John Hollinger says the answer is yes and that LeBron James 2008-2009 season is almost as good as Michael Jordan’s 1987-88 season. One key argument is this chart, which adjusts everyone’s numbers to a flat per-40-minute basis and adjusts to the faster pace of the ’86-’88 Bulls:
I’m not sure, however, that it really makes sense for those of us who aren’t John Hollinger to lean so heavily on his PER stat. Look at shooting efficiency—Jordan had a TS% of 60.3 in the 1988 season, James’ is 58.6; indeed, in the 1989 season Jordan got all the way up to 61.4 and I would say arguably that was a better season than his top PER year as his rebound rate was higher then too.
I would say, in other words, that while LeBron is very good—and still only 24—Jordan still outpaces him. But note that LeBron is still only 24; it wouldn’t be unusually for him to continue improving for several more seasons. In particular, it would only take a small improvement in his 3 point percentage to turn this into an efficient shot, at which point all bets would be off in terms of defending him.