It’s been 20 seasons since Michael Jordan added his sixth ring and retired as a member of the Chicago Bulls. From that time to today, there has been a dramatic shift in how people perceive MJ.
Jordan is the greatest player I’ve ever seen, in any sport. The first 10 years after hitting that shot at Utah, he was actually overrated. Really!
Fans said he was WAY better than Magic and Bird. I had to explain it was closer than that.
They said Pippen was a joke. The focus was on how he was NOT a top 50 player. They talked about how in his first few years he was essentially a nobody. I was told how Michael had to push him physically and challenge him mentally. It was said Michael created Pippen. I had to tell them regardless of that, Scottie was anywhere from the 4th to 13th best player in the world on six championship teams.
People said Rodman was a detriment. They said he was a distraction, Apparently all he could do was rebound, and was not worthy of the Hall of Fame. I would talk about the energy he created to change crowds and games nightly.
Hakeem and his Rockets still don’t get enough credit for their back to back titles in the mid 1990’s, because Mike was playing baseball.
Even from people who hated MJ, his reputation became inflated. It’s like he never missed a shot, never lost a game, and never failed in the clutch. The idea was “Air Jordan” couldn’t possibly have a flaw or have done anything wrong on the basketball floor. As a Washington Wizard, he was still a legit All-Star (top 24 to 30 player). He was viewed as a mythical figure, even as he now had cracks. I had to bring up the mistakes, and the failures. Jordan was not perfect, he’s just the closest thing to a perfect player I have seen.
Now its two decades later and a shift has occurred. Time has passed and new greats have emerged. Many lovers of the game did not see MJ at his apex (1990-93). Jordan has actually become, underrated. I never thought I’d see it. I never thought I’d say it.
Kobe was a sobering figure in some ways. Not only did he play like Michael, he came awfully close to being as good. His career reminded us, legends keep coming and number 23 was probably a human being. LeBron James is the real deal. He is worth the noise he creates in sports. He also has legions of fans (who never saw prime Mike) making up lies and trying to alter the narrative on Jordan.
All of the sudden in 2018, being undefeated and never being pushed to seven games in the Finals is not that big of a deal.
There is now this hilarious take that “Jordan never beat great teams in the Finals.”
Some TV personalities say with a straight face that Michael had help on his early Chicago teams, and underachieved.
The once ultra criticized Scottie Pippen is now said to be among the VERY BEST to ever play, and MJ could never do anything without him.
There is this idea brewing that Michael was mostly a scorer, and may have lacked a complete game.
I’ve heard his numbers somehow have flaws compared to others.
I saw Jordan. He was the most complete, fundamentally sound player I have watched (he hit his free throws too). He was the most fierce, the most athletic, and creative. His ability to close games and choke teams out was THE KEY to his biggest victories.
No Michael could not average 50 points if he wanted, and he could not win games simply by using the force. If you are invested in LeBron’s climb up the ladder, put your focus on him. If you are trying to diminish who Jordan was, you are playing the fool.
I just finished watching LeBron play a string of 20 straight games. It’s late in his fifteenth NBA season, and something hit me like a ton of bricks today. I think it’s time to say “King James” is the second best basketball player of all time. I could not be more objective on this subject. I’m not a “LeBron guy.” My buddy Russ used James as a weapon in arguments against my favorite players. I was built to hope LBJ did not succeed. Modern commentators (Nick Wright) that lie about Jordan, to build up James also annoy me to no end. If you saw Michael Jordan play in real-time at his apex, it would likely be obvious to you HE is the “GOAT.”
I’m a Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant fan. I have no horse in this race. I do not cheer for LeBron. If anything, I’d be the guy pointing out James said he would hit 80 percent of his foul shots for the first time this year, and that he’s currently at 72.6.
