LeBron James says he would have wanted to team up with Michael Jordan — could they have made it work?
And there you have it. Debate settled. Everyone move on. Nothing to see here.
LeBron James hasn’t been watching The Last Dance and thinking about matching up with Michael Jordan, his fiercest rival in the never-ending GOAT debate – he’s been thinking about playing with Mike.
As people compare and argue about their legacies, LeBron James says he's envisioned Michael Jordan as a teammate not an adversary: https://t.co/WAB4OJCQTMArticle continues below ...
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 19, 2020
What a novel concept!
After Sunday’s finale of The Last Dance docuseries, LeBron James appeared on the WRTS: After Party show on his UNINTERRUPTED network to discuss the docuseries as a whole.
He touched on a multitude of things, including the first time he met MJ:
“I didn’t think Michael Jordan was real. I only thought he lived in the TV.”
The moment @kingjames met MJ for the first time.
— UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) May 19, 2020
He also spoke about how Jordan’s first retirement in 1993 affected him as a child:
“It didn’t make sense to me. For me, growing up in Akron, Ohio, all the hardships that I had to go through, you look for inspiration … Michael Jordan was kinda like that god. That angel sent from heaven that I kinda used to help me get through some of the darkest days that I had.”
9-year-old @KingJames was devastated when his hero Michael Jordan retired in 1993 😢😰
Reactions to #TheLastDance & more on what MJ has meant to LeBron on #WRTS: After Party w/ @mavcarter and @pr_RWTW: https://t.co/3JLpFUpAG8 pic.twitter.com/RlYGwp2Y6q
— UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) May 18, 2020
Clearly, James’ reverence for Jordan knew no bounds.
So when he discussed playing with Michael Jordan as opposed to against him, it didn’t come as a shock.
That got us — and many — to wondering: how would the two have meshed as teammates? Would it have been a seamless fit or would it have been too much firepower for one duo?
During his career, Jordan only played with one other player that could be considered a superstar, Hall of Fame forward Scottie Pippen.
In Jordan’s 13 seasons with the Chicago Bulls, he averaged 31.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.5 steals. Pippen, in his 12 seasons in Chicago, averaged 17.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.1 steals.
Clearly, Michael was the alpha of that unit, even though Pippen was no slouch.
Now airing on ESPN are the next two episodes of "The Last Dance."
In the 1990s, there were 3 instances where a player won All-Star Game MVP and was named 1st Team All-NBA & Defense in the same season.
Michael Jordan did it twice and Scottie Pippen had the other such season. pic.twitter.com/moAoiZg8i9
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 11, 2020
In fact, no one knows the value of Pippen more than Jordan.
— The Association on FOX (@TheAssociation) April 20, 2020
And in essence, Pippen is the reason the tandem worked: there were two superstars, but one was willing to take a backseat to the others.
As far as James, he’s played with multiple superstars during his career, beginning with Dwyane Wade in Miami, before teaming up with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland and currently, Anthony Davis in Los Angeles.
And despite LeBron’s greatness, there have been times where Wade, Irving and Davis have represented the alpha on certain occasions, specifically Irving.
Kyrie Irving averaged 27.1 PPG in the Finals and his 3-pointer with :53 left was the biggest shot of the series. https://t.co/sD6iapWdeb
— Golic and Wingo (@GolicAndWingo) June 20, 2016
That three won the 2016 NBA Finals for the Cavaliers, and on that play, James deferred to Irving, seemingly serving as evidence that LeBron would have been willing to step aside if he played alongside Jordan.
LeBron also said that while playing in Miami and even during his second stint in Cleveland, he loved to be challenged by teammates and coaches.
“I love when a teammate comes to me and challenges me. When I was in Miami, D [Wade] used to come to me and be like, ‘All right, [No.] 6, let’s go.’ [Former coach Tyronn] Lue used to challenge me a lot when I was in Cleveland. He was like, ‘All right, Bron, what you waiting on?’ I see that from Mike, and I feel like our games were a perfect correlation to be successful.”
Jordan’s propensity to push his teammates to the brink became legendary in The Last Dance. That competitiveness was outlined by one of his former teammates, Trent Tucker.
“Being a teammate, he forced us to get to that level. He wasn’t asking us to be Michael Jordan. But he was asking us to bring the same type of intensity and energy and effort every single day to the jobs that we were supposed to do so that we could help the team win.”
— Star Tribune Sports (@StribSports) May 12, 2020
Could Jordan have pushed LeBron and James respond positively? All signs point to yes.
