Jordan's infamous competitive drive made him the GOAT t…

Jordan’s infamous competitive drive made him the GOAT then—and would do the same in today’s LeBron James- and Steph Curry-dominated NBA. “He would somehow find a way to beat you—somehow,” Perdue says. “I’m not sure how. He’s not sure how, but he would stay up weeks to figure it out.”

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Perdue says MJ's persistence seems to be the differentiating factor between him and LeBron—the latest, and perhaps most promising yet, challenger to Jordan's GOAT throne. "You see LeBron say: 'I'm playing hard, I averaged a triple-double, I'll sleep well tonight,'" Perdue says. "I don't think you would ever hear those words come out of MJ's mouth. "Even if he had 60, [if] he lost and thought somebody had got the best of him, he would be pissed."
Where do you think this team ranks all-time? JaVale McGee: It’s a whole different era and a whole different type of basketball nowadays. You get there’s not a lot of physicality as there was back then. But still, I’ve seen the work that Steph [Curry] put in behind the scenes. The way he has to get open in games and the way teams guard him in games, he still gets points…it’s amazing. And being there seeing KD working and him lying to people, telling people he’s 6’9” when he’s 7’.
Adam Lauridsen: Kerr on chatter about Warriors' place in history: "We're just trying to beat the Cavs. They're a great team. We know that."
“I’ve seen all the teams from Bill Russell’s teams to now,” Thompson said. “If they go 16-0, with the season they have and the personnel they have, to me, they would be the greatest team in history.” In other words, Thompson will not represent one of many former NBA luminaries to boast superiority about their past teams over the current Warriors. “I better say we’d win because Magic [Johnson] would have me exiled from L.A.,” Thompson said, laughing. “But this Warriors team is legit. They can beat anybody.”
For all those former greats turned hot takers, Steve Kerr has your back: The Warriors would have no chance against any of the great teams of the past. “They’re all right,” Kerr said at Friday’s shootaround in advance of Game 4 of the NBA Finals. “They would all kill us. The game gets worse as time goes on. Players are less talented than they used to be. The guys in the 50s would’ve destroyed everybody. It’s weird how human evolution goes in reverse in sports. Players get weaker, smaller, less skilled. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.” Kerr is, of course, talking with his usual healthy dose of sarcasm.
“It’s kind of comedy to me,” Curry said Friday. “The hypothetical game is never one I’ve played. I don’t want to be in that situation where you’re having to argue that. “Every team that talked about it was great in their era, great in their time. It was great for the league, inspiration for up-and-coming hoopers like myself watching that type of competition. It’s our time to do that now too.
Do you see any comparisons between the 2004 Pistons and teams today? Sheed: “Oh, we’d run through them. Not even close. We play defense.” Mike Brown compared the defense of today’s Warriors and that Pistons team. Do you agree? Sheed: “I’d agree to a certain point. But I think the Warriors’ defensive strategy is, I’ma put up more shots than you. And if you try to match that, then you assed out because they got exceptional shooters. “So that’s their whole defensive thing. I don’t call it good defense if the man came down and he shot a jump shot or shot a three and missed it, and the Warriors went back down to the other end and scored it.
Dennis Rodman: “And people like Anthony and all you guys, stuff like that, that’s called pressure, man.’ That’s pressure. Especially in New York. They want to win in New York; they will never win in New York. They’ll never win in New York. I’m just saying. Even though he’s a great athlete, great player, he’ll never win in New York. And it’s a great city, though.”
Before the Warriors’ Wednesday night game in Phoenix, Steve Kerr, who was teammates with Rodman in Chicago, could only laugh at the comment. “I saw Dennis Rodman was complaining about it,” Kerr said. “I got a kick out of that because Dennis was suspended for 15 games a year anyway. He’d have plenty of rest. (Went to) Vegas or Wrestlemania. He took a night off whenever he wanted so he can’t complain.”
Durant then shared the following story: "We played in Vancouver, first game in a Warriors uniform. And I see James Worthy walking out as I was leaving the game ... it's a legend here. 'Big Game James.' I didn't get to see him play but I just know all about him ... I'm a little skeptical at this point to even talk to anybody from the generation before because I don't even know how they feel about me as a person, as a player because these dudes -- they look at me as like, 'Oh you switching teams, you chasing this, you chasing that.' So I'm just gonna keep it moving. "But he was like, 'Man. Don't worry about that stuff. People change jobs every single year, every single day. Don't worry about that. Just go out there and keep working and go win.' So I'm like, 'Man that's nice.'
