NBA Rumor: LeBron vs. Jordan Debate

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Appearing on the Heavy Live With Scoop B Show, I asked Isiah Thomas if a company offered a blank check to he and Jordan for the opportunity to discuss their differences in exchange for an hour-long uninterrupted television special for them to air out their grievances, how much would the check amount to? “Well I don’t need the check; that’s not what I’m about,” Thomas stated. “So you wouldn’t have to pay me anything. And honestly until ‘The Last Dance’, I never knew there was a beef. You know again, I had gone out to dinner with him, I had seen him socially… I never knew that he felt THAT way about me. So again, I have no hard feelings against anyone and when I talk about the greatest players, I’m only talking about it from my perspective. No slight to anyone but, it’s just an acknowledgement of how great LeBron James is and what I’ve been watching. It’s just like the acknowledgement of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Isiah Thomas: “Now in the White community, that might be different. Tom Brady doesn’t have to speak for and Joe Montana doesn’t have to speak for the White community and uplift them in America. In the Black community, it’s always been different; whether it be Joe Louis when he was fighting Max Schmeling and how important that fight was; Jesse Owens winning the gold medal in Germany and how important that was, Tommy Smith [and John Carlos]…so when you look at Muhammad Ali; Muhammad Ali wasn’t the greatest because he could knock people out – Muhammad Ali was the greatest because of what he did outside of the playing field; outside of the ring. So the champion has always carried that mantle; particularly in the NBA – Bill Russell carried it, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar carried it, Dr. J carried it, I carried it and now LeBron is doing it.

Isiah Thomas: So when you look at what the ‘GOAT’ means for us in terms of lifting us up in the society, speaking for the voiceless in our community; you can be a champion on the floor and you can be a champion off the floor. So what he’s done statistically – the numbers don’t lie. But also what he’s done OUTSIDE of the playing field, that doesn’t lie either. So you know, in terms of being a complete basketball player in terms of passing, dribbling, shooting, rebounding… no one has done what he’s done statistically in EVERY single category. Now we’ve had players to dominate one category. But we’ve never had a player that’s come in and dominate it in so many statistical categories across the board. And that’s LeBron James.”

Wade recently explained why it doesn’t matter who is the GOAT because we will never see another LeBron James or another Michael Jordan and we should really appreciate the things we witnessed with MJ and what we’re witnessing with Bron now. “When we talk about the GOAT conversations, it doesn’t matter who is the GOAT. He (James) is one-of-one, we will never see another him, we will never see another him, we will never see another Jordan, we will never see another Kareem. No one will ever win 11 championships like Bill Russell. Or I think. Maybe one day somebody will win 12. I just want to enjoy watching and I told LeBron this; this is the first time I’ve ever watched you as a real fan. This is the first time I’ve watched him as a total fan and I texted him, I said ‘bro, you’re f—ing good,” like he’s an animal; he’s one of the best basketball players that’s ever played the game because of the way he plays the game. You know not many players have ever played the game the way he does it and it’s just special to watch.”

Hakeem Olajuwon: Jordan far superior player than LeBron

Former Houston Rockets star Hakeem told CNBC that it’s always been Jordan for him, and apparently, his opinion won’t change when it comes to this debate on who is the most superior player he ever faced. “When people start comparing him with Jordan, then that’s not a fair comparison. Jordan was a far more superior player in a very tough league, and he was very creative. That’s not taking away anything from LeBron because he is a great player, but it is not a fair comparison because Jordan is a far superior player.” Hakeem Olajuwon, via CNBC

“I admire his insatiable appetite to be on top and stay on top,” said Thomas. “I’ve never seen a player dominate so many statistical categories. We’ve had players dominate certain areas, but we’ve never seen a player that truly does it all. And he’s done it, without fail, for 17 years. For now, Kareem is the best that’s ever done it. But by the time he’s done, LeBron James will be the best we have ever seen play the game of basketball.”

