The Jordan Stat

First and foremost, you should know, at heart, I’m a huge sports nerd.  While other kid’s my age were devouring the Harry Potter novels, I was nose deep in Michael Lewis’ Moneyball.  Second and secondmost, you should know that in college I once uttered the words, “All I want to do is create my own stat.”  A pretty lofty goal for someone still not 100% on their 8x tables.  While other freshman were trying to sneak beers past their RAs and smoking weed out windows (to cover the smell), I once spent an entire week trying to invent a stat that valued position scarcity in Major League Baseball. (After a long arduous process I basically re-invented VORP expect 1000x less complex.)

Six years later I’m back at it.  Expect I’ve shifted my focus to basketball.

I was born in 1988.  I started watching basketball sometime in the mid-90s.  (I’m not sure the exact year my NBA consciousness kicked it in, but I can definitely remember MJ’s first retirement.)   This means during my basketball watching lifetime, I’ve witnessed the greatest player of all-time, fifteen absolutely monster stars and seven arguably monster stars.

(in no particular order)

Monster Stars

Arguably Monster Stars

GOAT

Hakeem Olajawan

Gary Payton

Michael Jordan

Charles Barkley

Steve Nash

David Robinson

Dywane Wade

Karl Malone

Paul Pierce

John Stockton

Ray Allen

Allen Iverson

Reggie Miller

Kobe Bryant

Dennis Rodman

Shaquille O’Neal

Kevin Garnett

Tim Duncan

Dirk Nowitzki

Scottie Pippen

Patrick Ewing

Jason Kidd

Lebron James

  ** Jury’s still out on: Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love.**

Like a snowflake or a Stanley Kubrick movie, no two star players are alike.  No player has Dirk’s combination of size and shooting.  No player has Barkley’s combination of lack of size, girth, misappropriated athleticism and rebounding prowess.  John Stockton could shoot 40% from three and pick up double digit assists in his sleep.  Steve Nash could also shoot 40% from three and pick up double digit assists in his sleep, but they did it so differently   Nash runs and guns, while Stockton was a master of the half-court offense.  Reggie and Ray could both shoot the lights out, but Ray (at least at the beginning of his career) could take players off the dribble while Reggie was busy breaking my heart.

We accept these players as unique talents.  We accept all of them, but one.  There is one player we will not accept as a unique basketball talent.  It’s why, for the last fifteen years, one question has been asked a million times every season.

Who’s the next Jordan?

Is it Kobe?  Lebron?  DeMar DeRozan?

The simple answer is no one. Jordan is Jordan.  Kobe doesn’t score as efficiently.  Lebron passes too much.  And DeMar DeRozan is – well – DeMar DeRozan.

But, Who’s the most Jordan-like?  That’s the question I set out to answer.

Who can dominate a game like Jordan?  Who can change a game with his prodigious scoring ability?  Who can score as efficiently?  Who showcases an inside/outside game with the same tact?  Who can impact games, not only on the offensive end, but at defensive end as well?  Who has the all-around dominate Michael Jordan Game?

I looked at efficiency, scoring, free throws, rebounding, assists, perimeter defense and outside shooting, threw them all in a pot added some broth a potato and, baby, I got a stew going.

It’s called the Jordan Stat.

Unlike ESPN, I don’t have a team of interns to run numbers on numbers on numbers, but I did my best to run the numbers on the guys that I thought mattered.

I ran numbers from single seasons, careers, playoff runs and single games.  The stat is simple.  A score of 100 is Jordan-esque, the closer to 100 the more Jordan-esque you are.

Careers 

LeBron James – 89.9

No surprise here.  LeBron’s ability to get to the hoop, defend the perimeter and control the flow of the game is the closest to Jordan you’ll get.  Of course the numbers also show some differences.  LeBron doesn’t take the initiative to score as much as Jordan (which everyone already knows) and he jacks up too many inefficient threes (something he’s starting to limit).

Larry Bird – 86.9

Bird and Jordan’s games are similar, in the fact that they were both dominant multi-faceted wing players.  While Bird rebounded more and hit more threes, he didn’t force as many turnovers or score with the same volume as #23.

