Most Jordan fans state that, even though LeBron James may be considered the best overall player between the two, Jordan was clearly a superior defender, even considering he won a Defensive Player of the Year award.
However, Undisputed’s Shannon Sharpe thinks otherwise, as he thinks Jordan wouldn’t be able to guard one through five the same way LeBron James did in the 2013 NBA Finals vs. the San Antonio Spurs.
“Michael Jordan was an unbelievable defender, but he could not guard the positions that LeBron James could. We watched LeBron James guard Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Tim Duncan & Boris Diaw in one game. So he took Tony Parker when they started the game and when they went small, he guarded Tim Duncan, so that’s one through five. That’s what he did. Now, we saw Michael Jordan in game 1 of the 1991 Finals try to guard Magic Johnson and Magic put a triple-double on his head. That’s a fact. It wasn’t until Phil Jackson put Scottie (Pippen) on Magic and Scottie hounded Magic up and down the court that it flipped the series,” Sharpe claimed.
Michael Jordan was an unbelievable defender, but he could not guard the positions LeBron could. We watched LeBron guard Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili, Kawhi, Tiago Splitter, Tim Duncan & Boris Diaw in one Finals. pic.twitter.com/4UboAhUz6i
— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) May 13, 2020
While Sharpe has a valid point here, he’s missing a couple of key facts. For starters, the Miami Heat were actually down 3-2 in that series and it wasn’t until Ray Allen’s clutch three that they could turn the tables around, so it wasn’t like LeBron or the Heat put the clamps on anybody there.
Second, that same Spurs team came back the very next year with pretty much the same roster and got the best of the Heat in just 5 games, so there’s that.
Size-wise, strength-wise, James clearly has the upper hand over Jordan. He can match up against everybody on the court, that’s a fact. It’s also a fact that one thing’s being able to guard them and a whole completely different is locking them down.
And no disrespect to those great Spurs legends whatsoever, but they were mostly far beyond their prime and weren’t exactly reeking of athleticism at the time.