There is always that one player that you hate playing against. It’s not because you hate them on an individual basis, but it’s because that player just seems to slash away at your favorite team, resulting in you sulking in sorrow. For many fans of Eastern Conference teams in the mid-2000s and 2010s, LeBron James was hated just because he always seemed to get the last laugh. Before that, Michael Jordan was everyone’s nemesis.
When analyzing the stats, there is one player that stands above the rest. While Jordan and James lead the way, some other polarizing NBA players were every team’s worst nightmare. These players scored the highest points per game against them, resulting in these franchises wishing they would see a N/A attached to their name when they came to town.
NOTE: Players had to have at least played 10 games against the franchise to qualify as the leader.
Atlanta Hawks - Michael Jordan (29.9 PPG, 65 Games)
Zion Williamson gets the luxury of leading the leaderboard with one 34-point game, but the title goes to the GOAT. Jordan always got the upper hand on the Hawks during the days of Dominique Wilkins and Dikembe Mutombo. Atlanta was a competitive and strong defensive team back in the 1980s and 1990s. With that said, Jordan found a way to score nearly 30 points a night.
Boston Celtics - Michael Jordan (30.7 PPG, 56 Games)
In 56 games, Jordan scored just above 30 points per game but had two players close behind him. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 28.9 points in 62 games, while LeBron James also scored 28.9 points in 54 games. Technically, LeBron has a chance to beat Jordan in this category but would need a couple of 40-point games. Realistically, since LeBron plays in the West, he likely won’t get the points he needs to surpass Jordan.
Brooklyn Nets - Michael Jordan (29.9 PPG, 57 Games)
There is a real chance that Joel Embiid is going to overtake Jordan this season. In 13 games, Embiid owns an average of 29.1 points per game. LeBron is in the mix at 27.4 points. Both LeBron and Jordan have 57 meetings with the Nets. But, Embiid is closer and will play the Nets more often than James. With the current team’s defensive makeshift, Embiid could get this record sooner than later.
Charlotte Hornets - Michael Jordan (32.1 PPG, 37 Games)
In 37 games, Jordan bested the Hornets with Allen Iverson close behind at 28.3 points. LeBron rounds out the top three with 28.0 points in 52 games. What makes Jordan’s feat more impressive is that the Hornets were more competitive back then. LeBron faced some pretty bad Charlotte teams in his career, including the 2012 squad that won seven games.
Chicago Bulls - LeBron James (28.4 PPG, 59 Games)
Surprisingly enough, not a single player could average 30.0 or more points against the touch defensive Bulls. In the 1990s, the Bulls featured a tough unit that stretched into the 2000s and 2010s. Iverson averaged 28.3 points, which means if LeBron has a few bad games, Iverson could take over as champ. With that said LeBron has played the Bulls 59 times compared to Iverson’s 37 appearances.
Cleveland Cavaliers - Michael Jordan (30.6 PPG, 67 Games)
Can you guess who is second? You guessed it. When LeBron left for the Heat and Lakers, it gave him enough games to pile up 29.3 points. George Gervin and Iverson round out behind him but look out for Luka Doncic, who could take this title one day. In a handful of games, Doncic owns a 26.6 points average.
Dallas Mavericks - Adrian Dantley (29.2 PPG, 34 Games)
Some of you might be asking who Adrian Dantley is. He is a former six-time All-Star, 1977 Rookie of the Year, and the 1984 Comeback Player of the Year. Dantley gets the nod of Alec Peters, who scored 36 points in one game, Zion Williamson, who averages 31.7 points in three games, and Jalen Harris, who owns a 31-point game.
Denver Nuggets - Michael Jordan (29.4 PPG, 26 Games)
Dantley nearly took this award but came up short with 28.8 points against the Nuggets. In the modern era, Kevin Durant is close with 28.4 points in 43 games. Give Durant about 10 more meetings and he could get to the top. For now, the honor is grasped by Jordan.
Detroit Pistons - Wilt Chamberlain (33.9 PPG, 108 Games)
The leaderboard for this is so impressive on a variety of levels. For starters, Luka Doncic owns a 34.3 career average against Detroit in three games, while Williamson owns 29.0 in two games. However, Chamberlain averaged 33.9 points in 108 meetings. Even if Doncic or Williamson takes over, nothing is more impressive than what Chamberlain did back in the day.
Golden State Warriors - Kevin Durant (30.3 PPG, 32 Games)
How about this for irony? Everyone wants to crucify Durant for joining the Warriors. At the end of the day, he is the Warriors' nightmare. In 32 games, Durant is the only player in league history to average more than 30.0 points per game against the Warriors. Damian Lillard is close with 28.9 in 30 games, while Jordan is third with 28.6. Doncic has his name in the mix with 28.6 in limited action.
