After reading the recent ESPN TrueHoop post "Magic Johnson sought elite teammates too" in defense of LeBron James' decision to jump the Cleveland ship and head for South Beach, one line stuck out to me like a sore thumb at the bottom of the article:
"What it really comes down to is that Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson can say they wouldn't have stooped to seeking out teammates as good as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But bear in mind they also never had to confront the reality of seven years with the kinds of rosters James played on in Cleveland."
Henry Abbott, the TrueHoop guru I respect and admire, used John Hollinger's PER as the basis for his argument about Magic Johnson being blessed to play with such a phenomenal player like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, citing Abdul-Jabbar's individual PER in Magic's first seven seasons. I used that same statistic, however flawed it may be, to try to provide actual data to the readers about the other name he haphazardly mentioned, Michael Jordan, and his so-called "superior" teams that are now being used to absolve LeBron James from his decision to flee from adversity.
Trying to use that argument is, frankly, ignoring the fact that LeBron played with generally good teams, often better on average than Jordan's teams in both players' first seven seasons. I ran through Jordan's and James' first seven seasons in the NBA, removing all players from both teams who played less than 10 games, and found that, at best, the average PER of the team as a whole is basically a draw between Jordan and James, while Jordan was significantly better his rookie season and had much greater consistency year-over-year. While Jordan was better overall individually, LeBron often had higher-ranked individual teammates than Jordan in his starting five too.
Removing Jordan and LeBron from their teams, the difference in their teammates' average PER is almost negligible.
Jordan: Individual (25.8 PER), Chicago average (11.96 PER)
LeBron: Individual (18.3 PER), Cleveland average (12.71 PER)
Jordan: Individual (27.5 PER), Chicago average (13.75 PER)
LeBron: Individual (25.7 PER), Cleveland average (11.06 PER)
Jordan: Individual (29.8 PER), Chicago average (11.82 PER)
LeBron: Individual (28.1 PER), Cleveland average (11.26 PER)
Jordan: Individual (31.7 PER), Chicago average (10.76 PER)
LeBron: Individual (24.5 PER), Cleveland average (11.85 PER)
Jordan: Individual (31.1 PER), Chicago average (11.36 PER)
LeBron: Individual (29.1 PER), Cleveland average (11.10 PER)
Jordan: Individual (31.2 PER), Chicago average (11.53 PER)
LeBron: Individual (31.7 PER), Cleveland average (12.18 PER)
Jordan: Individual (31.6 PER), Chicago average (13.73 PER)
LeBron: Individual (31.1 PER), Cleveland average (12.31 PER)
The only major statistical significance arrives in the seventh season, when Jordan and the Bulls won their first championship. So please, let's all stop acting like LeBron was tortured by his teammates while simlutaneously throwing Michael Jordan under the South Beach-bound bus. Saying Jordan would've done the same thing if he were in LeBron's shoes is laughing off the statistics.
Jordan's teams were, on average over the first seven seasons combined, only 2.9 percent better than LeBron's, while Jordan himself was nearly 10 percent better over that same span.
Done and done.