LeBron James has recently come out to explain which players he would choose to be his teammate in a 2-on-2 matchup against the legendary duo, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. His options were clear: Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, or Kyrie Irving. Obviously, James played with all 3 players with Team USA and also competed with Kyrie Irving by his side with the Cleveland Cavaliers. James and Irving famously won the 2016 NBA championship after making the Finals 3 times together. Obviously, LeBron James is one of the greatest pass-first players, and outside of Magic Johnson, he might be the best pure passer of all time.
That is why it is no wonder why James selected 3 score-first players to team up with in a dream matchup against Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. With James drawing attention through his size and athleticism, the likes of Kobe, KD, and Kyrie will have the space necessary to go one-on-one with extra space and time to get into their packages. Against a legendary two-way duo of Jordan and Pippen, James certainly needs an offensive superstar to score the ball and put pressure on the opponents. If one player would be chosen out of the three James chose, it would have to be Kobe Bryant, one of the top-ten greatest players of all time.
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are regarded as the best duo in NBA history because they captured 6 NBA championships in 6 Finals appearances, while Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are both considered the best players in the game since Michael Jordan decided to hang it up after his second retirement. While James and Bryant are totally different players who play different positions, they will be able to coexist on the court at an elite level. But that begs the question, would Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have enough firepower to take on the all-time great duo of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen?
Michael and Scottie are two defensive specialists who complement each other on offense almost as well. Pippen is an exceptional playmaker, while MJ might be the single greatest scorer in NBA history. Similarly, LeBron James might be the greatest playmaker at the small forward position and even at point guard. At the same time, Kobe Bryant is a direct copy of Michael Jordan as a scorer in terms of skillset and offensive moves. To pit these all-time great players in a 2-on-2 battle, here is the breakdown of the legendary matchup.
Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan
This matchup is about pure will and skill, and this will be the most exciting matchup by far. As great as Scottie and LeBron are, they don't have that killer will and scoring instinct that both these guys have. Interestingly, Kobe and Jordan will cancel each other out throughout the matchup, although there will be a minute difference. Jordan is recognized as an obsessed winner and an ultra competitor, while Kobe Bryant followed in his footsteps to inherit the same mindset and killer will. Kobe wanted to eliminate all competition and wanted to be the single greatest player ever, something MJ was as soon as he stepped foot on an NBA court.
MJ and Kobe will go like for like, without much to separate them in terms of offensive production. MJ has the efficiency and patience on offense, while Kobe Bryant has the tendency to make difficult shots around the court. MJ might be the slightly better player thanks to his efficiency and larger physique, but Kobe Bryant will not go down without a fight, and this matchup will be very even to the naked eye. The edge goes to Jordan slightly because he is slightly larger than Kobe and will be able to get a few extra defensive stops, which will be critical in this matchup that will go the distance where a major stop will be needed to end the game.
Advantage: Michael Jordan
LeBron James vs. Scottie Pippen
This matchup will be about complementing hungry superstar shooting guards. LeBron James has never been a sidekick in his career, but has always played with an elite scorer to handle the offense and normally take the big shots in clutch moments. So when playing with a score-first player in Kobe Bryant, James will simply do what he has always done when playing with elite stars such as Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, and Anthony Davis. Not to mention, The King will play a similar role to Scottie Pippen in terms of making plays for the superstar shooting guard teammate.
Pippen is one of the best sidekicks in NBA history and made his name and his fame with his lockdown defense and playmaking alongside Michael Jordan. Scottie is an unselfish star that wants to win as much as Jordan, which makes him a formidable opponent in a 2-on-2 matchup. Pippen’s value will come directly on defense because he and Jordan will make lives difficult for both Kobe and James on the floor. Scottie and LeBron play a similar style, although LeBron James is just a better player. LeBron is stronger and more athletic and is a step above Scottie with his playmaking and all-around scoring as well. James does not possess Pippen's defensive prowess, but his ability to attack the rim with force and encourage Michael to help out at times leaves Bryant with the space he needs to get buckets. As great as Pippen is alongside Michael, James has the advantage.
