Over the last four years, there is an ongoing debate about LeBron James or Michael Jordan. Four years ago, Six-time champion and Jordan’s former teammate Scottie Pippen was asked by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who he was going with, Jordan or James?
“Michael Jordan, but statically LeBron James is a better basketball player, and here is why? He fills the stats up across the board night in and night out. You are talking about a kid that could easily average a triple-double if he chooses to. I don’t think Michael Jordan had that option. It is not his demeanor as a player. That’s like me telling you that Kobe Bryant could have averaged a triple-double,” said Pippen.
Smith asked Pippen a follow-up question. When is it time to close who you want?
“I want Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. I want them all! I will never disrespect Michael Jordan. I will always pick him over LeBron.”
Pippen would go on to say that it was not a fair comparison. Instead, he would rather compare the late, great Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan.
Another former teammate of Michael Jordan, Toni Kukoč, weighed in on the debate during a recent interview with Bally Sports’ Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson.
“It’s hard to compare players that never played in the same era; that never played against each other. Obviously, like everything else in the game of basketball is evolving. It’s getting better. These days you can see all the older previous players and you can get all their moves. You can practice those moves, you can get better ready because of the knowledge of what to eat and how to prepare yourself, how to get rid of your injuries faster, how to keep your body in shape… all these little things – which appear to be little things, but they’re not can make you a better player. So when it comes to pure – like okay, Michael from the ’80s and ’90s or LeBron from 2000 or 2010’s you can’t say one was better than the other. Michael obviously brought world basketball to another level. And from that point on, LeBron is what LeBron is now that he gave a chance for Luka to be Luka or Jokic to be Jokic,” said Kukoč.
“You could never imagine that back in the day. So if I can compare Michael, I would compare him to Tiger with golf, Messio Renaldo with soccer, [Michael] Phelps with swimming and stuff like that. Because of those things, Michael is – I can’t say the best player, but he is a GOAT of basketball. I don’t think it’s selfish, it’s just the way it is. I wish that you could put today’s players in the ’90s and have that way of basketball with the hard fouls and everything else and when you’re talking about these guys, there will obviously be players that say, ‘Yeah, but what about Magic and Bird? What about Bill Russell? What about Elgin Baylor?”
He would add, “Because, in their era, those guys were so dominant that nobody else came close. And then they say why would you and say disrespected and in a way it might be true because you’re not mentioning – especially now when you’re talking; people want to get on social media and these are all mid-20 or mid-30 years old that have never seen these guys play and they say, ‘Awww they were slower, they were not physically ready, they’re not this they’re not that….’ but they were scoring buckets from everywhere.
They had so many skills; they knew basketball in their little finger. So it’s hard. It’s really hard, and it’s not pleasant to try to say that this guy was better than the other if they never played against each other. If they had some kind of record – either the playing that their teams respectfully playing against each other or their records individually head-to-head, then you can say this one had more wins than the other, but not such a case.”
Kukoč played four and a half seasons with Michael and Scottie in Chicago and won three championships. Before being traded to the Philadephia 76ers in a three-team trade involving the Golden State Warriors that sent Bruce Bowen, John Starks, and a 2000 first-round pick to the Bulls.