The argument is over. All discussions regarding the NBA’s greatest G.O.A.T. are to cease and desist immediately. While we’re at it, Association followers can sculpt the Mount Rushmore of the best players to ever dribble a basketball.
Michael Jordan shocked the basketball world when he stepped away from the NBA after the 1993 season and pursued a career in professional baseball for two years. Even some of his teammates said they were stunned by the announcement. But there was one person who knew it was coming: Jordan’s dad.
During episode 7 of “The Last Dance” documentary on ESPN, Jordan said his father was the only person who knew about the plans.
“After we won the (1993) championship, I sat in the gym with my father. In the back of my mind, I knew that was probably my last game. And nobody really knew except my father and myself,” Jordan said in the documentary.
Michael said he viewed his father as a friend as much as a dad.
“He was my rock. We were very close. He constantly gave advice.”
Pippen has indicated in the past he believes that to be true, so it would only be natural for him to feel some bitterness about all the attention Jordan gets.
According to Jordan’s agent, Pippen has always been downright jealous.
David Falk, Jordan’s longtime agent, joined The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan in Washington this week to discuss ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary series. Falk has seen the entire 10-part series, and apparently Pippen shows a jealous side in the episodes that have yet to air. Falk alluded to that.
“Pippen has a certain level of jealousy towards Michael,” Falk said, as transcribed by Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “He has said recently many times he thinks LeBron’s a better player. Now, if you’re Scottie Pippen, and Michael Jordan made your career, completely made your career; even if you think that, keep it to yourself.”
We’ll have to wait to see if Pippen made any Jordan-LeBron James comparisons in the documentary, but Pippen said several years ago that LeBron may be the greatest player ever. His opinion was that Jordan has a better legacy and is a better winner, but LeBron may be more talented.
“The Last Dance” documentary about Michael Jordan has been a runaway smash for ESPN in this sports-starved climate, but the legendary NBA player and cultural icon will not profit monetarily from it.
A “By the Numbers” breakdown of “The Last Dance” by Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes relays that Jordan will donate his entire share of the proceeds he was in line to pocket from the documentary to unidentified charitable causes.
That amount is believed to be somewhere between $3 million and $4 million, according to the report.
Of course, Jordan is incredibly well off financially — to put it mildly — so that amount of money for someone of his immense wealth is a relative pittance. That being said, that does not diminish the generosity of his gesture.
Here’s a look back at notable sports news on April 20 through the years.
1986: In a first-round playoff game against an all-time great Celtics team, the Bulls lost in two overtimes, 135-131, but Michael Jordan was magnificent in defeat. Weeks after returning from a foot injury that limited him to only 18 regular-season games, the Bulls’ superstar scored a playoff-record 63 points.
The Celtics and Bulls were in awe.
“I would never have called him the greatest player I’d ever seen if I didn’t mean it,” Boston’s Larry Bird told reporters afterward. “It’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
“I was watching the game,” Celtics coach K.C. Jones said, “and all I could see was this giant Jordan out there and everybody else in the background.”
Thirty minutes after the game, the Bulls’ Orlando Woolridge sat at his locker, staring at the stat sheet. “Wow,” he said, slowly shaking his head. “Incredible.”
Said Bulls coach Stan Albeck: “This has to be the greatest individual performance in playoff history.”
Jordan’s point total topped the previous record of 61, set by the Lakers’ Elgin Baylor in 1962. Jordan’s stat line: 53 minutes, 22-for-41 from the field, 19-for-21 from the free-throw line, six assists, three steals. (MJ still holds the scoring record for a playoff game.)
“I wanted to win the game so badly,” Jordan told reporters, “that the points don’t even dignify anything, don’t even mean anything to me.”
You might be a Jordan guy. You might be a LeBron guy. Any way you slice it, Michael Jordan and LeBron James are the best to ever play basketball.
When ESPN drops the 10-part “The Last Dance” documentary series Sunday night [ESPN, 9 ET], it will serve as a reinforcement of Jordan’s nearly unblemished resume as basketball’s G.O.A.T. The doc will have highlights and commentary on his best games and greatest achievements of his career. It. Will. Be. Amazing.
It will also be difficult for people to watch the documentary series and not have it warp their opinions in all of the subsequent MJ vs. LeBron debates that undoubtedly will follow. Thus, to help those who aim to be objective, I’ve ranked in inverse order the top 25 games Michael Jordan and LeBron James have played.
There are 12 games for Jordan; 13 for LeBron. Maybe that’s because I’m a LeBron guy. Or maybe it’s because games such as this, this and this — all of which happened in the span of 87 days — had to be left off the honorable mention.
Damian Lillard went nuts on Monday night leading his Portland Trail Blazers to a 129-124 overtime win over the Golden State Warriors.
Lillard was great from long range and made all his free throws while scoring a franchise record 61 points in the ballgame. This marked Lillard’s second career 60-point game (his first came in November against Brooklyn).
Lillard joins Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, James Harden and Elgin Baylor as the only players in NBA history with more than one 60-point game.
That’s some exclusive company.
Lillard was 17/37 from the field, 11/20 on threes, and went 16/16 from the line. He entered the game sixth in the league with 27.1 points per game this season.
The NBA has never been in a better place than it is now in terms of popularity, excitement and quality of play. The league has a number of things to thank for that, most notably its superstars led by the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, who continue to perform at a high level. And as we’ve seen in recent years from players such as Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, Father Time remains undefeated.
The best way to delay the inevitable athletic decline is to enhance new skills and play a less physically taxing brand of basketball. Take Dirk Nowitzki, for example. He developed a tough-to-block-shot — a one-legged fadeaway jumper that allowed him to get a high-percentage shot off anywhere on the court — and he remained one of the best offensive players in basketball until late in his career.