"So I came back home that night and my boy Randy -- I was like, 'Man. James worthy was cool. He showed me so much love. I appreciate that.' He (Randy) was like, 'Huh? He was talking so bad about you on TV. He was saying Magic wouldn't have done that. I wouldn't have done that...' "Yo, stop selling out. Stop selling your brothers out. This is a fraternity. Stop selling us out ... stop doing that man, and then come in my face talking that nonsense. I was really fooled with him."
For those players, today’s game isn’t so much a game as it is a scrimmage. Or, as Isiah Thomas recently called it: “Straight summer league.” Thomas was talking about how many points he would average if he played in today’s league. “Crazy numbers,” he said, modestly. “When you come down on a 3-on-1 fast break and pull up from the three-point line, it’s like straight summer league,” he said. “I was good in summer league. If you saw some of our barnstorming games, we would be doing that type of stuff in the NBA right now.”
“This game is global, man. Do these people know where this game started? I’m from the 70s and 80s and we weren’t worldwide,” Gervin told USA TODAY Sports. “My playoff games were tape delayed. To say that this league is not where it should be, to me, being a part of the league, is insane. We’re all over the world, man. The only game that was really all over the world was soccer. Now we’re all over the world competing against soccer. So that tells you a lot, man. We’ve got guys in this league that are from all over the world. When I played, I don’t know if we had anybody from any (other) country.”
“People have their opinions, man, but I pretty much deal with facts. Factually, this game is the best that it’s been. We look at sponsorship, we look at branding, we look at the television, we look at the new collective bargaining agreement. Come on, man — we’ve come an unbelievable way with this game.”
Q: What about this thing with LeBron throwing the water bottle. Did it bother you, and not necessarily as the Knicks coach but as a former player? Jeff Hornacek: “Yeah, I mean you can have the old-school respect for the game. The guys now are playing the game where they’re having fun, and if that’s something that they’re having fun doing … You know all that would do for me as a player is the next time you play them that should jack you up and get you ready to go. I don’t know if there’s enough of those players in today’s game that take any stock in that, but that’s how we would approach it … Everybody looks at it differently I guess.”
Here is what Barkley said about the Warriors: “Maybe I’m old school, but I’m never going to like that little girly basketball where you have to outscore people. I’m biased against girl’s basketball. I love (UConn women’s coach) Geno Auriemma. I love women’s college basketball. I don’t want it in the NBA.” Kerr was asked his thoughts on the latest Barkley criticism: “We didn’t talk about it. But it’s getting to the point that I feel like if our whole team walked in front of Charles’ house he’d yell ‘Get off my lawn!’ That’s how I feel about it.”
“If you were 0 for 8 five years ago or even seven years ago from the 3-point line, your a– might get cut,” Isiah Thomas said through a lament-filled laugh. The Hall of Fame Detroit Pistons guard added, “They’ve completely twisted the boundaries in terms of what an acceptable shot is in our sport.”
Still, as the latitude for even role players has grown, the “standards for what great shooters are have completely dropped,” said Legler, who when he was with the Washington team in 1995-96 shot .522 from 3-point range, attempting about four 3-pointers a game. “People like Brent Price and me had to lead the league in 3-point shooting to have a green light. Now it’s eight or nine guys per roster,” he said. “You’re considered this gunslinger if you make three of nine now, because that means that guy is worth 250 3-pointers a season. If I shot less than 38 percent from there when I played, I wouldn’t have been on the floor or in the league very long.”
He said the acceptance of the long-distance gunner is less about the evolution of the game and more about team executives and coaches who rely on analytics that say the quick 3-point shot is more effective than the conventional, walk-it-up 2-pointer. “This is the first time in our sport you get no credit for institutional knowledge,” he said. “We live in an age now where we are bombarded by more data than any society that’s ever existed on this earth.”
Van Gundy says Thomas is right about the “lack of variety” in style of play now. But he disagrees with him about the value of analytics. “I think we simply had people that came in and made coaches think on a lot of different levels about a lot of different things. They had strong beliefs, and sometimes it made you go back and re-evaluate. The biggest thing is, it’s a players’ league. And it’s picking the right players. The Warriors get Curry and then get Draymond Green, who can play on the perimeter. Then they get Andrew Bogut for interior defense and more passing. They put the players around Curry that allows him the freedom to become who he is now.”