Houston Rockets - Michael Jordan (30.4 PPG)
Before Jordan, Jerry West owned this record with 27.8 points, while Kobe Bryant came close with 26.6 in 61 meetings. Keep an eye on the future of the game as Trae Young owns a 26.5 average in five games. Given the state of the Rockets, it’s not unlikely that Young could go off on the team in a couple of years and put his name ahead of Jordan.
Indiana Pacers - Michael Jordan (30.0 PPG, 26 Games)
Jordan and Reggie Miller were rivals back in their playing days. The Bulls and Pacers often met in the regular season, as well as the playoffs with Jordan getting the last laugh. Durant is close behind with 28.7 points, while Embiid is at 28.0. In 60 games, LeBron owns a career of 27.1, while Dominique Wilkins owns a 26.8 average in 65 games.
Los Angeles Clippers - George Gervin (29.6 PPG, 39 Games)
Give Embiid about a year and he will hold this title. In six games, Embiid owns an average of 32.0 points against the Clippers. Shockingly, former Clipper Blake Griffin owns a 29.0 average in three games. Kevin Durant owns the second-most points for now as he owns a 28.0 average in 52 games, while George Gervin accomplished his feet in 39 appearances.
Los Angeles Lakers - Wilt Chamberlain (39.5 PPG, 86 Games)
Chamberlain averaged nearly 40 points per game in 86 meetings with the Lakers. How impressive is that? Nobody comes close to Wilt’s greatness when it comes to playing against the Lakers. Embiid owns a 31.2 average in six contests, while Kareem averaged 31.1. You can’t forget about Oscar Robertson averaging 27.3 points in 105 games, which is just about one point short of both Lillard (28.4) and Jordan (28.9).
Memphis Grizzlies - Kevin Durant (26.9 PPG, 38 Games)
In 38 games, Durant owns the Grizzlies title, but his overall amount is significantly lower when you look at other marks against other franchises. The Grizzlies have a way of stopping scoring over the years. Outside of that one time, Sean Higgins scored 27 points and Williamson’s 26.8 average in four games, LeBron comes in second with 25.3 points per game.
Miami Heat - Michael Jordan (30.1 PPG, 38 Games)
Jordan, LeBron, and Durant are the three-headed Heat nightmare. Jordan accomplished his averager in 38 games, while LeBron (28.0) is second in 41 meetings. Durant is right behind with an average of 27.2 points per game.
Milwaukee Bucks - Michael Jordan (32.3 PPG, 66 Games)
Naturally, Jordan owns a high volume of scoring in a high volume of games (66). The Bucks were a divisional rival with the Bulls. LeBron comes in at second at 28.7, which also shouldn’t be a surprise given all the years he played with the Cavaliers. Iverson’s 28.2 average should be impressive in 39 meetings given that he played most of his career outside the division.
Minnesota Timberwolves - Michael Jordan (29.2 PPG, 18 Games)
Jordan averaged 29.2 points in 18 meetings, but will likely see this record taken away from him soon. For starters, Trae Young owns a 31.7 average in six games, while Zach LaVine owns a 28.9 average in seven games. If you were looking for a player with many meetings, that would be Durant scoring 27.4 points in 41 matchups.
New Orleans Pelicans - Luka Doncic (28.5 PPG, 10 Games)
Doncic barely gets the nod with 10 meetings against the Pelicans. Kyrie Irving is close behind with 28.0 points in 14 games. Legacy players Kobe Bryant closes in with 26.6 points in 41 meetings, while LeBron is just 0.1 points behind with 26.5 points in 40 games. After this season, it will be interesting to see who holds this title.
New York Knicks - Wilt Chamberlain (33.7 PPG, 115 Games)
Outside of Mike Taylor scoring 35 points in one meeting, Michael Jordan is the true runner-up with 31.6 points in 60 meetings. But, the King of the Knicks is Chamberlain, who averaged more points than Jordan despite playing in 115 games against them. When it comes to true nightmares, Chamberlain should have been feared by every New York fan.
Oklahoma City Thunder - Kevin Durant (31.9 PPG, 10 Games)
In 10 games, Durant is his former team’s worst nightmare. After leading the Thunder to great heights, Durant eventually left to join the Warriors and Nets. Fun fact about this title. Three of the top five are former stars from the 2012 NBA Finals team. James Harden owns a 28.2 average in 29 games, while Russell Westbrook owns a 27.4 average in five meetings.
