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What did LeBron do better than Jordan, Magic, Kobe, Duncan, and Shaq?

16 Seasons 

9 Finals appearances   

3 Championships

4 MVP's

Total Games: 1,437

Total Minutes: 56281

3 Finals MVP's

2 Olympic Gold Medals

0 Major Injuries 

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Adlul Kamal
Published originally on November 2, 2018 at Mindgoat.ca
The GOAT debate is never ending. Some modern basketball pundits do call LeBron the GOAT,
while Duncan, Kobe or Shaq in their prime are often in the discussion. But the hardcore Jordan fans will fight till the end to reject anyone else could ever be the GOAT. However, there are a few categories where LeBron has already surpassed everybody on this list.
Despite playing more minutes LeBron has never suffered from a serious injury compared to each individual listed above. For example, Magic Johnson had missed significant number of games due to injuries throughout his career including the time when he pulled his hamstring that caused his Los Angeles Lakers to lose against the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals. Tim Duncan had suffered a meniscus injury in 1999 that caused him to miss the entire 2000 Playoff and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Australia. Both Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant had missed substantial amount of games due to injuries and were pushed to retirement due declined abilities caused by injuries. Michael Jordan had also suffered from a serious injury in his 2nd season that caused him to miss a total of 64 games. LeBron is the only man on that list who has never suffered a severe injury that caused him to miss a significant number of consecutive games. His first major injury came in his 16th season that caused him to miss a total of 55 games in the season of 2018-2019.
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Lebron James has been considered by many to be the best player in the world for the better parts of the last ten years and there is more than enough evidence to validate that claim including 3 NBA championships, 9 Finals appearances, numerous individual awards, and two Olympic gold medals. James once stated in interview few years ago that at this point in his career, he is now essentially chasing the records of Michael Jordan (the ghost in Chicago) as he now possibly feels he has surpassed all of his contemporary peers by a long margin (Jenkins, 2016).

As big a star as LeBron, LeBron has faced vast criticism throughout his career as is the case with many sporting geniuses. James has been criticized for many things such as his selfishness, immaturity, arrogance, or being a complainer (Herbert, 2015). However, the most popular and recurrent criticism against LeBron is that he has repeatedly failed to rise to the occasion during numerous defining moments of his career, which includes losing in the NBA Finals six times out of his nine attempts (NBA Staff, 2019). It is argued that this makes him far more inferior to Michael Jordan who had a perfect record of 100%, i.e. six championships in six Finals.

Despite being a big LeBron fan, I too have often felt that LeBron is an underachiever at least to some degree, and 3 championships often look quite bleak against his name and certainly do not do justice to all the superhuman basketball skills he posesses. The NBA community has often been quite divided on the issue of just how much credit should LeBron be given for his accomplishments (Schwartz, 2017). But that is not what this article is going to focus on. I am not going to touch on the LeBron vs. Jordan or Kobe debate in terms of skills or accomplishments at all. I will, however, bring forth certain areas where LeBron has clearly transcended above his contemporaries and provide evidence for it.
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Whether you are a faithful Lebron devotee who is always defending him, or a blind hater who is always pointing out his flaws while arguing how Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, or Steph Curry are all better than LeBron, a real basketball fan will always agree that LeBron has endured at the highest level better than any of his famous predecessors and his modern day counterparts. In his 16 straight seasons between 2004 and 2019, he has competed in 1,437 games, and played over 56,281 minutes without an extended break. His biggest break from basketball was of 27 games in his 16th season. And in these 16 seasons (NBA.com, 2019), he has accomplished something that no superstars of recent times including Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, or even Michael Jordan has accomplished – he has advanced to the NBA finals for 8 consecutive years (9 in total), something no one has done in the NBA since the 60’s (except for LeBron’s own teammate James Jones).

Many fans and experts actually see this as a besmirch to his illustrious career because LeBron lost 6 out of his 9 finals appearances which is obviously less than Michael Jordan’s strike rate of six out of six at the NBA Finals. But from the perspectives of fitness, endurance, and mental acuity, LeBron’s streak of 8 straight finals journey should be rated higher than Jordan’s six finals appearances for a number of reasons:

- Jordan won his 6 champions in 8 years (with an absense of 2 years in the middle)
- Jordan debuted at the age of 21, 3 years older than the debutant LeBron of 18 years
- By the end of 15th season, Jordan had played fewer combined games (1,251 ) and minutes (48540) than LeBrona after his 15th.
- LeBron has participated in at least six game 7’s in his 13 year career compared to Jordan’s 3
- LeBron has suffered more playoff failures than Jordan, including his struggles against the early 2000’s Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, and of course lost 6 Finals as Skip Bayless would often point out.