King was already in the argument as the second best ball player to live….then this season happened. He’s 53,000 total minutes into his career, and actually getting better. It’s not like he’s still an all-star or a superstar. LBJ is the best player in the world and it’s not close (and I AM a KD guy)! He’s adding onto his brilliance every single night. His turnaround jump shots have conviction, and they often resemble MJ and Hakeem. He feels himself from the three-point line. He’s thriving in odd team circumstances. James footwork is better, and his fakes have fakes. His post game is growing. I see more and more of his left hand. Even his missed shots are popping me out of my seat. If he’s lost foot speed or elevation, it’s a non issue. Coach Gordon Chiesa says he has “jack hammer power.” That muscle and finesse are a wonderful marriage. LeBron reminds me of Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, and Clyde Drexler. He is better than an amazing basketball player at this point, he’s a walking parade of greatness.
His level most times this season felt similar to Michael Jordan late in his Bulls career (1997-98 window). He’s abusing teams in the clutch, and doing it in a variety of ways. He will sometimes point to his pretend watch as if to say, “It’s time for me to close things down.” King is taking what he wants and his creativity and court vision are outrageous. He’s aware of his legacy and enjoying the ride. He’s smiling and laughing a lot. LeBron should be getting heavy legs, instead he’s somehow been reborn.
Let’s mention the guys we are all thinking about.
Jabbar remains more accomplished than James, but I would now put Kareem third all time.
I know you are the games greatest winner Mr. Bill Russell.
Wilt was so legit, I’d guess he would average 32/15/5 in today’s game.
Earvin had the perfect nickname in “Magic.” I’d trust him to make a goofy trick shot in pressure, more than I’d trust James to knock down a free throw.
Larry Bird. Larry freaking Bird!
It’s not that Kobe Bryant bailed LeBron and his teammates out in crunch time in the Gold Medal Game….it’s that James fans were texting me “give it to Kobe” when the game was on the line. Bryant was the “Killer” on the “Redeem Team.”
Shaq was that guy for a handful of years.
Hakeem was this level for a minute. Oscar? West? No.
Tim Duncan won a “few games.” He’s not LeBron.
I’ve seen enough. LeBron is second! His sustained excellence with what’s to come is a tough package to beat. While there are aspects of other players gifts I prefer more, James will have a resume that will look like it’s own mountain. I can no longer deny just HOW great the king is. I’m factoring in that I expect him to dominate for another half decade and win one to three more titles.
I envision James carrying the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals this summer. Once there, against a better TEAM I give him a coin flips chance to win it all. I think he can actually do it. He scares me that much. James is a little over celebrated for getting to Finals series and losing (he should get a complete pass for 2007). LeBron wants to be the best ever. We need to be stricter at holding him to “AirJordan” standards.
It’s hard for me to put him over Kobe and Magic. It is just a Sunday in late March when the Cavs won a road game in New Jersey. I don’t want to be right, I want to get it right. I also don’t want to be late. This LeBron storm is coming. If you can’t beat em, join em. James performance will back up my words, so it’s an easy claim to make.
Now, what will it take to catch that “ghost” Michael Jordan? Let’s talk about that after this season comes to an end.
I’m grateful to have grown up in the same city as the Utah Jazz. While they have yet to win a world championship, the story of the NBA can not be told without them. Larry H. Miller, Jerry Sloan and others have created a culture that has been emulated by many. Here is my version of the franchises 25 best players. I’m only factoring in each guys time playing for the Jazz (including New Orleans).
#25- MATT HARPRING (474 games) Harpring was a hard-nosed player who brought stability with 15 footers off of a curl play. Matt enjoyed irritating Carmelo Anthony.
#24- BRYON RUSSELL (628 games) Bryon was the 45th overall pick in 1993. His 32 minutes a game in a ton of post season contests is why he beat out Donyell Marshall and John Drew for this spot on the list.
#23- RICH KELLEY (497 games) Kelley’s most productive year for the Jazz came with him scoring 15.7 points. He was also second in the NBA in rebounds (12.8) and eighth in blocked shots (2.1).
#22- GAIL GOODRICH ( 182 games) After an excellent career, Gail played his last three seasons in New Orleans. He could still fill it up. His best ever field goal shooting (49.5 percent) came with the Jazz in 1977-78.
#21- TRUCK ROBINSON (125 games) Len “Truck” Robinson made his time with the Jazz count. He averaged 23 points and 15 rebounds in his two seasons in New Orleans. The 6’7″ Robinson was invited to the All Star game in 1978.
