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LeBron James vs Michael Jordan One-on-One Betting Odds

ESPN’s documentary on the Chicago Bulls’ 1998 team has reignited the debate on who the Greatest of All Time is in basketball.

If you watched “The Last Dance”, there is no doubt that Michael Jordan is the GOAT. However, others will argue that it’s Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, or LeBron James. The latter rings the bell more times because of his statistical accomplishments in the NBA.

James was the player who took over from Kobe after the Mamba took over from MJ. But while many agree that LeBron is one of the all-time greats, he’s the one player in the GOAT conversation who has the most detractors.

His critics point to his 3-6 Finals record as the main reason why he can’t be the GOAT. Others say that his inability to deliver in the clutch and his lack of a go-to move makes him inferior to MJ, or even Kobe. The list goes on. But if you look at his numbers, James has a claim to the GOAT too. Because he started playing in the NBA at the age of 18 and he’s had a very consistently successful career, his name will be in the all-time leaderboards when he hangs up his sneakers.

The debate on MJ vs LeBron has prompted betting sites to come up with a theoretical one-on-one match-up between these two all-time greats. Yes, while there is no rumor about a possible showdown between these two, the oddsmakers have put up betting odds for a LeBron vs Jordan showdown.

I know this is a far-fetched idea but given the coronavirus break, who knows what sports can put up. We’ve seen a 2K Tournament between NBA players, a H-O-R-S-E competition among NBA players and legends, and a golf match that pitted Tom Brady/Phil Mickelson vs Peyton Manning/Tiger Woods. So why not LeBron vs MJ for charity?

Who Would Win?

The bet isn’t about which player beats the other in his prime. It’s a bet on who beats the other in the present scenario. For starters, Michael Jordan just celebrated his 57th birthday last February 17th while LeBron James is 35 years old. Jordan hasn’t played in the NBA since 2003. LeBron James was leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference in the 2019-20 season.

The last time that Michael Jordan played in the NBA, he was 40-years old. He still averaged over 20 points per game but he was far from the Air Jordan that dominated the NBA in the 1990s. As for LeBron James, he is one of the older citizens in the NBA and we all agree that he is past his prime too. But while James is on the way down, he is still near the top and he proved that by scoring over 20 points per game while leading the NBA in assists during the 2019-20 season.

Sure, MJ recently said that he could beat the players on his Charlotte Hornets team:

Miles Bridges called him out and he didn’t answer. Even if Jordan can beat that entire team, including Bridges, none of the players on that team can beat LeBron James one on one.

  • Moneyline Odds: LeBron James(-500) | Michael Jordan (+300)
  • Odds from BetOnline as of 05/24/2020

I think this is comical but for the sake of argument, I will say that LeBron wins this easily. He is just going to back up MJ if he chooses to post-up. He is too strong for a 57-year old Jordan to defend when attacking the basket. He isn’t an excellent free throw shooter but at 73.5% for his career, James can win this match at the foul line if that’s where it goes.

The producers can give Jordan six months to get in shape but neither his golfing skills nor his 6-0 record in the Finals will help him against a 35-year old LeBron James. This one is easy money.


Who Will Commit the Most Fouls?

Michael Jordan was an elite defender during his prime. But even at the age of 40, he was a defensive liability already. What more at age 57? And against a strong 6-9 LeBron James? James is not a bruiser but when he uses his physical tools, he is tough to defend and easy to foul.

  • Moneyline Odds: LeBron James(-300) | Michael Jordan (+200)
  • Odds from BetOnline as of 05/24/2020

Between the two, LeBron is more foul-prone but against a 57-year old Jordan, there won’t be a need to foul much because Jordan hasn’t just lost a step or two, he’s lost four or more. On the other hand, Jordan can’t defend James in 2020 and the best he could do is foul King James to prevent him from scoring the easy two.


Who Makes the First Free Throw?

We predicted that MJ would commit more fouls here because he will have a tough time defending against a bigger, younger, and more physical LeBron James. The player who commits the more fouls is the one who will most likely send his opponent to the foul line first.

  • Moneyline Odds: LeBron James(-110) | Michael Jordan (-130)
  • Odds from BetOnline as of 05/24/2020

I think too that Jordan’s best chance of defending LeBron James would be to foul him because there is a better chance that he’ll miss a free throw rather than a lay-up. So when LBJ gets into that scoring position, I think MJ is more prone to commit the foul. King James shot 69.5% from the line during the 2019-20 season but that’s still enough to make one of two. Sure, Jordan is the better free throw shooter and even at 57, I will bet that he beats LeBron James in a free throw shooting contest. But this bet is about who makes the first free throw not the one who shoots better from the foul line. I’ll go with LeBron here.


Who Scores the First Point?

Among all the bets, this one is probably the hardest to pick. The first question here should be: Who gets the first possession? The player who gets the first crack at scoring the ball always has a good chance of scoring the first points, especially when you have two potent scorers like MJ and Bron.

  • Moneyline Odds: LeBron James(-150) | Michael Jordan (+110)
  • Odds from BetOnline as of 05/24/2020

I also think that this is the best bet where MJ can beat LeBron, that is if he gets the first possession. I don’t think Jordan will try to go one on one or drive to the basket here. I think he’s going to rely more on his jump shot. MJ had a great jumper and I don’t think good shooters lose their touch. On defense, I don’t think LeBron’s going to go really hard on MJ. If Jordan settles for the outside shot, LBJ will give it to him. There’s a good chance that Jordan scores first.


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