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Magic Johnson: “Michael Jordan is the Greatest One-on-One Player”

Sep 21, 2013, 7:30 PM EDT

Magic Johnson Getty Images

Ask one of the greatest players of all-time if he could beat someone else one-on-one, and you can usually predict the answer. Professional athletes have to think very, very highly of themselves. You can’t be one of the best if you don’t think you are. It’s just how it works.

That’s why you don’t see many elite athletes come out and say, “I would lose because he’s better than I am” and just leave it at that. Even when they’re retired.

Magic Johnson almost did, though. He came super close.

When Magic Johnson was asked who would win a game of one-one between him and Michael Jordan, he didn’t hesitate.

“Michael would win. That’s not my game. My game is assisting, setting up my teammates. Michael’s the greatest one-on-one player. I couldn’t go out and drop 60 like him, but he couldn’t run a team like I could.”

Via Jon Becker of the Midland Daily News (hat tip to Hoopsworld.com)

Magic was heaping on the praise for Jordan and showing some impressive humility, but then he almost seemed to have an epiphany halfway through, like, hey, I’m Magic freakin’ Johnson.

And let’s make something clear: Magic is right. He couldn’t go out and drop 60. He couldn’t even drop 50, as 46 points was his career-high. It just wasn’t in his blood to play that way, even on the nights he couldn’t miss.

And while Jordan could run a team in the sense that he’d handle all of the scoring and pass once (if?) he was slowed down, he was never the distributor Magic was. In 1251 career regular season and playoff games, Jordan registered double-digit assists only 94 times.

Both players stuck to their strengths, and their careers worked out pretty okay, I think.

But while we’re here, in standard one-on-one rules (make-it take-it, game to 11 by all ones, take-out on all fouls) give me prime Yao Ming over everyone. He’s about a foot taller than Jordan, he could shoot from range if he got bored of slowly backing down in the post, and he’d get every rebound and make MJ shoot from distance. Michael Jordan ain’t stopping Yao once (if?) he gets the ball, you know?

These are the things we think about in the offseason, of course. Can real actual NBA games start soon, please? Pretty please?

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