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Jordan says in his prime he could beat LeBron one-on-one

Oct 1, 2013, 10:36 AM EDT

Michael Jordan AP

Michael Jordan’s competitiveness hasn’t gone away.

NBA 2K14 hit store shelves today and with that 2KSports released a promotional video where they talked to Jordan about the competitive fire that drove him. That transitioned into questions of if Jordan thought could beat LeBron James or today’s other elite players one-on-one if he was still in his prime.

“I don’t think I would lose. Other than to Kobe Bryant because he steals all of my moves.”

What did you expect Jordan to say? Oh, and nice little dig at Kobe.

It’s a big hypothetical but I could see the argument that Jordan would beat LeBron one-on-one — Jordan was the better pure scorer. LeBron could be a bull getting to the rim, however both guys can defend. It comes down to this: If I need a guy to put the leather thing through the round thing, I’ll take MJ. And that’s what wins in on-on-one games.

If you want to make the argument LeBron is a better basketball player than Jordan, you argue for skills that do not help him in one-on-one games — passing, defending multiple positions, rebounding.

By the way, let me say this about the Jordan/LeBron comparisons (because that is where the comments will end up going anyway): There are two different arguments I think should be kept separate but get co-mingled. One is the resume argument — who has the better career accomplishments? Right now that is Jordan (LeBron is 29, we haven’t seen his full resume yet). LeBron may never win this battle, not only does Jordan have more rings but he came along at the right time with the right marketing behind him to become a cultural influence in a way LeBron could never duplicate. Nobody can. We’ll talk resumes when LeBron retires, but Jordan may well win the argument.

However, that is a separate argument from “who is the better player?” Resume is impacted by the players on your team and the quality of opponents, but who is the better player on the court is a barstool debate where you can argue either side (Jordan is the better scorer, LeBron has a better all-around game). This argument is a matter of opinion, although most people’s opinion will fall to the same side.

  1. bbk1000 - Oct 1, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    I never liked Jordan…I never liked Miller, but that said I’d take either Jordan or Miller over LeBron anyday…..

    There is something for heart….Jordan and Miller did it the right way……LBJ….haha

    • ishiibrad - Oct 2, 2013 at 1:08 AM

      Id rather take Rodman also! You may not like him privately,but he played with his heart !

    • tswreh - Oct 2, 2013 at 7:43 AM

      Question: what heart did Jordan have to display at age 18-20 when he was playing with my Tarheels at UNC… what heart did he display during the 1980’s when he was in the league with Magic, Bird, Isiah when they were in their prime..

      Answer: None!!! I’m not saying it wasn’t in him but he was a kid at UNC playing with the likes of James Worthy and Sam Perkins at UNC… in the NBA, Jordan did nothing but score until Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson came to Chicago.. Jordan’s heart and “will to win” only showed up when he had help and he matured later in his career.

      Compare that to LeBron who led a team of no-names to the NBA finals in year 3 of his NBA career.. he didn’t have Russell Westbook and James Hardin like KD did either.. That’s like saying KD doesn’t have heart because he lost the finals to the Heat… LBJ doesn’t even have the team that Magic and Bird did early in their careers..

      At the same age Jordan started to display this HEART you speak about, LBJ has dominated the league full of superstar players.. Jordan’s dominance came after Magic, Bird, and Isiah had their way with the league and on their way out.. Jordan dominated the league and kept people like Barkley, Malone, Ewing, and Miller from having rings.. Great players but not the competition he had in the 80’s and could never get past..

      Final point: Jordan was a great off-ball defender but he was NOT the guy to guard the other team’s best player.. that was Scottie!! Jordan could not guard Magic because he was too big.. think about that.. Magic Johnson was too big for Jordan but yet he thinks he can guard LeBron who is bigger, stronger, faster, with ALL of Magic’s skills plus so much more… PLEASE!!! Don’t let nostalgia make you stupid.. Read the final 2 paragraphs of the article again before you comment..

  2. ProBasketballPundit - Oct 1, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    Bill Russell would beat MJ one-on-one… so what? I don’t watch And-1 tournaments or street ball… I watch the NBA. Only thing that matters to me is how a guy’s skills help the team win. All that selfish young MJ liked to do was make it rain on the D but then team-oriented Phil Jackson reined him in and together they reign. Homonyms FTW!

    • asimonetti88 - Oct 1, 2013 at 5:33 PM

      Bill Russell shot 44% from the field for his career.

      • thetooloftools - Oct 1, 2013 at 9:51 PM

        bill russell has 11 rings. who cares. he owns it all.

  3. hildezero - Oct 1, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    Where on the article does it say that MJ would beat LeBron 1-on1? I didn’t read it.