Advantage: LeBron James
This one will go down to the wire. MJ and Kobe will lead both of their squads in scoring, while LeBron and Pippen lead in assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks. Stats aside, this will be a back-and-forth all game long. MJ and Kobe will trade buckets throughout the game, with a Win-By-2 looking obvious from the very start of the matchup. Both duos are just too close in terms of talent and impact, and it will be destined to go down to the wire.
The physical presence and the all-around talents of James and Pippen will also come into play in this matchup, as they will play critical roles in making key plays on defense and in rebounding the basketball. As the largest players on the court, James and Pippen will make this matchup one of the most exciting in sports history. With the stage set, let's find out who wins this all-time great matchup by placing each competitor in a matchup to the score of 21 (Win by 2).
0-1 Michael Jordan gets an early basket by pulling up from mid-range over LeBron James. It's clear that Pippen and Jordan will utilize the pick-n’ roll when needed.
0-2 MJ gets another bucket. This time, Kobe plays him too tight, and Jordan gets past him only to pump fake and drill a 15-footer.
0-3 Jordan gets a third bucket in a row. This time, he attacks to the left of the basket and finishes a tough layup around LeBron James. The crowd begins “oohs and ahhs” because Jordan has already set the tone of the matchup.
1-3 Finally, James and Bryant score as The King tips in a missed Bryant jumper over an extended Scottie Pippen. This was a big shot because the game was looking out of hand early.
1-4 Scottie gets his first bucket of the game, contesting a Bryant jumper effectively well and coming up with the rebound. He takes advantage of a misstep by James and uses his explosiveness to score at the rim thanks to a one-handed dunk.
2-4 James and Bryant wake up, as The King acts as a decoy by cutting to the rim, which gives Bryant the space to drain a long-range mid-range jumper.
4-4 MJ misses a fadeaway jumper and James pulls down the rebound, and immediately finds Bryant who swishes a contested 3-pointer to tie the game from the corner.
5-4 James gets his second bucket by pump faking and drilling a nice jumper, swishing it through the net over the outstretched Scottie Pippen.
5-5 Jordan comes up with a steal on Bryant and gets an easy layup. LeBron tries to challenge Joran’s shot, but Pippen gets away with a little nudge that throws The King off balance.
6-5 James backs MJ down and doesn't manage to get too far inside before draining a very tough fadeaway shot. Jordan smirks and daps up The King, something that could be deadly when he gets the ball back.
7-5 Kobe uses his own body this time, backing MJ down and finishing with his patented fadeaway jumper, even with Pippen scrambling to contest as well. The game is officially on.
8-5 Once again, James attacks the rim with force and finishes a tough layup over Pippen. The King calls for isolation and puts his head down to draw contact and finish. With a 3-point deficit out of their favor, Jordan and Pippen share some words.
8-6 Following a LeBron James missed a jumper, Jordan completely puzzles Bryant and James. He jab steps, attacks to the right, pulls back and drains a long mid-range shot to get his side back on the board.
8-7 Jordan attacks Kobe’s weaker foot and finishes with the up and under. It seems MJ is getting hot, as Bryant also shares some words with The King.
9-7 MJ tries to get his third bucket in a row, backing James down and using his fadeaway but Bryant comes up with a sneaky block. James takes advantage to finish at the rim.
10-7 James gets Jordan to miss and attacks both players to find Kobe for a 2-pointer…but his foot is on the line.
11-7 James does it again, this time finishing at the rim. What a shot by James, as he absorbs contact and still manages to swish a shot by falling to his left.
12-7 Kobe Bryant jab steps, and drains a straight-on jumper over his idol to take a 5-point lead. With Bryant smirking at Jordan’s expense, the GOAT wakes up.
12-8 James explodes to the rim, but Michael comes up with a steal. The shooting guard jabs and takes a jumper, only to find Scottie at the rim for an easy bucket.
12-9 James smothers Jordan, barely giving him an inch of space. But Jordan keeps calm and collected before delivering his fadeaway jumper right in LeBron's face. That was simply a tough shot by Jordan.