Now that he has delivered Cleveland its first championship in 52 years, James said his chief motivation is catching or eclipsing Jordan as the best player ever: "My motivation is the ghost I'm chasing. The ghost played in Chicago." Armstrong, now a player agent who represents Derrick Rose, has some advice for James. "Chasing a ghost is in make-believe land," Armstrong told ESPN.com in a telephone conversation. "That's far-out, that's unattainable, that's something you can't achieve. This ain't no ghost. If you want to do it, there's a blueprint. It's possible. There's only one way to get there. It's not possible for him to do what Jordan did because the circumstances are different, everything is different. What is possible for him is to be bigger than every situation that's put in front of him, to dominate every situation that's in front of him.''
Jordan told ESPN.com on Tuesday that he had not read the Sports Illustrated article. When shown LeBron's quotes, he said he would not comment because he had not seen the entire article. When asked how James can eliminate the comparisons to other players, Armstrong said he has to be obsessed with dominating every moment he's on the court, whether in practice, games or summer competition.
The Warriors' 73 victories broke the Bulls' 1996 record, but O'Neal said his 2001 Lakers would have beaten them. That team set an NBA record by going 15-1 in the postseason for the second of three straight championships under Jackson, back when O'Neal could be an even bigger physical force before rules changes loosened the game for free-flowing offenses like Golden State's to thrive. "If you're using those rules, we'd win. Now we use these rules these days, we'd still win, because you wouldn't be allowed to touch me, you wouldn't be allowed to touch Kobe," O'Neal said. "So yeah, that's how I always look at it."
Basketball Hall of Famer Dave Bing has a pretty strong opinion: Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is the best shooter in NBA history. "He is absolutely the best shooter that has played the game," said Bing, who was named one of the Top 50 NBA players of all time. "Nobody's close, except his teammate." Curry's teammate, of course, is Klay Thompson. But Bing gave Curry the nod over Thompson because of everything else he does.
“People think us old guys hate when we talk about it,” Barkley told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “It has nothing to do with the Warriors’ greatness, LeBron’s greatness. But I’ve never seen the NBA as bad as it is, and I’ve been saying it the last three or four years. We’ve got too many young players coming out of college that don’t know how to play. It’s frustrating for me because I want to see competitive basketball.
“It’s funny how the game has changed,” Bird continued. “And my thinking about it. I was really worried—back sixteen, seventeen years ago—that the little guy didn’t have a spot in the N.B.A. anymore: it was just going to be the big guards like Magic Johnson. But then players started shooting more threes and spacing the court, and everyone wants small guards now. Watching these kids play now, I’m like everybody else: Wow, man. They can really shoot! They have more freedom to get to the basket. The ball moves a little better. These kids are shooting from farther, with more accuracy. Now some teams shoot up around thirty threes a game. My era, you always think that’s the greatest era. But I’m not so sure anymore.”
“People think us old guys hate when we talk about it,” Barkley told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “It has nothing to do with the Warriors’ greatness, LeBron’s greatness. But I’ve never seen the NBA as bad as it is, and I’ve been saying it the last three or four years. We’ve got too many young players coming out of college that don’t know how to play. It’s frustrating for me because I want to see competitive basketball.
"The past guys that have been in this league are always going to have an opinion of what they would've been like in this era and this new generation," Irving said. "All you can do is respect what they have given to the game, respect any opinion of the past guys that have given something to this game that I've watched for numerous years. It's all in good respect."
NBA players today are, on average, significantly better at virtually every skill relevant to basketball than ever before. And the gap between modern players and players in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s is enormous, and even since the late 80’s and 90’s there’s been at least some improvement.
Curry has been the most recent victim of this growing trend, with the likes of Oscar Robertson and others marginalizing the historic accomplishments of the Golden State Warriors star and reigning MVP with their self-serving commentary. “Yeah, for me personally in my career I’ve done nothing but big-up the guys who paved the way for us,” James told USA TODAY Sports. “I’m respectful to all the guys who paved the way, the greats, guys who were role players, guys who were part of a championship team or was not. I’ve always been respectful, so it does kind of suck when you’ve got guys who played before us and paved the way for us (and) …they like to talk down on a lot of our players, saying, ‘Well if they played in our era it wouldn’t be the same.’”
“I heard Dennis Rodman say if I played in their era I’d just be an average player – yeah, about me, that I’d be just an average player,” James said. “And they say the same things about Steph, ‘If Steph played in our era, then we’d be more physical with him and we’d go at him.’ And it sucks because we’re just trying to carry the torch for the next group to come behind us. “I just want to be able to leave a mark personally, and be able to leave this game, this beautiful game, when I’m done with it for the next group of guys. I’m never one to talk down on a group of guys. If they can play, they can play.”
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July 6, 2022 | 5:10 pm EDT Update