#20- DERRICK FAVORS (478 games) Favors is a stout presence protecting the paint. He has also has shown value at center. Derrick has very good hands and continues to seem like an x factor in the team’s success.
#19- AL JEFFERSON (221 games) Al Jefferson will not go down as the biggest of names in basketball circles. With that said, Al could score and rebound in any city. In three campaigns with Utah, he dropped 18.5 points and pulled down 9.5 boards a night.
#18- DONOVAN MITCHELL (55 games) Mitchell has arrived! Mature. Playmaker. Clutch player. His rookie awards won’t mean much long-term. This guy will end up in the Hall of Fame.
#17- MEHMET OKUR (474 games) Memo once put on a two month run of clutch shooting that would have made Larry Bird blush a little.
#16- JEFF MALONE (279 games) Malone had a remarkable ability to score, falling backwards. In his four years in Utah, Jeff shot 88.1 percent from the free throw line.
#15- PAUL MILLSAP (540 games) Paul was another drafting gem the Jazz can be proud of (47th overall in 2006). He’s the classic lunch pail player who has turned into a low-level NBA star.
#14- THURL BAILEY (708 games) Thurl was consistent. Old reliable. He was one of the best sixth men of his generation. Over the 1988 and 89 seasons he scored 19.5 points a night. Bailey made himself available in the community and fans in Salt Lake City love the man.
#13- RUDY GOBERT (301 games) The impact he makes on an NBA game is quietly all time great. The skill and the wingspan are outrageous. Rudy’s intense desire to compete is why the franchise trusts him.
#12- GORDON HAYWARD (516 games) In his seventh season in Utah, Hayward grew into one of the 25 best players in the world.
#11- RICKEY GREEN (606 games) I can still hear Hot Rod Hundley yelling, “the fastest of them all.” Green had three straight steals seasons of 2.3, 2.8, and 2.7 per game.
#10- CARLOS BOOZER (354 games) In May 2007, Carlos scored 35 points, and grabbed 14 rebounds in a game 7 at Houston. He also had memorable big game battles with Gasol and Odom where he held his own. I would often watch Boozer from 20 feet away. His high arcing baseline jumper was automatic.
#9- ANDREI KIRILENKO (681 games) “AK-47” was an exotic talent. He was like an elastic band being shot out of a cannon. Kirilenko’s help defense and shot blocking made him a league wide stand out. Some of his all around talents, left him in statistical categories only he and Hakeem Olajuwon share.
#8- DARRELL GRIFFITH (765 games) The 1981 NBA Rookie of the Year, Griffith was an offensive star for five seasons before an injury. Darrell and his chain were 1980’s cool. His athletic play and rainbow jumpers are a popular memory in Jazz lore.
#7- MARK EATON (875 games) He was never appreciated by Jazz fans while he was active. Mark was the Defensive Player of the Year twice, and made five All-Defensive teams. He led the NBA in blocks four times. Eaton’s 5.6 rejections per game in 1984-85 is the best shot blocking season in NBA history.
#6- JEFF HORNACEK (477 games) His handles made Stockton’s life easier. Jeff’s sweet passing was over shadowed by his ability to shoot. Hornacek had the gift of ridiculous, crafty shot making.
#5- DERON WILLIAMS (439 games) For a small window of time, Williams was the best point guard in the NBA. I always trusted his outside shot. Deron’s level in Utah, landed him on the Olympic “Redeem Team” in 2008.
#4- PETE MARAVICH (330 games) Arguably the most important model of showmanship the game has ever seen. “Pistol Pete” added an artful texture to basketball’s history. It’s awesome he played for the Jazz.
#3- ADRIAN DANTLEY (461 games) AD would spin the ball in his hands, rock you to sleep, and score buckets for a living. He averaged 29.6 points on 56.2 percent shooting from the floor in his Jazz career. Dantley carried the Jazz organization before they were a true contender.
#2- JOHN STOCKTON (1,504 games) I loved to watch John think the game. His decision-making was so good, it seemed tangible. Most would be surprised John scored just under 20,000 points and hit 51.5 percent of his field goals. Stockton crushed bigger people’s bodies fighting through screens for two decades.
