LeBron Sprints Uphill in Chasing Jordan

LeBron Sprints Uphill in Chasing Jordan

On Thursday, after LeBron James and the Miami Heat won their second consecutive N.B.A. championship, I noted on Twitter that James was on the same pace as the Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan. Both James and Jordan won their first championship at 27 and their second at 28, I wrote. Jordan went on to win four more N.B.A. titles, for a total of six.

My statement depended on a technicality, I later discovered: Jordan’s biological age was 28 when he won his first championship, in 1991, and 29 when he won his second, in 1992. However, basketball statisticians generally define a player’s age differently: by how old he was as of Feb. 1 of an N.B.A. season, the rough midpoint of the basketball calendar. Jordan’s birthday is Feb. 17.

Those semantics aside, it is worth considering just how likely James might be to match or exceed Jordan’s six titles. (From this point on, we’ll use basketball statisticians’ definition of age.)

Players like Jordan and James are so rare that it can be risky to compare them with anyone. Still, one reasonably useful benchmark is to evaluate players who, like James and Jordan, had won at least one Most Valuable Player award and at least one N.B.A. title as of their age-28 season, meaning that they had achieved the pinnacle of both individual and team success.

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