron James turned 30 years old. Amazing right? I never thought I’d see the day this dude would be turning the big 3-0. It came from out of nowhere. But now that we’re here, the question can be asked. Can James pass Jordan as the greatest player ever? To make the case, at least in most minds, he’ll need to win four more titles to match MJ’s six. It’ll be difficult, but not impossible. James has that kind of effect — he’s already made the Finals five times. Add in major star power like Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, both of whom are 26 and under, and they have a chance to reign in the East for the next five years.

The comparison works better than you think. Why? Just read. Here are 10 Ways in Which LeBron James and Michael Jordan Are Actually Very Similar.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney

image via Streeter Lecka/Getty Images