Comparison of Records at the end of career:
PlayerTotal GamesTotal MinutesPlay-off GamesPlay-off MinutesTotal SeasonsNBA Finals
LeBron1,437 5628123910038 169
Jordan1,251
48540
179
7482
156
Duncan1,643
56690
251
9362
196
Bryant1,566
55648
220 8417
20
Magic1096
40793
190
7543
13
9
Shaq1,423
49983
216
8100
19
4
As of the end of the 2018-2019 NBA season
Comparison of Records after 16th season
PlayerTotal GamesTotal MinutesPlay-off GamesPlay-off MinutesFinals
LeBron1,437
55469
239
9353
9
Jordan*1,334
49955
191
6971
6
Duncan1,391
48913
211
7591
6
Bryant1,381
49,324
220
7,891
7
Magic**1350
49,877
234
9248
9
Shaq1,164
41818
203
7613
4
As of the end of the 2018-2019 NBA season
Jordan's year 16 was  projected on averages of his 15 season career*
Magic's year 14,15 and 16 were projected on averages of his 13 season career**
Year by year Comparison of Regular Season games:
SeasonLebronJordanDuncanKobeMagicShaq
179
8277
71
7781
280
18
50 *
79
3781
379
82
74
50
7879
478
82
82
66
7954
575
81
8268
67
51
681
82
8180
77
60
776
82
69
82
72
49
879
80
66
65
80
79
962
78
80
66
72
74
1076
17 *
80
80
77
67
1177
82
78
77
79
67
1269
82
75
82
79
67
1376
82
78
8232*
73
1474
60
76
73
Retired
59
1582
82
58
82
x
40
1655*
Retired
69
58
x
61
17N/A
x
7478
x
75
18N/A
x
77
6*
x
53
19N/A
x
61
35
x
37*
20N/A
x
Retired
66
x
Retired
Average( 75 )
( 71 )
( 73 )
( 67 )
( 70 )
( 64 )
As of the end of the 2018-2019 NBA season
Bold marks seasons with more than 50% games missed
*Fewest total of career
Year by year Comparison of Play-off games every season:
SeasonLebronJordanDuncanKobeMagicShaq
10
49
9
16
0
20
3
17
11
3 3
313
3
0
8
14
21
420
10
13
22
15
12
513
17
9
16
21
9
614
16
24
19
19
13
711
17
10
12
14
8
821
22 
23
22
18
23
923
19
13
0
24
16
1023
10
20
0
14
19
1120
18
17
7
9
12
1220
19
5
5
19
22
1321
21
10
21
4
13
1418
0
6
23
Retired
23
1522 
0
14
23
x
4
160
Retired
21
10
x
5
17N/A
x
23
12
x
0
18N/A
x
7
0
x
11
19N/A
x
10
0
x
2
20N/A
x
Retired
0
x
Retired
Average( 15 )
( 12 )
( 13 )
( 12 )
( 15 )
( 11 )
As of the end of the 2018-2019 NBA season
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Year by year Comparison of Total games played every season:
SeasonLebronJordanDuncanKobeMagicShaq
179
86
91
80
93 
81
280
21
6790
4084
392 85 74
58
92100
498
92
95
88
94
66
588
98
91
84
88
60
695
98
105
99 
9673
787
99
79
94
86
57
8100
102
89
87
98
102
985
97
93 
73
96
90
1099
27
100
80
91
86
1197
100
95
82
88
79
1289
101
80
103
98
89
1397
10388
105
36
86
1492
6082
96
Retired
82
15104
82
72
92
x
44
1655
Retired
90
70
x
66
17N/A
x
97
78
x
75
18N/A
x
84
6
x
">64
19N/A
x
71
35
x
39
20N/A
x
Retired
66
x
Retired
Average( 90 )
( 85 )
( 86 )
( 78 )
( 84 )
( 75 )
As of the end of the 2018-2019 NBA season
Year by year Graphical Comparison of Total games played every season:
Mobirise
As of the end of the 2018-2019 NBA season
Year by year Comparison of Total play-off games played every season:
Mobirise
As of the end of the 2018-2019 NBA season
From the graphical representations above, we can identify a few more interesting facts about LeBron. Compared to the legends listed here, LeBron has played more games and minutes on an average and in total. LeBron has played a total of 90 games per season (75 regular season games, and 15 play-off games) which eas better than Jordan (85), Duncan (86), Kobe (78), Magic (84), and Shaq's (75) records.
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Average Games (play-offs and regular season) per year:
Mobirise
As of the end of the 2018-2019 NBA season
Average Play-off games per season:
Mobirise
As of the end of the 2018-2019 NBA season
Despite playing more minutes LeBron has never suffered from a serious injury compared to each of the individuals discussed in this article.  For example, Magic Johnson had missed significant number of games due to injuries throughout his career including the time when he pulled his hamstring that caused his Los Angeles Lakers to lose against the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals. Tim Duncan had suffered a meniscus injury in 1999 that caused him to miss the entire 2000 Playoff and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Australia. Both Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant had missed substantial amount of games due to injuries and were pushed to retirement due declined abilities caused by injuries. Michael Jordan had also suffered from a serious injury in his 2nd season that caused him to miss a total of 64 games. LeBron is the only man on that list who has never suffered a severe injury that caused him to miss a significant number of consecutive games. LeBron never took a prolonged break or became sideleined as a result of injury in his first 15 years of NBA career. His first notable injury came in his 16th season that saw him missing a total of 27 games in the season of 2018-2019, which is still the fewest number of games missed in a season compared to the others on this list.
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Least Number of Regular Season Games played in a Season
NameGamesSeasonCaused by Injyry
LeBron55 16thYes
Jordan18
2nd
Yes
Duncan50
2nd
Yes
Kobe6
18th
Yes
Magic37
2nd
Yes
Shaq40
16th
Yes
As of the end of the 2018-2019 NBA season
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And lastly, Michael was never hated as much as LeBron. Despite his gambling issues Michael Jordan has always maintained his status as an untouchable god to basketball fans all over the world. LeBron, on the other hand, has endured tremendous amount of backlash and hate throughout his career, often at the hands of his own fans who went as far as to burning his jerseys when he signed with Miami from Cleveland. Yet, he came back after each setback only to look hungrier and stronger than before.