Rony Seikaly: The GOAT debate is something that people have fun with, but when you’re comparing two great players of two different eras, it’s very difficult to make a call. We’re talking about two immensely talented players and we can go back and forth on who’s better, depending on whether you’re a fan of the 90s or of today. If you’re the latter, you probably don’t know what Michael Jordan did in the 90s and you would automatically think that LeBron James is the best player. If you grew up watching Kobe Bryant, you’d think that he’s the GOAT. The debate is endless, but the only reason I’d give the nod to Michael Jordan is because he had more of an assassin mentality. If he smelled a little bit of blood, he would come after you and you were finished. It’s always the same with Mike Tyson. He was like a shark. LeBron is an extremely talented player, just as talented as Michael, but sometimes he’s more of a Magic Johnson when he has the ball; more of a facilitator and less of a finisher, like Michael Jordan was.

Appearing on The Pat McAfee Show on Monday, JR Smith explained in detail what separates LeBron from all-time greats like Jordan and the late Kobe Bryant. “He holds you accountable. One thing about Bron is he leads by example with his work ethic. His biggest attribute is being able to pull people along with his work ethic,” the 6-foot-6 shooter said. “Obviously, it’s easier for the better players to do it. But for my existence, Jordan didn’t do it. Kobe didn’t do it. A lot of players that had that “killer mentality” aren’t that type of person to do it,” he added.

“Jordan and Kobe, they did play defense but they’re scorers. They put up 50, 60, 70 points a night. When you get somebody so well-rounded, rebounding, scoring, passing, dribbling, a good teammate. It’s a totally different atmosphere. He’s a totally different person than those guys. There’s no comparison. Because you can’t compare a lion and a tiger. They’re both cats but they are not the same.” In true fashion, JR Smith finished his analogy with this hilarious quote. “The lion is the king of the jungle. Everybody bows down to the lion. But that don’t stop the tiger from saying ‘I’m a bad m———– too’”.

Not many people can say they played with Michael Jordan and LeBron James. What were the biggest similarities between the two? Larry Hughes: I think the natural ability, the attention to detail, the respect that they ; they were not going to waste their God-given talent. That stands out to me the most… They had a deeper understanding that they weren’t going to let their talent be wasted. And they were going to inspire other people. I mean, even though I played with Bron when he was younger, we still had young guys who were coming to the team that looked up to Bron. It was a situation where he took advantage of that, and I think MJ took advantage of that as well, knowing that he would impact and inspire a lot of kids through a lot of different generations.

During a recent appearance on ESPN, Johnson had some high praise for James, as he said that the Lakers forward was probably the best “all-around” player of all time. However, Johnson said that when it comes to the greatest player ever, he’s still going with Jordan. “First of all, let’s not take anything away from LeBron James,” Johnson said. “Because LeBron James is a great basketball player, one of the all-time greatest that’s ever played the game. LeBron James to me, when you think about all-around basketball players, he’s probably the best of all time. An all-around basketball player. But when you want to say ‘who’s the greatest ever’ it’s still Michael Jordan.”

While Johnson currently has Jordan ranked ahead of James on his own all-time list, he did leave the door open for James to potentially pass Jordan down the road, as James is still in the midst of his playing days. “LeBron James’ chapter is not closed yet,” Johnson added. “He still has some basketball to play, so maybe he has a chance to catch [Jordan] later on if he can get some more championships under his belt. But at the end of the day, they’re both great and they play they game the right way. They made their teammates better, they won championships, and thank god for LeBron because right now that’s what we’re watching. It’s his time. It’s his era, and he’s dominating his era.”

Vince Carter: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, then LeBron James

Vince Carter gives his NBA goat rankings between Michael Jordan, Lebron, and Kobe. He also talks with Matt and Stak about what is left for Lebron to accomplish in his career. Matt Barnes: So for the record, you’ve got MJ, then Kobe, then LeBron? Vince Carter: Yes. Barnes: Does LeBron have the opportunity in your mind to possibly jump Kobe? Carter: He has an opportunity based on what he gets done. If he gets to the Finals again… You’re just gonna give him more credit. Now, ten times in the Finals?! That’s insane if he can get to the Finals double-digit. Wait until it’s all said and done, then it’s fair to have a real debate. Let’s see what LeBron does and then we’ll go from there.