Orlando Magic - Michael Jordan (29.5 PPG, 33 Games)
If you want to be technical, Nickeil Alexander-Walker owns 30.0 points per game average in two games against the Magic. With that said, Jordan is the supreme nightmare against Orlando, dating back to the days of Penny Hardaway and Shaq. Jordan averaged nearly 30.0 points per game in 33 meetings, while Allen Iverson is the runner-up with 27.7 points in 40 games.
Philadelphia 76ers - Wilt Chamberlain (35.6 PPG, 81 Games)
Zion Williamson once scored 37 points against the 76ers, but this award goes to some all-time greats. Jordan averaged 30.8 points in 57 games, while Elgin Baylor averaged 30.4 in a meetings-high 92 games. However, Chamberlain owned the 76ers with 35.6 points in 81 contests. We haven’t seen any player in the modern era come close to these numbers.
Phoenix Suns - Michael Jordan (32.4 PPG, 25 Games)
Give Embiid a year or two and he could be the next nightmare for the Suns. While Jordan torched the Suns back in the day, Embiid owns a 30.6 average in eight games. LeBron owns the most contests with 36 but owns just a 27.0 points average. Elgin Baylor is right around LeBron with 27.7 but played in fewer games (12).
Portland Trail Blazers - Michael Jordan (34.0 PPG, 24 Games)
Not only did Jordan spurn the Trail Blazers out of a championship in 1991, but he also is the franchise's greatest nightmare. In 24 games, Jordan displayed his magic. Larry Bird was close behind with 29.4 points in 24 games. Outside of LaMelo Ball scoring 30 points one time, the modern-day nightmare is Doncic, who owns a 30.1 average in 11 games.
Sacramento Kings - Wilt Chamberlain (35.4 PPG, 105 Games)
In 105 games, Chamberlain made the Kings hide in their castle with his arrival. Jordan was second on the list with 30.6 but in just a mere 26 games. Baylor played 97 games with a 29.4 average, making him the second-scariest player to ever play the Kings. Given that the Kings haven’t played in the playoffs since 2006 and the league’s rise in offense, you would have expected some modern-day player to be in the top-5 on this list.
San Antonio Spurs - Michael Jordan (32.0 PPG, 24 Games)
Doncic is close to overtaking this honor as he owns a 28.5 average in 10 games. Iverson was close to dethroning Jordan with 28.0 points in 26 games. Iverson deserves a lot of respect because he did this against Spurs’ teams that had David Robinson, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker. Those are not defensive slouches.
Toronto Raptors - Allen Iverson (29.7 PPG, 38 Games)
Oshae Brissett scored 31 points against the Raptors once, but Iverson scored 29.7 points in 38 meetings, so that’s an easy flex to move Iverson to the front. Outside of Iverson, the only other player to come even close to him is James Harden, scoring 27.8 points in 20 games. With the decline of the Raptors, Harden could move closer to that title this season.
Utah Jazz - Michael Jordan (32.7 PPG, 26 Games)
Jordan was the true worst nightmare of the Jazz in the 1990s. He led the Bulls to championship wins in the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998. Outside of that, he scored 32.7 points in 27 meetings. In second place is LeBron with 28.5, while Iverson comes in with 27.8 in 26 games. LaMelo Ball owns a 27.5 average in two games, but he has a lot of work to do.
Washington Wizards - Wilt Chamberlain (32.4 PPG, 87 Games)
In 87 games, Chamberlain easily took down the Washington Bullets, while Jerry West was right up there too with 30.5 points in 76 games. Jordan rounds out the 30-point scorers with 30.3 in 49 games. In the modern era, Harden is close to joining the club as he owns a 29.4 average in 21 contests.
16 Teams: Michael Jordan
6 Teams: Wilt Chamberlain
3 Teams: Kevin Durant
1 Team: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Allen Iverson, George Gervin, Adrian Dantley, Luka Doncic
In the end, it’s safe to say that the GOAT was the greatest nightmare for teams in the NBA. Given that Jordan has been out of the league since 2003 and he remains the biggest nightmare against half of the league should say a lot about his legacy as the greatest player of all time. LeBron has been in the league since 2003 and only owns one high-scoring average against one team.
You have to appreciate Jordan, even more, knowing that he owns a better average over 10 teams than Chamberlain. Given the time that Wilt played, scoring was in an abundance, yet Jordan somehow found a way to get to the top. One has to respect Durant’s three teams as he remains one of the elite scorers in all-time history. Keep an eye out for Doncic as he remains darkhorse to climb up on these rankings, but for now, Jordan remains in the dreams for most of the NBA.
Credit for the idea: Slam Studios, Rahul___Raja/Reddit