#1- KARL MALONE (1,434 games) “The Mailman” led the Western conference in scoring six times. Malone may be the best player ever, without a ring. Red Auerbach said of Karl, “He’s a 6’9″, 260 pound monster, who runs the break like a deer.”
I get it. You are probably in your mid twenties and have heard about Jordan your entire life. You respect the idea of him, but also maybe feel like he’s been pushed on you as the greatest by your Father, and ESPN. It’s a new day, and different narratives are being created about what Jordan was or was not. Many of these voices were too young to have seen Mike play in real-time. I’m here to help by telling you the truth. Jordan was even better than the hype. MJ is not a romantic idea people over 42 can’t get over because they are sentimental. He really happened, and it wasn’t that long ago. He’s not the name in the sport because of a cool logo and a wildly popular shoe. Michael’s that big, because the level he attained was that stunning. Jordan played basketball as well as anyone has ever done anything. He mastered his craft. He was Michael Jackson on stage, good.
These 40 points will help deliver my message.
#40- IN ELEVEN COMPLETE SEASONS WITH THE BULLS, JORDAN LED THE NBA IN TOTAL POINTS ELEVEN TIMES.
#39- OVER THE LAST 53 YEARS, ONE MAN HAS SCORED 3,000 POINTS IN A SEASON. MIKE!
#38- 40 POINT GAMES? THE GREAT SHAQUILLE O’NEAL HAD 49 OF THEM IN HIS CAREER. MJ HAD 37 OF THEM…..IN 1987.
#37- “I’M NOT SURE PEOPLE REALIZE HOW GOOD THIS GUY WAS. HE WAS THE BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER, THE BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER, THE BEST COMPETITOR. IF THERE IS EVER GOING TO BE SOMEONE GREATER, WE WILL ALL BE SCRATCHING OUR HEADS.” (Jerry West)
#36- MOST 30 POINT PLAYOFF GAMES (109), MOST 40 POINT PLAYOFF GAMES (38) AND MOST 50 POINT PLAYOFF GAMES(8).
#35- MANY PLAYERS FROM THE JORDAN ERA HAVE SAID IT WAS COMMON KNOWLEDGE THROUGH OUT THE NBA, TO NOT RILE MICHAEL UP. THE UNWRITTEN RULE WAS TO NOT TALK TO HIM. SOME WENT AS FAR AS AVOIDING LOOKING HIM IN THE EYES.
#34- MJ IS ONE OF THE ELITE SHOT BLOCKING GUARDS OF ALL TIME. AT 6’6″, JORDAN HAD 261 BLOCKS FROM 1986 to 1988 ALONE.
#33- HE WAS DURABLE. JORDAN NEVER MISSED A PLAYOFF GAME (179). HE SCORED 20 POINTS PLUS IN 97 PERCENT OF THOSE CONTESTS.
#32- OVER A FOUR GAME STRETCH OF THE 1993 FINALS…MICHAEL SCORED….42….44….55….AND 41 POINTS. HATERS WILL SAY HE WAS SHOOTING MORE THAN OTHERS….NO. THE RIGHT GUY WAS SHOOTING.
#31- SUGGESTION? “YOU TUBE” HIS PASSING SKILLS. HE WAS 8TH IN THE NBA IN ASSISTS IN 1989.
#30- JORDAN WAS THE BEST MID RANGE JUMP SHOOTER I’VE EVER SEEN.
#29- WITH HIS FIRST CRACK AT A FINALS IN 1991, MICHAEL PUT ON A PASSING CLINIC AND AVERAGED 11.4 DIMES IN THE SERIES. IN GAME 2…HE MADE 13 SHOTS IN A ROW.
#28- OVER HIS FIRST SEVEN YEARS, HIS LOWEST FREE THROW PERCENATGE WAS 84.0%
#27- HE AVERAGED 8 REBOUNDS A NIGHT IN 1989. NOT BAD FOR THE BEST IN GAME DUNKER OF ALL TIME (If you prefer Vince, it’s all good).