Let’s take a look at a handful of today’s older superstars and see if there’s a historical parallel they can model their games after to help them age gracefully into the twilight of their careers. As far as my criteria, a player must:
Be a future Hall of Famer (sorry Jimmy Butler!)
Still be playing at an All-NBA level (sorry Chris Paul!)
Be entering at least his ninth season.
LEBRON JAMES, LAKERS, 17th season (turning 35 this season)
Twilight should mirror: Magic Johnson, seasons 10 thru 12, 29-31 years old. Key three-year averages: 21.4 points, 12.3 assists, 7.1 rebounds per game.
Because of his Karl Malone-like frame, most assumed LeBron would move up positions (small forward to power forward to center) as his career progressed. While he’s clearly capable of that progression as evidenced by him dominating the restricted area throughout his career, he continues to develop his guard skills (8.8 assists per game the past three seasons) to evolve with the wide-open, perimeter-oriented evolution of the game. Put differently, he’s already adopted the Magic Johnson career evolution over the Karl Malone one, so he might as well take it full tilt and become a point guard now that he has a go-to scorer in Anthony Davis whom he can rely upon. Assuming good health, it wouldn’t be surprising to see James flirt with double-digit assists per game this season.
STEPHEN CURRY, WARRIORS, 11th season (turning 32 this season)
Twilight should mirror: Steve Nash, seasons 12 thru 16, 33-37 years old. Key five-year averages: 33.9 minutes, 15.4 points, 10.8 assists per game, 51-43-92 shooting splits.
Curry always will be a better scorer than Nash ever was, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t try to mimic the latter stages of Nash’s career as he ages out of his physical prime. When Curry can no longer shake the NBA’s best defenders out of their shoes, he’ll need to focus more on his playmaking (only 5.2 assists per game last season) to remain an elite offensive weapon into his mid-30s. Nash, a player development consultant for the Warriors, was still playing at an All-Star level until his final season in Phoenix by keeping defenses on edge with his brilliant orchestration of pick-and-rolls and willingness to pass up good shots for great shots. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Curry do the same.
KEVIN DURANT, NETS, his next season will be his 13th (turning 31 this season)
Twilight should mirror: Dirk Nowitzki, seasons 11 thru 14, 30-33 years old. Key four-year averages: 24.1 points, 7.5 rebounds per game 48-38-90 shooting splits.
Given what we know about the effect Achilles injuries have on a basketball player’s athleticism, Durant is going to be a different kind of player when we next see him on the court. He’ll still have his amazing bucket-getting skills, but he probably won’t have the same kind of quickness and leaping ability, making this comparison even more apt. Like Dirk, KD has the height (7 feet) and length to get a shot off anywhere on the court. Thus, even if Durant can’t get to the rim like he has his entire career (7.7 free throw attempts per game for his career), he should be able to score 25 per game until he’s 40 if he masters some of the fadeaways, pump fakes and moves Dirk had. Good news Nets fans: He’s already pretty damn good at the one-legged fadeaway.
JAMES HARDEN, ROCKETS, 11th season (30 years old)
Twilight should mirror: A super version of Manu Ginobili, seasons 7 thru 9, 31-33 years old. Key three-year per-36 minute averages: 20.7 points, 5.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 2.6 turnovers per-36.
I used per-36 averages because Ginobili played only 28.9 minutes per game during this stretch, and Harden will almost certainly be playing more minutes late into his career. When Harden loses his insanely quick first step and elite ability to change speed and direction, he can still be one of the best offensive players in the league by constantly attacking defenses the way Ginobili did his entire career for the Spurs. Ginobili’s ability to play an ultra-aggressive playing style while not turning the ball over was especially impressive. As Harden’s athleticism wanes, his insane usage rate will likely drop and he’ll need to give the ball to the other team less (5.0 turnovers per game the past three seasons). With Russell Westbrook, another record-setting player in terms of usage rate, set to join Harden this season, perhaps we’ll start to see him take care of the ball a little better -– if he doesn’t, the Rockets might be in trouble.
Michael Jordan issued a statement Thursday morning to congratulate LeBron James for passing him on the NBA all-time scoring list Wednesday night.
“I want to congratulate LeBron on achieving another great milestone during his amazing career,” Jordan’s statement read, via CNN’s Jill Martin.
James surpassed Jordan’s 32,292 career points during the second quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 115-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets, and by doing so became the fourth-most prolific scorer in NBA history.
James once admitted he’s chasing the “ghost” of Michael Jordan, and his pursuit of said so-called apparition will continue after Wednesday night’s accomplishment. After all, James has a long, long way to go to catch MJ in NBA titles, not to mention how the superstar has aspirations of one day emulating Jordan by becoming an NBA owner.
For one night, though, James allowed himself some time to reflect on such a remarkable achievement, one of the many countless accomplishments that ranks him among the greatest basketball players to ever take the court.
And then along came LeBron James, a challenger to the throne unlike any before him. The comparison between James and Jordan, once premature, is now fair to make. This is James’ 15th NBA season, matching Jordan’s total, and he has already played 71 more regular-season games and an incredible 49 more playoff games. With James still established as the league’s best player at age 33 and adding playoff game winners to his résumé seemingly by the week, the question is worth asking: Jordan or LeBron?
Championships added: James closing fast
Two years ago, when ESPN was ranking the best players in NBA history (result: Jordan first, with James third behind Abdul-Jabbar), I developed a metric that could evaluate the league’s greatest stars throughout the decades on a level playing field. The result was championships added, which uses Basketball-Reference.com’s win shares to estimate how much a player added to his team’s chances of walking away with the title that season based on regular-season and playoff performance.
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