    • jdillydawg - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:31 PM

      Other than the fifth paragraph, which references it in roundabout way and only alludes to the two parties partaking in a match without any other team members, you’re absolutely correct.

      Nothing at all.

  4. pacers24 - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    The generation gap is very apparent in here. Anyone who is doubting MJ in any way is probably 22 or younger and never even watched him play live in person or on TV. Just like 20 years from now these kids will be beating their head against the wall when the next superstar is compared to LBJ

    and round and round it goes

    • tswreh - Oct 2, 2013 at 7:53 AM

      Not exactly.. I saw MJ play and I saw that he could not guard Magic Johnson (because he was too big)… MJ never was the guy to guard the other teams best player.. that was Scottie who was the lockdown on-ball defender.. MJ was a great off-ball defender, coming from the backside to get steals.. If he couldn’t guard Magic Johnson, how in the WORLD do you expect him to guard LeBron James.. I don’t even think it’s even debatable that LBJ has a better collection of skills than Jordan… but then you put that into his body size with his strength and speed..

      Jordan could guard and may beat Reggie Miller (assuming Reggie had LBJ’s skills) but that’s not the size, speed, and strength of LBJ.. there’s no way!! If we were talking about 1on1 with any other player (even Kobe’s size) I think Jordan would win but Jordan has already shown that he CANNOT defend larger players 1on1..

      Maybe you’re still stuck on rings (see Bill Russell) and trying to also argue that Eli is better than Peyton..

  5. mannyicey - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    Ok, I have another silly argument:

    Who’s the better entertainer- Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson or whoever’s out right now. Here’s why it’s so silly:
    Elvis and Michael’s prime was at times that would never again be duplicated. For instance, Elvis did his pelvic thrusts on black and white TV, singing blues songs in the 50s. Back then, he was considered vulgar, but yet they never seen a white dude singing that kind of music.

    Oh, and who would’ve thought to make mini-movies from music videos. For MTV. Back when MTV played music.

    Michael Jordan is in the same boat. Who would’ve thought that you basically had superstars at almost EVERY team! My 15 year-old son called the late 80s and 90s as the absolute BEST time to watch NBA basketball. And Jordan was the king. I mean, the guy dunked on Yosemite Sam. And Michael Jackson! At times, he simply didn’t look real!

    So you’re going to put Lebron in that same boat? You can’t. He gotta do legendary things first. He gotta do something that you’ve never seen!

    But I think that Lebron will go down in history as an NBA legend. I think he’s going to do something that will put him up there with the best of the best. I think that my son will look at Lebron like how we look at MJ.

    • adamsjohn714 - Oct 2, 2013 at 3:23 PM

      So he needs to dunk on Yosemite Sam? I’m confused.

  6. bgb77 - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    Jordan needs to let it go…I’m not a huge Lebron fan, but still…let it go…as for his snarky comment regarding Kobe “stealing all his moves”…what ever happened to the thought of imitation is the finest form of flattery?

    • tcclark - Oct 1, 2013 at 9:57 PM

      You’re expecting Michael Jordan to be someone he isn’t. He is the MOST competitive person in the world. If you told him he wasn’t the most competitive he’d find a way to prove you wrong just so he could win at that too. You will hear stuff like this from Michael until the day he dies because he wants to remain the greatest of all-time.

    • dodohead418 - Oct 2, 2013 at 7:47 AM

      I agree that he will go down as a legend, but people will always remember how he joined the Heat for easy championships like Boxing fans will always remeber Mayweather for ducking fights.

  7. jdillydawg - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    This is kind of funny. I’m guessing the way all this went down was, “Hey Michael, we’re going to release NBA2K14 ini the fall and need to juice our marketing. You up for a little friendly trash talk to get people talking about it?”


    And here we are. Everybody’s talkin’ and the video guys are countin’ cash.

  8. doubleogator - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    an old friend of mine that I used to play baseball with used to say “the older you get, the better you were” so true…

  9. Hughes - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    “That transitioned into questions of if Jordan thought could beat LeBron James or today’s other elite players one-on-one if he was still in his prime.”

    Michael Jordan’s time may be in the past, but the question was whether he thought he could beat today’s elite players if he was still in his prime.

    These players are all great in their own regards, but basketball is a team sport. Without a decent supporting cast it’s unlikely you’re going to bring home a championship.

  10. antistratfordian - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    “Bag It, Michael!”

    People can tell immediately when a retired player is envious of another – they do what Jordan is doing. Pele does the same thing with Messi. Chamberlain did the same thing with Jordan. Jordan is now doing it with LeBron.

    I remember when I was a kid – mega fan of Jordan like everyone else, but probably more so – but there was Wilt always trying to discredit my Air Jordan. It just made him look like a cantankerous old grumper. But Jordan is now doing some of the same stuff. It’s sad to see my former hero reduced to this.