Skip Bayless thinks the fictional tandem of James and Jordan would have been the best pair of superstars to team up in NBA history, mainly because Jordan would prove to be the alpha on the team.
“I completely and utterly agree with LeBron … You’ve got LeBron, whose nature is to pass first, and you’ve got what LeBron said is the all-time assassin, a man who attacked you to score the basketball … LeBron is more of a facilitator and he would have gone with MJ’s flow, especially if you get him as a younger player … [LeBron] would be the B-side to the alpha.”
"LeBron would be the perfect complement to Michael Jordan. LeBron is more of a lover than a fighter, he would've allowed Jordan to become the alpha on the team. Michael with LeBron could've been the all time greatest Batman & Robin." — @RealSkipBayless pic.twitter.com/Ti9XzbV0bh
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) May 19, 2020
Scott Burrell joined the Bulls for the 1997-98 season, and during The Last Dance, fans got a glimpse of just how hard Jordan was on his teammates, particularly Burrell.
But Burrell elaborated on Jordan’s leadership and intensity on Monday, saying that his intentions were always positive.
“I think he knew I had more potential than I had tapped into. He pushed me to be the best player I could be … He just wanted me to be prepared for what I was gonna face later on that [1997-98] season … I had an unbelievable time. Winning cures everything. Learning from the best … you can’t ask for anything better than that.”
However, there are those skeptical of just how well Jordan and James would fit together, namely due to Jordan’s perceived tyrannical leadership style.
One of those skeptics is former LeBron teammate Channing Frye, who regards Jordan as a one-trick pony.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 16, 2020
Jordan was indeed a prolific scorer. His 10 scoring titles are the most in NBA history. He won seven consecutive scoring titles between 1987-93, and his streak only came to an end due to his first retirement.
Michael Jordan played 179 playoff games. He was the Bulls outright leading scorer in 165 of them.
He played 37 playoff series. He led all players on both teams in scoring in 36 of them.
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) May 18, 2020
Jordan’s career scoring average of 30.12 is the highest in NBA history, and his career playoff average of 33.45 is also tops in NBA history.
Over the course of his career, he scored 50 or more points 31 times, second only to Wilt Chamberlain. Jordan also holds the record for points in a playoff game with 63.
But we can’t forget that Jordan was also heralded as a superstar defender during his prime — something Frye seemed to have forgotten in his comments, and for which the former NBA big man has been taking heat on Twitter since.
His Airness was a 9-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, and he led the NBA in steals per game three times. He was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1988, a year in which he also won MVP and All-Star MVP.
The only player ever to win Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, NBA MVP, All-Star Game MVP and NBA Finals MVP.
Michael Jordan’s career is in a class of its own 🐐 pic.twitter.com/9XZbRbRTdM
— The Association on FOX (@TheAssociation) May 18, 2020
James has won one scoring title in his career and he has been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team five times.
However, for the first time in his NBA career, LeBron is on-track to lead the NBA in assists (10.6), assuming the league returns to finish the 2019-20 season.
So, arguably the best wing scorer and defender in NBA history, paired with the point guard version of LeBron James?
Shannon Sharpe thinks there would have been some hiccups along the road, but ultimately, the two would have been the greatest championship twosome in NBA history.
“To hear LeBron say that … I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of a historically great player saying they would have loved to have played with another great player … I think that’s what hurt Magic and Kareem a little bit is that they played on the same team. It’s kinda hard when you got two guys like that and [don’t know] which one is better. I would have loved to have scene it but then I wouldn’t have got an opportunity to see the GOAT in its purest form … Mike would have been hogging up all the shots … I do think it would have worked though … I think LeBron would have set [his individual ambitions] aside in order to win championships.”
"LeBron's game is about passing. I would've loved to see this. I don't know if Bron would've took MJ's type of leadership, but Bron is self-motivated so MJ would've known what he represents…They might of had about 14 titles."@ShannonSharpe on if LeBron & MJ were teammates pic.twitter.com/LZjzSJgix1
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) May 19, 2020
What a hypothetical dream team.
On Monday night, LeBron clarified his comments regarding playing with Jordan.
I also would die to compete vs every single one of them too! Don’t ever get it twisted! 👑. Nevertheless MJ Thank You for being my angel, inspiration, superhero!! 💐 💐
— LeBron James (@KingJames) May 19, 2020
It’s too late, King James. We’ve already decided you and MJ were made for each other.
Because seriously – who could have beaten James and Jordan together?
Let the new debate begin.