Who is better than Jordan?


To use the inch-for-inch comparison is to say, "I admit that Jordan is not the absolute best, and now I must devise a handicap system that works to his advantage."  That alone is enough for me to say, "thank you for playing.  You have just proven that Michael Jordan is not the best basketball player ever."  But hey, why not prove that even THAT criteria is wrong.  I mean, I could say that Bill Russell is better inch-for-inch.  He has 13 rings and is 81 inches tall (or 6.2 inches per ring) and Jordan has 6 rings and is 78 inches tall (13 inches per ring).  Or even use something really subjective, such as "Muggsy Bogues led the league in assist/turnover ration numerous times and is 15 inches shorter than Jordan).  However, I think I will have even more fun disproving this silly criteria.

Oscar Robertson – Robertson was 2 inches shorter than Jordan, yet he did things Jordan can only dream of. During his college career, he so thoroughly dominated that he, unlike Jordan, is considered by every respectable source to be one of the five greatest college players in history. 

In his first season as a pro, he averaged 30.5 ppg, 9.7 rpg, and 9.7 apg.  (Jordan averaged 28.2, 6.5, and 5.9).  Over the course of his first five seasons Robertson AVERAGED a triple-double. Triple-double games were not recorded when Robertson played. It was another day at the office for him. This perfectly illustrates the difference between Robertson and Jordan. The media made a big deal out of Jordan having the first (recorded) triple-double in All-Star history, just like they make a big deal out of Jason Kidd’s 7-or so triple-doubles he has each year. For Robertson, he didn’t need to have an extra assists to reach 10, to have that "triple-double," because it wasn’t a big deal. Back then, fans recognized greatness by one's play, and not because a guy has 10 assists, 10 rebounds, and 10 points. Furthermore, Robertson didn’t simply have triple-doubles of the Jason Kidd 10-10-10 variety.  No, he had man-sized triple-doubles. His triple-doubles were on the order of 30-11-10. In 1962, he finished in the top 10 in rebounds, something Jordan never did, nor came close to doing.  Robertson led the league in assists 5 out of his first 6 years, and finished in the top 10 11 out of his 13 years.  The only times he missed was because injuries kept him from getting the minimum needed to qualify.   Jordan never led the league in assists and only finished in the top 10 one time.  In 1968, Oscar became the only player in history to lead the league in ppg, apg, and ft%.in the same season.  

Jordan did not make those around him better. (click here to read why) Robertson did. Wayne Embry was an undersized (6’8" - nearly 300 pound) center (Think Oliver Miller body). Yet, in 6 seasons playing with Robertson, he was an all-star 5 times.  He never made it before playing with Robertson and he never made it after playing with him.  Adrian Smith was a spot-up shooter, similar to John Paxson and Steve Kerr. Yet, playing alongside Robertson not only got him an all-star appearance, but all-star MVP, thanks to Robertson setting out to get it for Smith. Robertson won 11 out of 12 all-star games, and to put it in context, the All-Star game was more than a goof-around exhibition. Players salaries were much lower (most players had summer jobs), and the money handed out to the winning all-star team was significant.

Robertson’s teams were often overmatched, losing often to Russell’s Celtics or Chamberlain’s teams, similar to Jordan losing to Larry Bird's Celtics and 3 out of 4 times to Isiah Thomas' Pistons.   However, when Oscar went to Milwaukee, he turned a good team into one of the all-time great teams. During his 4 years there, they had the best record in the division 3 times (and in the other season, they won 63 games to LA’s record-setting 69), and made 2 trips to the NBA Finals, winning once. Not surprisingly, when he retired, the Bucks went from the NBA finals, to a losing record (from 59-23 to 38-44), and no playoff appearance.  When Jordan retired in 1994, the Bulls went from 57-25 to 55-27 - a 2 game slip.


Oscar Robertson Michael Jordan
Years played 14 15
Number of times finished in the top 5 in scoring average 9 11
Number of times finished in the top 10 in rebounds 1 0
Number of times finished in the top 10 in assists 12 1
Number of times finished in the top 10 in free throw % 8 0
Number of times led the league in ppg 1 10
Number of times led the league in apg 7 0
Number of times led the league in ft% 2 0
Career Triple Doubles 181 30
Best season 30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 11.4 apg
32.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 8.0 apg 


Oscar Robertson was 2 inches shorter than Jordan, yet was a more complete player.  He was also more valuable to his team, as you saw how each team did without Robertson and and Jordan, respectively. 

This is a weak criteria for judging greatness (seriously, is Iverson better than Jordan?  He's 6 inches shorter!), however, this is your criteria (you clicked on this, so this must be your criteria), and using this criteria, I proved that Oscar Robertson is better than Michael Jordan.

Thank you for playing.