Luis Suarez is soccer’s LeBron James. And not just in terms of headline and jersey-burning tallies.
No soccer transfer can match James’s offensive impact and importance to his former team. But Suarez’s transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona is the exception. The average basketball player should logically have a greater impact than the typical soccer player. Even an elite soccer star is just one of eleven players, compared with one of five players in basketball. Simply put, that’s 9 percent compared with 20 percent.
Suarez is a special case and his impact far exceeds those averages. The 27-year-old won just about every individual award last season at Liverpool and was the most dominant player in the Premier League, despite missing the first five games of the season due to suspension.
Liverpool scored a total of 101 goals last season, its highest total in 50 years, and Suarez scored or assisted on 42.5 percent of those goals. Suarez led the Premier League in goals (31), with ten more goals than the next highest scorer, Daniel Sturridge, his Liverpool teammate. Suarez was also second in assists (12), trailing only teammate Steven Gerrard (13).
James’s efficiency and two-way dominance are well chronicled at this point, but for the sake of comparison, let’s look at how James and Suarez measure up.
James led the Heat in assist per game (6.3) and was responsible for 26.4 percent of Miami’s total assists last year during the regular season, compared with Suarez’s 19 percent. Of course, this in an imperfect comparison, as it does not distinguish between assists that led to two-pointers and three-pointers, but it still gives us a rough estimate. When comparing players in two different sports, there will be some incongruity.
EPL Index reported that Suarez led Liverpool with 87 created chances, 18 more than teammate Gerrard. If Suarez had been passing to a finisher of his caliber, that assist total would have been even higher. You can expect that figure to climb now that he’ll be creating chances for Lionel Messi and Neymar at Barcelona. You only have to look at England’s disappointing World Cup campaign for more proof of his value to his former club. The English team featured five Liverpool players, but amassed only two goals in three group matches.
In terms of individual scoring, Suarez has James beat. James’s regular season point total accounted for 24.9 percent of Miami’s total output, compared to compared with 30.7 percent for Suarez.
James does have one significant trump card in this discussion— defense. LeBron’s defensive contribution trumps what any attacking soccer player can produce. Suarez is no exception in this regard and beyond pressuring opposing goalkeepers and defenders, his effect on that side of the field pales in comparison with James, who often defends the opposing team’s best offensive player, while also leading the team in rebounds, grabbing 6.9 per game last season. This would be the equivalent of Suarez somehow also leading Liverpool in tackles and interceptions.
So while Miami and Liverpool scramble to find new players to score points and goals, Miami has the more arduous task of finding adequate replacements on both ends of the court.