    If Wilt were still around he’d probably tell Jordan that you can’t stop the ascending reputation of a perceived legacy threat with barbs in the press – it doesn’t work.

  11. detectivejimmymcnulty - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    Who cares? Seriously we don’t even get to see 1 on 1 from todays players.

    For what it’s worth Lebron is not a great 1 on 1 player. That’s not a knock on him at all but what makes Lebron great is how he makes players around him better. Melo gets no love in this debate because my money is on Melo in 1 on 1 against todays players.

    • tswreh - Oct 2, 2013 at 8:03 AM

      Great point.. Melo is easily the best scorer in the league.. I think Melo would KILL Jordan 1 on 1.. because Melo can score and Jordan cannot handle his size on defense.. Does that make Melo a better “player” than Jordan, I’m not that stupid!!! but 1 on 1 he’ll take Jordan..

      I repeat what I’ve said in previous comments.. We’ve seen Jordan defend larger players 1 on 1.. Jordan could not guard Magic Johnson.. it took Scottie Pippen to guard Magic and other teams best players.. Not knocking Jordan but he wasn’t that dude.. stop the noise and appreciate what Jordan did for the game and understand that LBJ is doing what so many have tried and failed to do.. He has breaking out of MJ’s shadow and establishing his own identity.. just like Jordan when he stepped out of Dr. J’s shadow.. LBJ has an opportunity to stand on his own as the greatest of all time surpassing Jordan until the next person comes along to pass him.. the cycle!!

  12. aboogy123456 - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    Not everybody can just bowl over people like lebron does. Lebron is the most physically gifted basketball player of all time, so he never really needed to diversify his game like kobe or MJ did.

    • shanydawg - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:54 PM

      Yet he did diversify his game anyway didn’t he – improved his post up – improved his jumper – improved his 3 pointer – improved his defense (all 5 positions) – all in the last 3 years.

      • aboogy123456 - Oct 1, 2013 at 4:13 PM

        yes that’s a good point. Lebron works hard on his game and he improved, but he doesn’t have all the offensive diversity that kobe or MJ has. Kobe improved everything as well, but then he added other elements to his game (like the dirk stepback) to give himself even more options. Lebron is great don’t get me wrong, but you can see when someone like Kawhi leonard can match him physically, he runs out of options to score.

      • adamsjohn714 - Oct 2, 2013 at 3:27 PM

        unfortunately for Kobe, all his “improvements” in those areas didn’t make him better at them. The guy is still a below average 3pt. shooter.

  13. antistratfordian - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    “MJ, might be better scorer but Lebron is the better overall player..” – bluflower010

    I don’t even think MJ is a better scorer in a 1-on-1 setting. In an NBA 5-on-5 setting over time he might be – but LeBron can score as well as anyone in history when he needs to. In fact, LeBron has scored as furiously, or more so, than Jordan several times in several games. We’ve all seen it. It just didn’t continue over 4 quarters because, as LeBron says, his game won’t let him be selfish. But he can own a quarter via points as well as anyone. After all, he does hold the record for most consecutive points scored in a playoff game.

    So we know that James can also be a historically unstoppable scoring machine. Ergo, when it comes to scoring in a 1 on 1 setting I think LeBron actually has an advantage because, as the LeBron-hating Gregg Doyel says: “LeBron is bigger, faster, stronger than Jordan. Possibly a better shooter and defender.”

    And I’d add that LeBron is probably also smarter – more intelligent. So here we have him at least as a scoring equal in short spurts (as a 1 on 1 game would be), but better in nearly everything else.

    In any case, scoring is where some people miss the boat on LeBron. He’s such a great passer that they forget that he’s also one of the greatest scorers the game has ever seen.

  14. shanydawg - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    In a related non-story… Animal, the muppet drummer says he’d be better than Buddy Rich if he were a human. Film at 11.

  15. isujames - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    M.J is absolutely right, Lebron has no midrange game to go with his size,speed, and athleticism and Kobe is a cheap imitation of Jordan.His game closely resembles my boy as much as I hate to admit it.

    • adamsjohn714 - Oct 2, 2013 at 3:30 PM

      you do know Lebron is one of the best midrange shooters in the game right?

  16. money2long - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    jordan is simply a better player than lebron. lebron uses his physicality well. and plays with dominance. jordan has mastered the skill part of the game . he is the best.

  17. isujames - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    How can someone that can’t create their own shot dominate anyone much less the greatest that ever played bball?

  18. shanydawg - Oct 1, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    I’m so sick of this idiotic conversation. I thought this sort of thing was beneath Michael. Apparently I was wrong. An old, desperate hero of days long past still trying to grab glory from todays best. Is your legacy being threatened Michael – do you feel the need to defend yourself? Give it a rest – you were really really really really really good. We all agree. If you can’t retire with class – then just go away, count your money and polish your rings while laughing manically. Your time is DONE.