James, often compared to Jordan in the best-of-all-time debate, later tweeted that his excitement about playing with MJ didn’t mean he preferred it over competing against him. “I didn’t say I envisioned MJ as a teammate not an adversary,” James tweeted Monday night. “A question was asked ‘Do I think I could have been a teammate of his and compliment his game.’ I love the greats and would have loved to play with them all during their runs because I (am) a historian of the game but I also would die to compete vs every single one of them too! Don’t ever get it twisted!”

“Me personally, the way I play the game – team first – I feel like my best assets work perfectly with Mike,” James said. “Mike is an assassin. When it comes to playing the game of basketball, scoring the way he scored the ball, (then) my ability to pass, my ability to read the game plays and plays and plays in advance.” James grew up a Bulls fan watching Jordan in Akron, Ohio, and paid respect to Jordan in his tweet: “Nevertheless MJ Thank You for being my angel, inspiration, superhero!!”

How do you rank Jordan, Kobe and LeBron in terms of greatness? Matt Barnes: Those are the top three players in the history of the game. It bothers when I see the disrespect. ESPN just came out with a list, and they had Kobe at nine. When you ask players, they’ll tell you, but it’s always the ‘experts’ that make these lists. My list would be Jordan at number one, Kobe number two and LeBron number three. LeBron can pass Kobe if he can capture another title. That would be a title with three different teams. He’s moving up the scoring list, he’s on the assist list and as far as all-around, he’s one of the greatest we’ve ever seen. Right now, it’s Mike number one, Kobe number two and LeBron three, but depending on how long he sticks around, LeBron can pass Kobe and he’ll definitely be in the discussion with Jordan.

NBA Central: “He only had really one job. And that was to just score. And he did that at an amazing, amazing rate. But I don’t feel like his way of winning then would translate to what it is now. Guys wouldn’t want to play with him.” -Channing Frye on Michael Jordan (NBC Sports North West). Evan Fournier: @channingfrye bro you bugging for real. Lol. Channing Frye: Boris Biaw is the best French player of all time. Evan Fournier: Lol na you aint getting away from that statement with this s—.

Golden State’s Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall, Marquese Chriss and others grew up debating who was the best player of all time — Jordan or James? — in their school cafeterias during lunch. Poole always sided with Jordan. His father, a Chicago native, had told him stories about Jordan’s greatness. But for Paschall and Chriss, James deserved the nod. They didn’t feel comfortable arguing in favor of someone they hadn’t witnessed in person. “I mean, I didn’t get to experience what other guys got to experience as far as seeing MJ or the early Kobe years,” said Paschall, who, at 23, is older than five of his teammates. “However, I legit saw every aspect of LeBron’s legacy. That goes a long way.”


The latest was MJ’s former teammate Dennis Rodman, who described what he feels is the biggest difference between the two basketball superstars. “He [LeBron James] wasn’t bought up this way. I had that desire to win, I didn’t give a s**t what it took. I’ll do the dirty work, I don’t give a s**t. At the end of the day that ring is more important. For Mike [Michael Jordan] when he came up he had one thing in doing – I’m going if I didn’t beat your a** and do my job,” the ex-NBA champion said.

Sanders was asked during an appearance on “The Kyle Kulinski Show” who he’d pick between James and Jordan, and unsurprisingly this is another area where his opinion differs from the current president: Kulinski: Last question: Michael Jordan or LeBron James? Sanders: LeBron James. Kulinski: Is that because of the policy he just supported with you? Sanders: Well actually, yes, I think LeBron has been willing to do what a lot of athletes are not and get involved in the political process, put money into education, and I respect that.

