The never-ending GOAT debate between Michael Jordan and LeBron James was recently brought up again. During an interview with Bovada, Brandon Robinson had the opportunity to ask 4-time NBA Champion John Salley a few questions.
One of these questions had to do with Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Robinson asked Salley if the LeBron and Michael debates are getting old. John Salley responded:
“Yeah, it’s old because it’s eras away. It’s 2022. Michael played up until I think, 2001.”
Salley then explained how Kobe Bryant wouldn’t exist without Michael Jordan. Bryant may be a better comparison to MJ in terms of playing style. Salley said that LeBron James seems to be a better comparison to another Lakers legend, Magic Johnson.
“Without Michael, there’s no Kobe. There’s no ‘that style’ because they just emulate Michael,” Salley said.
Should LeBron James be compared to Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson?
For most of his basketball career, LeBron James has always been compared to Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. In high school, a young James had already received significant praise from the basketball world. He was already an all-around player who could score like Jordan and pass like Magic.
After the Cleveland Cavaliers selected him with the number one pick in the 2003 NBA draft, LeBron outperformed expectations. But who should King James be compared to?
Jordan and Magic were both competitive players. Jordan was more of a score-first player who always took charge of taking important shots. On the other hand, Magic was a pass-first guy who could also score the basket when needed. Magic averaged 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists in his career.
LeBron, however, is the best of both worlds. Despite admitting and proving that he is a pass-first player, he is also an efficient scorer. The main reason LeBron is always compared to Jordan is that the Bulls legend is the consensus GOAT. Jordan averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists during his career.
However, if one were to analyze LeBron’s playing style thoroughly, it resembles Magic’s more than Jordan’s. He may not have Magic’s highlight reel passing, but the efficiency is undeniable. LeBron frequently finds the open man. LeBron has averaged 27.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.4 assists in his career.
While James and Magic’s playing style is more similar, Michael Jordan will always be the standard for the GOAT debate.