Without a doubt, Michael Jordan and LeBron James are two of the greatest players in NBA history. Their impact on the game is surreal, thanks to their amazing skill sets and accolades. They also have a tremendous impact off the court and are two of the most famous athletes in the history of sports.
As a result, many fans and pundits argue whether Jordan or James is the better player. To find an answer, they always compare Jordan’s six rings to LeBron’s three rings. While this is not entirely fair, it is important to distinguish between the competition of both of these players.
Who had greater competition? Who would win if Jordan’s competition faced LeBron’s competition in a one on one game? Let’s find out.
Point Guard: Magic Johnson vs. Stephen Curry
This is one of the most intriguing matchups, as both of these players play different styles of basketball. Before Michael Jordan took over the league, Magic was the main man and poster boy that was winning everything. At the same time, Curry has proven to be the poster boy of a Warriors team that has given LeBron James a ton of headaches (and finals losses) over the last few years.
Magic is a tremendous playmaker and rebounder while Curry is a phenomenal shooter. Due to his ability to lead a team in big moments, Magic is the tougher competition.
Shooting Guard: Reggie Miller vs. Kobe Bryant
Next up, Miller and Bryant. Miller is one of the best shooters in NBA history, while also being one of the most clutch players as well. Miller was a big hot maker who thrived under pressure, and always took and made big shots.
Similarly, Kobe Bryant was a killer on the court and one of the most deadly clutch players in history. Kobe captured five NBA titles, mainly due to his offensive prowess and ability to lock up guards on the other end.
While Miller was always a threat thanks to his shooting, Kobe was simply a better player who managed to win two NBA titles while LeBron was in the league. Miller was not able to defeat Jordan while they were still playing.
Small Forward: Larry Bird vs. Kevin Durant
Another intriguing matchup, Bird and Durant are incredible talents who are both top 5 in their positions all-time. Durant, of course, is not finished yet.
Bird is a legend and one of the top 10 best players ever. His shooting, rebounding, and killer instinct were renowned and everyone in the league feared and respected him. Bird would trash talk a lot, and then back it up. There was not anything anyone could do about it, and he managed to win three NBA championships this way.
Durant is one of the purest scorers we have ever seen. Standing at nearly 7 feet tall, he can shoot over anyone and average 50-40-90 from the field. Durant is extremely efficient and has also developed into an incredible defender as well.
Bird was arguably Jordan’s biggest challenge, along with Magic, and is a legend of the highest order. Durant joined forces with a 73-win team to wipe the floor with most of the league while LeBron was with the Cavs. Since the Warriors, as a whole, were LeBron’s major problem; Bird was a more impactful player.
Power Forward: Karl Malone vs. Tim Duncan
Probably the top two power forwards of all time, Duncan and Malone were amazing NBA players. Malone is the second-highest scorer in NBA history, while Duncan was the main man for the Spurs who managed to win 5 NBA titles.
While Malone was a better offensive scorer, Duncan simply took over the game with his defense and rebounding. Duncan was also the key cog on offense even when he wasn’t scoring 25 points a game. He was a tremendous passer with a very high basketball i.q.
Since Duncan stopped LeBron in the finals twice, he was the better competition.
Center: Hakeem Olajuwon vs. Dwight Howard
Finally, the center position. Both players defended very well, as two of the best defensive bigs of all time, but Hakeem was leaps and bounds above Dwight on offense. Hakeem was literally a scoring machine and led the rockets to two straight NBA titles when Jordan briefly retired.
As good as Dwight Howard was, and he was easily the best big man in the league in his prime, Hakeem was on another level.
This will be a very close game, as expected. The scoring will be tight, and some rough defense will be played by both teams. In terms of the scoring charts, Hakeem and Bryant will do most of the damage. Hakeem will be a force in the paint, even though Howard is a defensive monster. Hakeem’s footwork and offensive capabilities proved too much for young Shaquille O’Neal, and it will for Dwight Howard.
Duncan and Malone will effectively cancel each other out.
Bryant will find it easy to score on Miller, who isn’t much of a defensive stopper. Miller will still be there for the clutch and timely buckets, so he will always have an impact.
Larry Legend will make his mark on the game with his shooting, and so will Stephen Curry. KD will score some incredible buckets and showcase some deep range shooting as well. But Magic Johnson will be the best player on the court, making sublime passes and putting everybody in a position to succeed.
The combination of Magic’s leadership, Hakeem’s post dominance, and Bird’ shooting will prove to be too much for Kobe and Duncan. Too much firepower, too much class. Jordan’s competition takes the game.