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was asked Thursday what he thought of the Los Angeles Lakers star’s recent remarks about being the GOAT and made an interesting analogy while wondering aloud why James would make those comments with more basketball ahead of him. “His career’s not over,” Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich.” “I’d just like to — why he’s saying that, I don’t know. Maybe he thinks that that sells. Maybe he’s taking the Donald Trump approach and trying to sell himself. I don’t know.”

The image of James sitting in what amounted to an ice tomb while being showered with praise by his peers may not do James’ greatness justice. What he’s doing at 33 years old is essentially uncharted territory for any kind of athlete—in any sport. “The sports-science community is just in awe of this guy,” says Dr. Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic, one of the world’s leading experts in human performance and physiology. “People should just recognize what they’re watching in LeBron. It’s different than Jordan. People need to get out of Jordan this, Jordan that. LeBron is different.”

Joyner isn’t alone. Dr. Marcus Elliott, the Harvard-trained founder and director of P3, has assessed the biomechanics of some of the best athletes in the world at his state-of-the-art lab nestled along the coast of Santa Barbara, California. Players from Andrew Wiggins to Andre Drummond to Dwight Howard to Luka Doncic have come through Elliott’s lab to find out where they score on 3D motion-capture and force-plate technologies. While he has yet to assess James, he knows what he’s seeing. “He’s hit the quadruple lottery when it comes to genetics,” Elliott says from afar. “Not just the physical side. You can’t get to where he is without being head and shoulders above the competition from a mental standpoint. It’s clear he just owns a different system than, say, Michael Jordan.”

JLEIII: Doing radio has allowed you to stay close to the game and watch LeBron at his absolute best. Where do you stand on the Jordan vs. LeBron debate? Rick Mahorn: I got to go with LeBron James. The reason why? LeBron James plays five positions, and that’s when it becomes really scary. Who can check him? He plays five positions. Jordan could play three, at best. … You have to respect what Jordan did. He’s a beast at what he did. Would he be able to play in this era of basketball? He’d probably get to the foul line more than these guys playing get to it now. To me, some guys revolutionized the game or changed the game, and I think LeBron is a game-changer. So is Jordan. Jordan was a game-changer. But if it’s me picking, you can’t find many people who are 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, and can play every position. That’s scary.

Pippen joined ESPN’s “The Jump” on Friday to respond to Isiah Thomas saying last month on NBA TV that he’d pick James over Jordan. After calling out Thomas for “hating” on Jordan, Pippen explained why he doesn’t like comparing James to his former teammate. “Michael Jordan is the greatest player to ever put on shoes and play in our game. No doubt about it,” Pippen said. “I’m always asked questions to compare him to LeBron. I try to make the best of it, but really, the comparison shouldn’t ever be made. They both play two different positions.

“The way LeBron James play – Michael Jordan was never asked to play that way, because I took that away from him. I was the point forward. I was the facilitator. Michael Jordan was a scorer. He was a defender. He played the game as complete as LeBron James did when he needed to, but he was asked to score the basketball and that’s what he was great at.” But if he had to choose between them, Pippen would go for Jordan every time. “There’s no game that I would ever play in and pick LeBron James over Michael Jordan,” he said. “Not if I’m trying to win.”

Even though Michael Jordan retired in 2003, the debate over whether he was better than LeBron James still dominates NBA talking points seemingly every day. As a result, there are plenty of opinions to go around. Count retired Detroit Pistons big man Bill Laimbeer among those who thinks James is better than Jordan. “I’ll take LeBron James, absolutely,” Laimbeer said to Etan Thomas on The Rematch podcast (h/t Marlowe Alter of the Detroit Free Press, via USA Today).
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Pau Gasol eyeing Laker return?

Unfortunately, Marc didn’t have any breaking news regarding that prospect during his interview with Allie Cliffton of Spectrum SportsNet on Wednesday, but he did say that Pau would almost certainly welcome a reunion with the Lakers if the opportunity presented itself: “I’m not a very social media guy, but I know Pau loves L.A. and loves the Lakers. Obviously he feels like it’s home, so I’m sure that he would love to come back, but that’s question for Rob and ownership.”
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