#26- JORDAN HAD HUGE HANDS. THE ADVANTAGE WAS CATCHING BETTER, PASSING BETTER, AND BEING A PUMP FAKING PUPPETEER. HE COULD TAKE THE BALL DIRECTLY FROM THE DRIBBLE TO ATTACKING THE RIM.
#25- NO OTHER PLAYER HAS AVERAGED OVER 30 POINTS IN THE PLAYOFFS FOR A CAREER. MJ AVERAGED 33.4
#24- JORDAN TOOK THE BALL AWAY CONSTANTLY. HE LED THE LEAGUE IN STEALS THREE TIMES, CAME IN SECOND TWICE, THIRD TWICE, AND FOURTH TWICE.
#23- HIS FOOT SPEED, QUICKNESS, AND HANG TIME WERE INSANE.
#22- IN THE SPRING OF 1989, MICHAEL PLAYED POINT GUARD AND HAD 10 TRIPLE DOUBLES IN AN 11 GAME SPAN. ESSENTIALLY HE HAD 36 PERCENT OF HIS CAREER TRIPLE DOUBLE TOTAL IN THREE WEEKS, BECAUSE HIS COACH ASKED HIM TO.
#21- HIS PLAYER EFFICIENCY RATING IS THE BEST EVER IN THE REGULAR SEASON, PLAYOFFS, AND FINALS.
#20- “WATCHING HIM AND PLAYING AGAINST HIM WERE MUCH DIFFERENT. I LEARNED A LOT THIS GAME….HOW TECHNICALLY SOUND HE WAS. HIS FUNDAMENTALS AND TECHNIQUE WERE FLAWLESS.” (Kobe Bryant after his first matchup with MJ).
#19- HE WAS THE REAL KING OF NEW YORK. THE BULLS HAD A HEATED RIVALRY WITH THE KNICKS. IT WAS SO PERSONAL AND PHYSICAL. MICHAEL WON ALL FIVE SERIES HE PLAYED AGAINST THEM. JORDAN WAS A DREAM KILLER.
#18- MIKE DIDN’T HAVE THREE POINT PROBLEMS. THE SHOT WAS NOT NEAR AS CALLED FOR IN HIS ERA. HE WON REGULAR SEASON, PLAYOFF, AND FINALS GAMES WITH THREES. HE HIT SIX TRIPLES IN A FINALS HALF, WITHOUT A MISS. TIMING MATTERS.
#17- IN 1996, ON A 87-13 TEAM (OVERALL), MICHAEL WAS 11TH IN THE NBA IN THREE POINT SHOOTING PERCENTAGE(42.7%). HE WAS EVEN GOOD AT THE THINGS PEOPLE SAY HE COULDN’T DO.
#16- NOBODY HAD BETTER STYLE AND CREATIVITY THAN JORDAN. IT’S NOT JUST THAT HE WOULD SCORE 10 QUICK POINTS, IT’S THAT EIGHT OF THEM WERE ELECTRIC SHOWTIME.
#15- MJ SCORED 51 AND 45 IN BACK TO BACK GAMES….AS A WASHINGTON WIZARD.
#14- “MICHAEL WAS SO DOMINANT, PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY, I ALWAYS GOT THE SENSE EVERYONE WAS AFRAID OF HIM. THE OPPONENTS, THE REFEREES, HIS TEAMMATES. HE WAS JUST SO DOMINANT WITH HIS PRESENCE.” (Steve Kerr)
#13- THE MIAMI HEAT RETIRED JORDAN’S NUMBER. HE DID NOT PLAY FOR THE HEAT. HE WAS JUST THAT BAD ASS.
#12- IN EACH OF HIS COMPLETE SEASONS BETWEEN 1987 AND 1997 MICHAEL LED THE NBA IN WIN SHARES. HE WAS ALSO SECOND TWICE. HE LOOKS THE SAME UNDER COOL MODERN STATS AS WELL.
#11- A BIG TIME NBA SCORER MAY SCORE OVER 50 POINTS, THREE OR FOUR TIMES IN A CAREER. “AIR JORDAN” DROPPED 50 PLUS…39 TIMES. HE SCORED OVER 60, FIVE TIMES.