But the question is how did LeBron do it? How did he grow stronger from those painful losses against the Pistons, Celtics, and Spurs during his years as an underdog? How did he endure all the criticism during his post-Cleveland days especially after losing to the Dallas Mavericks despite having formed a super team in Miami? And, how is it possible that at the age of 34 LeBron still shows no sign of fatigue or aging despite having gone through everything in his career?

The answer lies in a number of behavioural qualities that LeBron has developed throughout his life and career which I believe has been instrumental to his enduring success at the top. Having followed LeBron’s entire career, I have identified a number key moments which I think best reflects LeBron’s psychological prowess.
Please read the other articles here (Link I, Link II) that evaluates LeBron’s behavioral and psychological attributes that have proven to be the secrets to his sustainable success at the top.
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References
Ellentuck, M. (2017). Summer LeBron James is incredibly logged-on and loves everybody. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from SB Nation: https://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2017/8/27/16211496/lebron-james-twitter-instagram-kyrie-irving-trade

Falzone, D. (n.d.). Anger over Caitlyn Jenner being chosen over Lauren Hill for ESPY courage award. Retrieved 1 20, 2019, from Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2015/06/03/anger-over-caitlyn-jenner-being-chosen-over-lauren-hill-for-espy-courage-award/

Gaines, C. (2013). LeBron James Gives Epic Speech After Winning NBA Finals MVP. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/video-lebron-james-gives-epic-speech-after-winning-nba-finals-mvp-2013-6

Joseph, A. (2017). A perfect explanation of what playing with LeBron James is like, from his favorite teammate. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from USA Today: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/04/lebron-james-favorite-teammate-james-jones-cavaliers-role-players-specialists

Manfred, T. (2014). Here’s Why LeBron James Is Losing So Much Weight. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/skinny-lebron-james-2014-8

NBA.com. (2019). Irving says he called LeBron to apologize, discuss roles as leaders. Retrieved from NBA.com: http://www.nba.com/article/2019/01/16/kyrie-irving-called-lebron-james-apologize.

Images:

Title Image – Tim Duncan – By Chris Covatta/Getty images - https://www.gettyimages.ca/detail/news-photo/tim-duncan-of-the-san-antonio-spurs-poses-for-a-portrait-news-photo/490864394

Title Image – Kobe Bryant – by  Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty images - https://www.gettyimages.ca/detail/news-photo/kobe-bryant-of-the-los-angeles-lakers-poses-for-a-portrait-news-photo/490699238

Title Image – LeBron James – by Atiba Jefferson/Getty images - https://www.gettyimages.ca/detail/news-photo/lebron-james-of-the-los-angeles-lakers-poses-for-a-portrait-news-photo/1171561438

Title Image – Michael Jordan - by Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty images - https://www.gettyimages.ca/detail/news-photo/michael-jordan-of-the-washington-wizards-poses-for-news-photo/1772447

Title Image – Shaquille O'Neal– by Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty images - https://www.gettyimages.ca/detail/news-photo/shaquille-oneal-of-the-los-angeles-lakers-poses-for-a-news-photo/1700180


This article was originally published on November 2, 2018 at: Mindgoat.ca

About the Author

Adlul Kamal is a professional sport psychology practitioner, researcher, and a writer. He is a lifelong sport enthusiast and physical activity advocate. Feel free to contact Adlul with your questions and comments.

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Adlul Kamal, M.Sc. - Sport and Exercise Psychology