Dominique Wilkins (Hawks Years) – 86.7

I limited Dominique’s number to only his Hawks’ years considering how hard he fell the second he left.  I was a little surprised to see him finish ahead of players like Kobe and Clyde, but the numbers love his volume scoring at a surprisingly efficient rate.

Kobe Bryant – 86.1

Quick thing about Kobe, there’s no doubt that his early years playing next to Shaq skewed this number.  He’s post-Shaq Jordan Stat is 91.2, a full point higher than Lebron’s.

Other interesting Next Jordan Candidates (and Clyde Drexeler)

Dwyane Wade – 85.8

Kevin Durant – 85.3

Tracy McGrady w/ knees (pre-2010) – 84.5

Carmelo Anthony – 83.5

Allen Iverson (pre-wilderness) – 81.5

Clyde Drexler – 79.2

Paul Pierce – 76.2

Single Season

Michael Jordan (first championship season) 1990-91, 104.0

Jordan has a few 100+ scores.  Since the stat is based on his career averages it makes sense that his best years would be better than his average years.

Kobe Bryant 2005-06, 101.3

Kobe’s most Jordan-esque year and the only single season I tested that came out over 100 since Jordan’s retirement.   The only other player not named Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant to achieve a 100+ season (that I tested) was Bernard King’s injury shortened 1984-85 campaign (101.9).

Tracy McGrady 2002-03, 99.8

One of the most underrated/forgotten great individual seasons in recent history.  With 32.1 ppg, 5.5 assists per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, a terrific steal rate and a propensity to get to the line, Tracy achieved one of the most Jordan-esque seasons ever.

Dwyane Wade 2008-09, 98.2

Jordan led the league in scoring eleven times, so it’s understandable to have a Jordan-esque season you’ll have to score A LOT.  This was Wade’s only scoring title, but what pushes him so close to Jordan was his terrific perimeter defense and, more than just the volume, his scoring efficiency.

LeBron James 2007-08, 96.3

Oddly enough James’ Heat numbers are not nearly as Jordan-esque (though they’re still pretty high) as his Cleveland numbers.  This is simply due to the fact that he was asked to score more while at Cleveland. In Miami he’s able to play a more Magic-esque game (what I suppose he always wanted in the first place).

Other interesting Next Jordan Candidates (and Pippen doing his best MJ impression)

Kevin Durant 2009-10, 93.1

Allen Iverson 2004-05, 90.2

Carmelo Anthony 2009-10, 89.0

Scottie Pippen (Jordanless-Bulls) 1993-94, 79.6

Single Game
(some of the best individual performances of the last decade and one gratuitous Michael Jordan moment)

MJ Game 4 vs. Suns (1993), 132.7

Kobe’s 81 point game, 206.7

Dirk Nowitzki Game 1 vs. Thunder (2011), 137.3 

LeBron Game 6 vs. Celtics (2012), 121.0

Dwyane Wade Game 3 vs. Mavs (2006), 118.9

Playoffs

MJ 1993 Playoffs, 103.0

Jordan’s first last Championship run.  Chicago swept through the first two rounds easily.  Then Jordan delivered a triple-double and a 50 point game against my beloved New York Knicks to send them packing in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Jordan finished his ungodly playoff run averaging 41 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 6.3 apg in the Championship series aginst Charles Barkley’s Phoenix Suns.

LeBron James 2012 Playoffs, 91.8

LeBron’s first Championship run (note first, I expect a few more on the horizon), where he proved the haters wrong.  This run featured a few AMAZING individual performances.  Most notably including his transcendent 45 point, 15 rebound game 6 against the Celtics and a championship clinching triple-double against the Thunder.

Kobe Bryant 2009 Playoffs, 90.1

Kobe’s first non-Shaq title.

Dwyane Wade 2006 Playoffs, 86.1

The run that propelled Wade from great player to all-time great player and for a second (even if it was just a second) made, “Is Wade better than LeBron?” a plausible question.

So, who’s the next Jordan?

Great players can have Jordan-esque games here and there.  Great players can even throw up some aberrational Jordan-equse seasons (keyword aberrational).  In the end Kobe and Lebron are the closest things we have to “the next Jordan” and even they are pretty far off.

Like I said, the only Jordan is Jordan, at least according to the Jordan Stat.

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