The GOAT debate is a never ending one and finding common ground between stans of different players is impossible. The one thing we can do is compare greatness across stats and maybe try to draw some conclusion from it.
LeBron James is 34 now and in his first season as a Laker, has missed the playoffs for the first time since his sophomore season in the NBA. What were Kobe and Jordan doing at the same age? Comparing their performances at the age 34 might not be enough to settle the debate of who is the greatest NBA player of all time, but it will tell a story and what are we here for if not to look for stories in the randomest of places.
Points per Game
Jordan is the highest scorer among the three through his career by a clear margin. His career average in points per game is 30.1 comfortably higher than both Kobe and LeBron. Kobe’s career numbers took a major hit in his final three injury ridden seasons, but still come in at 25 points per game. LeBron still playing at a high level is averaging 27.2 points per game for his career.
In their year 34 season, Jordan averaged 28.7 points per game that is the highest among the three but not by a lot. Kobe comes in second with an average of 27.3 points per game and LeBron comes is last by a whisker with 27.1 points per game. It is crucial to note though that Lakers have basically shut shop for the season and LeBron has been given freedom to stat chase in he final 20 games, so might go past both Kobe and Jordan’s number in points at least.
Assists per Game
Once again career number standings prove accurate when it comes to age 34 season. LeBron is without doubt one of the greatest passers in the game and a much better passer than Kobe or Jordan. For the career LeBron James has assist average of 8 assists per game better than Jordan’s 5.3 APG and Kobe’s 4.7 APG.
Despite Kobe’s lower numbers than Jordan, many argue that Kobe was a better passer, but got stuck on very average teams that deflate his passing stats. He played many years without a secondary star until Pau Gasol was brought in on a trade and played most of his career without a legitimate point guard on the team to smoothen the offense.
However in their age 34 season LeBron keeps his numbers going with 8.1 assists per game. Jordan’s numbers fell to 3.5 assists per game and Kobe Bryant, playing with Gasol, Nash and Howard showed he could defer with capable players around him with 6.1 Assists per game.
Rebounds per Game
For his career LeBron James averages 7.4 rebounds per game. His average goes up this season due to lack of big men on the Lakers roster, with 8.6 rebounds per game. Jordan averaged 6.2 rebounds per game for his career. In his 34 year season, Jordan averaged a smidge under his career average with 5.8 rebounds per game. Kobe Bryant playing with Howard and Gasol was bound to be low on the rebounds but still averaged a healthy 5.6 rebounds in the 2012-13 season, higher than his career average of 5.2 rebounds per game, which reflects how much heavy lifting he did on the team that was supposed to be a championship contender.
While Jordan and Kobe were pure shooters, LeBron isn’t a shooter first. But when it comes to effective field goal percentages, LeBron has the best career and age 34 numbers among the three. LeBron has a 56.5% eFG this season and for his career his eFG% stands at 54.1%.
Kobe has the second highest eFG in his year 34 season. His mark was 50.4% whereas his career average is 48.2%.
Jordan has the lowest eFG in his year 34 season. His mark of 47.3% is lower than his career mark of 50.9 eFG%.
MJ vs LeBron vs Kobe at age 34 pic.twitter.com/kVRAuiLe36
— Utkarsh Bhatla (@UtkarshBhatla) March 18, 2019
Individual and Team Honors
All three players had drastically different seasons for their teams in their year 34 season. Michael Jordan won pretty much every honor there was to be won. His Bulls won their 6th title and their second three peat with Jordan. Jordan won the Regular season MVP and the Finals MVP. He was also voted to the All-NBA 1st Team and All-Defensive 1st team (which might be the most impressive stat of everything discussed, as defense is the first thing that goes when a player ages.)
Kobe Bryant did everything in his power to take his crew of Nash Howard Gasol and MWP to the playoffs, including coming out with a torn achilles to hit free throws that took the Lakers to the playoffs, where they got swept by the Spurs without Bryant. He was voted to the All-NBA First Team for his efforts.
LeBron has yet to finish his season, but having missed the playoffs, MVP award is certainly out of his reach despite great statistical numbers. His defense can win awards, but only if they had Razzies for the NBA. He will certainly make an All-NBA Team, although if thats a first second or third is yet to be seen.
Now, you have all the stats, whichever stat you prefer, you can select to decide which player had the best season. However if you look at individual and team honors, which are kind of the point of the NBA, Jordan had an ultra successful season capped with an MVP and a title, two things neither Kobe nor LeBron can will have from their seasons.