12-10 Scottie Pippen hits a very tough shot over LeBron James. This is turning into a shootout, as Pippen takes one dribble and swishes a jumper while taking a step back.
12-11 MJ fakes right, then attacks left before pulling up for an easy jumper against the outstretched arms of Kobe Bryant.
12-12 Jordan once again steps back for a jumper, but is stuffed by James! Jordan recovers the shot, dishes to Pippen, and receives a pass back to flush down a jam with both Bryant and James avoiding a poster.
12-13 Jordan has seemingly had enough. He remains in the triple threat position for a few seconds, then explodes right. Kobe keeps up but sags a little too much and MJ makes him pay with another jumper.
12-14 Jordan once again keeps in triple threat position, but this time attacks left. He makes Bryant pay for keeping too tight and squeezes in another bucket close to the basket.
12-16 MJ jab steps, and drains a long-range jumper. MJ is well within his groove, and Kobe and James have a quick chat about cutting Jordan off from the lane and forcing Pippen to beat them.
13-16 Kobe and James cut MJ off, and Pippen misses a mid-range jumper. That leaves James with the idea of controlling the pace, only focusing on getting good shots up. He posts up Pippen and finds Kobe for a jumper.
14-16 In the most fitting fashion, Bryant uses his fadeaway jumper to score against Pippen in a quick pick-n’ roll action.
15-16 Once again, Bryant drains a jumper but this time, he has to do it thanks to a LeBron James offensive rebound. The King begins focusing on his all-around game and gifts Bryant a second chance to cut the deficit to 1 point.
17-16 LeBron James gives his side the lead with a step-back 2-pointer, fooling Scottie with his intention to attack the rim and instead gets 2 points to give his side the lead.
18-16 LeBron scores again, this time by going in the post and backing down Scottie for a tough finish around the rim.
18-17 Pippen responds with a step-back jumper to prove he will not go down without a fight.
18-18 MJ scores again after a brief hiatus, this time taking Kobe in the block and nailing a fadeaway jumper.
19-18 Following an MJ miss, Kobe does the same by taking his idol in the post and draining a tough fallaway jumper that bounces around a few times.
20-18 After heavy contact, Scottie barely misses a layup with Bryant coming at the last second to hit Pippen on the arm and also get some ball. No foul is called, and James finishes with a layup with Pippen distracted.
20-20 Michael grabs the rebound off a Bryant miss and then drains a very deep 2-pointer to tie the game. The game must be won by 2, meaning “overtime” will be necessary.
22-20 Surprisingly, the jumper is made by none other than LeBron James. Pippen misses a mid-range shot, with Bryant coming up with the rebound. Kobe pump fakes the three and instead of forcing a shot, finds James, who nails the game-winning 2-pointer.
The final score is 22-20 for Bryant and James. Michael was simply unstoppable on offense, but the difference was that Bryant and James made more shots than the opposing competitors. Pippen struggles to make enough shots, and he has some issues with James’ size when The King attacks the rim.
Kobe Bryant And Michael Break Even, But LeBron Makes The Difference
The matchup could have gone either way. Michael has the hot hand throughout the matchup, and if not for the clever secondary contest to force passes to Scottie, James and Bryant might not have had a chance. But the pairing of James and Kobe usurps that of MJ and Pippen, mainly because Jordan and Bryant are so similar and James is simply a better player than Scottie.
There is no doubt that MJ, LeBron, and Kobe are top-10 players of all time while Scottie is ranked somewhere in the top-30 or top-35. Michael is the best player in the matchup, but Kobe cuts it close while James has a pretty wide advantage over Pippen. That ultimately proves the difference because having that extra bit of shot-making ends the game.
Overall, LeBron James is one of the greatest players ever and his decision to select Kobe Bryant over Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant is very warranted because The Black Mamba has far more experience in big games than either of them. Not to mention, unlike a slender KD and a smaller Irving, Bryant can go toe-to-toe with MJ better than anyone else in history, giving James the extra help he needs to focus on dominating his own matchup against Scottie Pippen.