The GOAT debate between Michael Jordan and LeBron James has seemingly gotten louder ever since King James won his fourth championship and fourth Finals MVP in 2020. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in six games at Walt Disney World in the NBA bubble behind James’ terrific all-around play.
Several NBA legends have weighed in on who their GOAT is. From Magic Johnson to Hakeem Olajuwon to Isiah Thomas, some of the greatest players in NBA history have voiced their opinion on who they think is better between Jordan and LeBron. Thomas is one of the few guys who thinks James is a superior player than MJ.
One of the best defenders ever, Gary Payton is the latest basketball icon to offer his two cents on the GOAT discussion. The nine-time All-Star, who had plenty of battles with Michael Jordan, said MJ and LeBron James are “two totally different basketball players.”
Michael Jordan defeated Gary Payton in the ’96 Finals
Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls took on Gary Payton and the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1996 NBA Finals. The Bulls had homecourt advantage in the series and jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
Everyone thought Chicago would sweep Seattle after going up 3-0, but Payton and Co. fought back and won Games 4 and 5 at home. The Glove played excellent defense on Jordan in the SuperSonics’ two wins. His Airness only shot 6-of-19 from the field in Game 4 and looked tired in Game 5 despite scoring 26 points.
The Bulls, though, took care of business in Game 6 at the United Center. On Father’s Day, Jordan won his fourth title and fourth Finals MVP. It was an emotional day for him since his father was tragically murdered in 1993.
Jordan prevented Payton from winning a championship in ’96, but the former Defensive Player of the Year got the monkey off his back in 2006. Led by Dwyane Wade, the Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks in the ’06 Finals.
Gary Payton is one of the few guys in NBA history who has played against Michael Jordan and LeBron James. The Hall of Famer, when asked who he thinks the GOAT is, didn’t mince words.
Gary Payton calls LeBron James a ‘better all-around’ player than Michael Jordan
During an interview with Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson, Gary Payton called LeBron James a better all-around player than Michael Jordan. The California native said LeBron “does everything” on a basketball court.
“Two totally different basketball players. Jordan was a guy that he was going to make big shots. He’s going to take the ball every time and shoot it every time he has to. I think LeBron is an all-around basketball player. If you ask me who’s a better all-around basketball player, LeBron James by far,” Payton said. “He does everything. He passes the ball better than Jordan. He can dribble it a little bit better than Jordan.”
Payton went on to say comparing LeBron to Jordan wasn’t the right comparison. He believes James is more like Magic Johnson, a phrase basketball pundits have heard before.
Michael Jordan fans and LeBron James supporters will be fighting each other for decades about who the GOAT is. Ultimately, there is no correct answer, and in Gary Payton’s eyes, LeBron should be compared to Magic, not MJ.
Fans should stop comparing and appreciate both players
After the basketball world lost Kobe Bryant, many fans realized that comparing players is foolish and takes away from the beauty of the game. Michael Jordan and LeBron James stans should stop fighting and appreciate each player for their greatness.
LeBron isn’t always going to take the last shot as Jordan did, and that’s perfectly fine. The King is the only player in NBA history to rank top-10 all-time in points and assists. He trusts his teammates to make the shot.
Michael Jordan and LeBron James are both on the NBA Mount Rushmore. The GOAT debate will rage on, but fans shouldn’t diminish one player to uplift the other.