#10- VERY FEW WOULD ADMIT IT THEN, BUT JORDAN WAS BETTER THAN MAGIC AND BIRD EVEN BEFORE HE WON BIG. THAT SAID….IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE HOW GOOD MAGIC AND BIRD WERE.
#9- EVERY GAME THAT JORDAN PLAYED, HE WAS EXPECTED TO LIVE UP TO HIS OWN MASSIVE STANDARDS. I ADMIRE HOW OFTEN HE ROSE TO THE OCCASION. HIGH STAKES EXPOSED HIS GREATNESS.
#8- HE HAD POWER, SUPREME FOOTWORK, AND A DYNAMITE POST GAME.
#7- MJ DID THE DIRTY WORK TOO. HE DID ALL THE SMALL THINGS THAT ANY GUY ON THE END OF THE BENCH WOULD DO. WHEN HIS SHOT WAS NOT FALLING, HE WAS GOOD AT SIMPLIFYING THINGS.
#6- IN THE FINALS HE WAS A 33.6 POINT, 6 REBOUND, 6 ASSIST GUY. HE DOMINATED ON DEFENSE AND MADE BIG PLAY AFTER BIG PLAY….THAT’S ALL.
#5- NOBODY HAD ENERGY LIKE JORDAN. HE WAS THE MOST RELENTLESS, AGGRESSIVE PLAYER IN THE WORLD. THE LATER THE GAME GOT, THE MORE JUICE HE HAD.
#4- MJ SEEMED TO OFTEN TAKE WHAT HE WANTED WHEN HE WANTED. HE PLAYED WITH FURY AND LASER FOCUS. HIS WILL AND SKILL LEFT HIM THE BEST I’VE EVER SEEN. SEVEN OR EIGHT GUYS HAVE BEEN CLOSE TO AS GOOD….JORDAN WAS THE CLOSEST TO BEING A “TEN”.
#3- COMPARE HIM TO TODAY’S GREATEST WHERE IT MATTERS MOST. LEBRON JAMES…A TOP 5 PLAYER EVER….WHO IS STILL ROLLING….HAS PLAYED 3,300 MORE MINUTES THAN JORDAN….AND HAS THREE LESS RINGS AND FINALS MVP’S. IN A LONGER CAREER, CHANGING TEAMS TWICE IN HIS PRIME, SOMEONE AS ELITE AS JAMES, HAS HALF OF MIKE’S BEST JEWELRY.
#2- PEOPLE UNDER DOING 6-0 IN THE FINALS IS SICKENING. HE PLAYED IN THE 1990’S YOU JOKERS. LET’S JUST SAY THOSE BASKETBALL TEAMS AND TALENT HOLD THEIR OWN COMPARED TO ANY DECADE. HE TOOK DOWN THE 90’S BEST. HE WON 69 PERCENT OF HIS FINALS GAMES. HIS TEAMS WERE GREAT. DON’T GET IT TWISTED…HIS BRILLIANCE AND SYMPHONY OF CLUTCH PLAY….IS WHY….HIS TEAMS WON 25 OF THE LAST 26 PLAYOFF SERIES HE WAS A PART OF.
#1- MJ IN THE LOCKER ROOM….SITTING WITH SCOTTIE PIPPEN AFTER THE 1998 FINALS IN SALT LAKE CITY….”SIX….SIX…..SIX OF THEM…(raising his voice)…SIX OF THEM! YOU ALL CAN SAY WHATEVER YOU WANT…THEY CAN’T WIN UNTIL WE QUIT.”
From on court battles, “freeze outs”, and Dream Team controversies Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan are at a minimum, rivals.
BEFORE GAME 3 OF THE 1993 NBA FINALS
Thomas was being interviewed before the game. Bob Costas was breaking down how tough and how well Isiah’s clubs played Jordan years earlier.
