Toni Kukoc: LeBron James and Michael cannot be compared; MJ is GOAT of basketball


Photo: NBA/YouTube screenshot

In the ongoing debate about who deserves the title of the greatest basketball player of all time (GOAT), the names LeBron James and Michael Jordan inevitably come up.However, according to Croatian basketball legend Toni Kukoc, comparing these two iconic players is a complex task, if not an impossible one.

Kukoc, a Hall of Famer himself, recently shared his insights in a conversation with Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson. He emphasized the inherent difficulty in comparing athletes who never competed in the same era or faced each other on the court.

“It’s hard to compare players that never played in the same era; that never played against each other,” Kukoc pointed out. “If they had some kind of record – either playing that their teams played against each other or their records individually head-to-head, then you can say this one had more wins than the other but not such a case.”

Kukoc acknowledged the evolution of the game and how modern players benefit from advancements in training, nutrition, and injury management.

“These days you can see all the older previous players and you can get all their moves,” he said. “You can practice those moves; you can get better ready because of the knowledge of what to eat and how to prepare yourself, how to get rid of your injuries faster, how to keep your body in shape.”

Kukoc went on to express his admiration for both players, noting that Jordan elevated basketball globally during his era, while LeBron’s impact has allowed emerging stars like Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic to shine.

“Michael obviously brought world basketball to another level,” Kukoc acknowledged. “And from that point on, LeBron is what LeBron is now that he gave a chance for Luka to be Luka or Jokic be Jokic.”

He drew parallels between Jordan’s influence in basketball and iconic figures in other sports, emphasizing that Jordan is undoubtedly the “GOAT of basketball.”

“So if I can compare Michael, I would compare him to Tiger with golf, Messi or Ronaldo with soccer, Phelps with swimming and stuff like that,” Kukoc stated. “Because of those things, Michael is – I can’t say the best player but he is a GOAT of basketball. I don’t think it’s selfish, it’s just the way it is.”

The former Chicago Bulls star also highlighted the challenge of comparing players across generations, particularly when fans on social media make judgments without having witnessed the games of past legends like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, and Elgin Baylor.

“I wish that you could put today’s players in the 90’s and have that way of basketball with the hard fouls and everything else and when you’re talking about these guys obviously there’s going to be players that say, ‘Yeah but what about Magic and Bird? What about Bill Russell? What about Elgin Baylor?’ Because in their era those guys were so dominant, that nobody else came close,: Kukoc continued.

“And then they say why would you and say disrespected and in a way it might be true because you’re not mentioning – especially now when you’re talking; people want to get on social media and these are all mid-20 or mid-30 years old that have never seen these guys play and they say, ‘Awww they were slower, they were not physically ready, they’re not this they’re not that…’ but they were scoring buckets from everywhere. They had so much skills; they knew basketball in their little finger.”

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