2 min read

Measuring Greatness in Basketball and Life

Who is the best basketball player ever?

Is Lebron the best ever?

“LeBron James has come out victorious in the Eastern Conference once again. It might not result in an NBA championship, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an accomplishment worth celebrating. It actually just might be his best yet.”

My brothers and I have an ongoing debate: who is the best basketball player ever?

My brothers, both older, watched some of the best — Kareem, Magic, Bird — in their prime. I didn’t. I watched in agony as Jordan gutted the Knicks year after year. I still find it hard to forgive John Starks.

Isiah Thomas — Hall of Famer, world champion, Olympian — has played with Magic, Bird, Jordan, and many other all-time greats.

After this season, he thinks Lebron is a “much better basketball player” than Jordan. You can hear the Nike fanboys crying foul.

Comparing greats

To compare Jordan and Lebron, let’s start with their career overviews:

Jordan’s career statistics:

  • Averaged 30 points per game, six rebounds per game, and five assists per game
  • Made fourteen all-star games; won 6 titles; and was the MVP five times

Lebron’s career statistics:

  • Averages 27 points per game, seven rebounds per game, and six assists per game
  • Made fourteen all-star games; won 3 titles; and has been the MVP four times

Using only these numbers, Jordan slightly outperforms Lebron.


But when we think about basketball greatness, shouldn’t we incorporate factors that are more difficult to measure? Leadership? Or teammates’ respect? Or the impact of injuries? Or rule changes in the game?

Surely these are important considerations when comparing Lebron’s body of work relative to Jordan’s. The same is true in business and life.

Jobs’ greatness cannot be measured only by Apple’s market-cap or his net worth. No one can measure Einstein’s greatness by merely using his formula.

In our savagely competitive world, most people are taught to focus their time and energy on things that can be measured — the points and rebounds.

But in my experience, The Greats understand that the game is won — over and over again — by forces that don’t show up on the scorecard.