Isiah responded, “The thing that amazes me about Michael Jordan compared to any other player in the league is his stamina and his endurance. The thing that I wasn’t able to do and Magic wasn’t able to do, we had to succumb to injuries. We didn’t seem to have the type of energy level and stamina he seems to possess. Every single night whether he’s playing against the worst team in the league or the best team in the league….He has an energy level that is unmatched by any other player or any other athlete that I’ve seen in professional sports. Whether it be basketball, football, baseball, track, or tennis. His energy level is so much greater than ours it seems that night in and night out, he’s there performing at a level that we quite frankly weren’t able to reach.”
After Isiah said this, Jordan won four more NBA championships.
Trying to compare LeBron James to another player I’ve seen is impossible. There has never been anyone quite like him in pro basketball. He’s so unique it took these six great players to explain how I see him.
KARL MALONE (25%) Have you ever seen the 6’9″, 260 lb. Karl Malone filling the outside lane on the fast break? Scary! His body was a weapon and nobody delivered at the rim like “The Mailman”. When you look at LeBron in transition you see something similar. He’s a freight train and it might be smart to move aside. I watched Karl score 37,000 points and many of them were playing “bully ball” like James has. They each seal defenders off down low, and guys bounce off their muscles. They both hit about 74% of their foul shots. LeBron is durable and sometimes seems bionic. He will get hurt, and will be running full speed a few minutes later. Malone played 80 or more games an incredible 17 times.
EARVIN “MAGIC” JOHNSON (30%)
Among the greatest passers, my favorite was Magic. He was the ultimate conductor and it seemed like he had four guys on a string. LeBron, like Magic before him is obsessed with making his teammates better. They both lead with joy and a brain for the game. James was a share first guy from day one, and is one of the elite passers in his own right. He comes up with crafty stuff, especially getting the ball cross court. The King and Magic are also a perfect match as rebounders. LeBron seems to go the Finals every year, a place Johnson found himself 9 times over 12 seasons.
SCOTTIE PIPPEN (15%)
It’s the point forward thing. Mostly it’s that Scottie Pippen was a defensive terror with athleticism and length. He could matchup all over the floor. LeBron can check anyone in the league in a pinch. His defensive versatility is arguably his most impressive trait.
MICHAEL JORDAN (20%)
Michael Jordan took what he wanted when driving to the hole. He’d pull up and go glass, go around you, over you, and even through you. LeBron James is unstoppable driving to the basket. Finesse and power come together in harmony. Nobody had energy like Jordan. He only slept four hours a night during his prime. Dropping 22 in the final quarter, while shutting down his man was just another Tuesday night for Mike. King James is producing a new kind of energy. He has a body and a skill set that has him on pace to be great at an older age than anyone in NBA history. In his 15th pro season, LBJ is slapping father time in the face.
Jordan is the greatest player I’ve ever seen. It was not because he was 6-0 in the Finals….He actually just played basketball better than everyone else has. As LeBron ages, he reminds me more of Michael now than ever.
CLYDE DREXLER (5%)
LeBron also has a smooth side. I think of Clyde “The glide” at his best. Drexler would spin and lay it in pretty. He may dunk it from 10 feet out, or swoop in for a timely finger roll.
DWYANE WADE (5%)
On a professional and personal level LeBron and D Wade are close and share a lot of beliefs and history inside the game. Both guys are explosive scorers. Their similar styles were evident in the alley-oop connection they displayed in Miami. King James is a much better clutch player than his reputation suggests.
In 2016 Steph Curry was named the NBA Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season. He was a unanimous choice and that was a legit result. When someone gets this good, it’s natural to compare them to Michael Jordan. Steve Kerr is uniquely qualified to talk about these two guys. He played with MJ and currently coaches Curry. Kerr broke it down this way to Dan Patrick:
“It’s a different feel. Michael was so dominant, physically, emotionally. I always got the sense everybody was afraid of him-the opponents, the referees, his teammates. He was so dominant just with his presence. With Steph it’s totally different. He looks like your little brother. He’s just out there running around and firing away and hitting these incredible shots. He dominates with his skill. Michael did too, but Michael dominated with just his very presence. I think it’s just a different feeling with Steph. It’s one of the reasons he’s so popular. I think people can actually relate. Not so much to his skill, but his physical stature and just the fact he looks like a normal guy. It’s remarkable he can dominate the way that he does at that size.”