Who is the NBA’s GOAT? Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James

It’s a question for the ages: Who is the greatest basketball player of all time? It turns out, NBA players are just like the rest of us, and it’s between Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

That’s according to The Athletic‘s 2024 anonymous NBA player poll where their staff interviewed 142 players, about a third of the league, from March 5 to April 11.

They were asked a variety of questions to decide who is the most popular choice for MVP, most overrated, player they’d least like to fight and referees, as well as new debates over the 65-game rule and the commissioner’s letter grade, the outlet explained. “All 30 teams had a voice.”

When it comes to who the GOAT is, 133 players cast their vote in this year’s poll.

The Chicago Bulls great Jordan took the lead with 45.9% of the votes, while Los Angeles Lakers star James got 42.1%.

This is the first time in the poll’s history that Jordan has had this narrow of a lead.

The poll began in 2019, with His Airness receiving 73% to King James’ 11.9%.

The site took a break during the pandemic and picked the survey back up in 2023 with Jordan dunking a 58.3% over James’ 33%.

The Athletic’s Sean Amick that it’s James’ longevity in the game that’s helped him come close to MJ.

“He’ll be 40 years old on Dec. 30, yet is still great enough to be widely considered one of the best players in today’s game. While Jordan was epic in his 14-year career, from his 6-0 record in the NBA Finals to his five Most Valuable Player awards and his incredible two-way play, many players shared the view that James’ ability to remain elite for more than two decades puts him over the top,” he wrote.

While Jordan dominated most of his career, when he was James’ age he was in “the last of his two forgettable seasons” with the Washington Wizards. “He was putting up good numbers on a bad Wizards team that went 37-45 in both of his postseason-less campaigns.”

He also noted that James has “saved some of his best work for last.” He has broken Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record and led the Lakers to the Western Conference finals just months later. Later that year, he led the team to win the inaugural In-Season Tournament title.

James is also the first player to be named to a 20th All-Star team in February of this year.

He’s also “one of three players to average at least 25 points, eight assists and seven rebounds this season alongside Nikola Jokić and Luka Dončić.”

Other players listed in the 2024 GOAT race were Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, Paul Pierce and Magic Johnson.

The Black Mamba came in at third with 9.8%.

Chef Curry, Pierce and Johnson each earned 0.8% of the votes.

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