  19. florida727 - Oct 1, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    I covered the Bulls during Jordan’s prime for a small sports radio station, so I’m biased, but I don’t think anyone could beat hm one-on-one when in his prime. He was the greatest bail-out player of all time. Although LeBron’s game continues to grow, he’s still not as multi-dimensional as Jordan. LeBron beats you with pure strength; he might be the most physically gifted player ever, but Jordan was just a great “athlete”. Biased, I know, but I’d probably vote for Jordan.

    • tswreh - Oct 2, 2013 at 8:13 AM

      with your up close insight, admitted bias, and knowledge.. plus the understanding that Jordan’s resume is complete and static while LeBron’s is still being written and incomplete… I find it very interesting and telling that in the end, you said that you’d “probably vote for Jordan”…

      This speaks volumes to the fact that the trajectory that LeBron is on will eclipse Jordan’s shadow.. With his incomplete resume, the question is not even, “is LeBron better than Kobe?”… that’s not even up for debate.. in the middle of his prime, we’re talking about comparing him to MJ and the argument can be (and has been) made that LeBron has a better skillset than Jordan.. you may disagree but that’s fine.. great comment by the way.. I disagree with your opinion but I like it.

  20. katra2logic - Oct 1, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    Methinks Jordan figures he could best J.C. on a court in the middle of a lake…

  21. golfrangeman - Oct 1, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    How do you barely get 2? Last time I checked a rings a ring

    • jimeejohnson - Oct 2, 2013 at 11:13 AM

      Hateful, jealous losers gonna be petty, pea-brain schmucks.

  22. chi01town - Oct 2, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    GET MAD AT JORDAN ” if he tell a lie” the truth is JORDAN IS HANDS DOWN THE GREATEST BASKETBALL PLAYER THE GAME HAS EVER SEEN!! and NOBODY IS EVEN CLOSE and I mean NOBODY. The proof can be found on DVD, and if thats not enough count the RINGS!! the man repeated the three peat.

  23. pistolpete0903 - Oct 2, 2013 at 3:51 AM

    MJ is a superior BASKETBALL player; LBJ is a superior ATHLETE.
    Really comparing apples to orange here.
    LBJ is a better defender because of his size, speed and strength; MJ is a better scorer because of his skills, shooting ability and fundamentals.

    To each his own.

    • jimeejohnson - Oct 2, 2013 at 11:12 AM

      As always, great post.

    • antistratfordian - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:32 AM

      There is a misconception about MJ’s scoring prowess. Jordan didn’t win 10 scoring titles because he was the best scorer in the NBA. He won 10 scoring titles because he made the scoring titles themselves a prominent goal.

      He had to actually convince Phil Jackson to allow him to keep going for his scoring titles after the triangle was installed – they had a conversation about it – it’s detailed in several of Phil Jackson’s books. In The Jordan Rules MJ is quoted as saying, “he’s not going to let me win the scoring title.” Jordan would say things like, “I only have to score 8 points a quarter to average 32 a game, so that shouldn’t be hard” and then he’d go out and made sure to score 8 points a quarter just to keep his average up. So scoring titles and scoring averages by themselves were goals for Michael Jordan. That doesn’t necessarily mean he is a better scorer than someone like LeBron – he just had different values.

      But when both LeBron and Jordan found themselves in situations where their priorities might line up and are the same – say in an elimination game, or a game 7 – LeBron James has proven to be every bit the scorer that Jordan was.

  24. antistratfordian - Oct 3, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    And now MJ backs off his comment… now he’s not sure, says it’s just for fun…

    “We can’t know. We can never know, across generations. You imagine it. You think about what might happen, particularly with the guys you think are the best of the best and then say, ‘That was fun … but we don’t know.’ I said I ‘think’ I wouldn’t lose, and people are offended by that?”

    He should’ve said that initially.

  25. abetterdj - Oct 5, 2013 at 3:00 AM

    As an old timer that has seen both players play extensively from college on. I have to say without a doubt that a prime Michael Jordan would beat LBJ.

    Michael did what he did against a much stronger league with a lot more great defenders that were allowed more contact than today’s rules.

    Yes LBJ is bigger and stronger and bowls people over without getting called for the offensive fouls and extra steps he takes, but Jordan would go around people, blow by people, and fly to the rim. I was at the game sitting in the front row under the basket when MJ went up on the right side of the basket, switched hands and direction, and put up a left handed reverse layup on the left side of the rim.

    I’m not downplaying that LBJ is the best player in the league right now, but I would have to say a prime uninjured Kobe would have a better chance against Jordan than a prime LBJ. If you want a fair head to head how about LBJ against a prime Magic Johnson?

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