Michael Jordan is the modern standard by which all NBA finalists are measured.
In six trips to the finals during his career with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan won each time. Kobe Bryant, as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, has made seven trips to the NBA Finals, winning five championships.
LeBron James, now in his 10th professional season, made his fourth trip to the finals in 2013.
So even if James helps his Miami Heat defeat the San Antonio Spurs this year, earning his second ring, he still has a long way to go in order to truly compare with Jordan and Bryant in terms of championship legacy.
In an attempt to highlight individual finals production specifically, however, the following is a statistical comparison in terms of scoring, assists and rebounds.
With Game 5 of the 2013 finals looming, this comparison also measures the fourth NBA Finals appearance that Jordan and Bryant made to James' production thus far against the Spurs.
Michael Jordan Statistically Dominated the NBA Finals
Michael Jordan didn't win any of his NBA championships by default. Playing in 35 NBA Finals games during his 15-year career, Jordan simply dominated the time he spent on the NBA's biggest stage.
Kobe Bryant, after completing his 17th season in 2013, has appeared in 37 NBA Finals games. Heading into the Miami Heat's 2013 series with the San Antonio Spurs, meanwhile, LeBron James had participated in 15.
The 22.5 points that James had averaged in the NBA Finals along the way are solid, but pale in comparison to Jordan's output.
As highlighted by the chart above, Jordan's NBA Finals scoring average of 33.6 is 11.1 points higher than James averaged for his career after winning his first championship in 2012.
Four games into the 2013 finals, James is averaging only 20.8 points. Unless he improves his scoring output dramatically to close out the series, James won't be making up any ground on Jordan in the NBA Finals' scoring department this year.
He also won't be moving any closer to matching Bryant's scoring output, either. Kobe is currently averaging 8.3 points fewer than Jordan for his career in the NBA Finals at 25.3.
James, However, Is Averaging More Assists and Rebounds in the Finals
In researching the NBA Finals statistics for both Jordan and Bryant, I was surprised to see they each averaged as many as six and 5.1 assists respectively.
The 209 assists that Jordan dished out, while also scoring as prolifically as he did in the NBA Finals, is something I'm not sure many people always remember.
I'm also not sure that Bryant is credited with being as capable a playmaker as he's been in the finals.
Regardless, LeBron James compares favorably to both Jordan and Bryant in terms of assists and rebounds. James closed out 2012 while dishing out seven assists and collecting 8.1 rebounds for his career in the NBA Finals.
In 2013, James is currently averaging 6.5 assists and a staggering 12 rebounds against the Spurs through four games.
Comparing the Fourth NBA Finals Appearance Specifically for Jordan, Bryant and James
In Jordan's fourth NBA Finals appearance—playing against the Seattle SuperSonics in 1996—he averaged 27.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists. He also shot 41.5 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from the three as his Chicago Bulls won the series in six games.
Against the Pistons in '04, Bryant averaged 22.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists for the Los Angeles Lakers. He also shot 38.1 percent from the floor overall while only making 17.4 percent of the 23 three-pointers he attempted.
Though James has struggled mightily shooting the basketball from the outside, his 26.7 percent mark from three-point range is still better than Bryant in '04. His 45.6 percent shooting from the floor overall is also better than Jordan's mark in '96.
Ultimately, however, James can ill-afford a third NBA Finals loss if he is to be compared on the championship stage to Jordan and Bryant moving forward.