A common argument amongst NBA fans is who would succeed or fail if they played in a different era. You have probably heard people say things like, “There’s no way LeBron James could hang in the 1990s,” or, “Bill Russell would be a nobody playing in today’s era.” Even Michael Jordan has been questioned at times regarding if he could play in today’s higher-paced, three-point shooting era.
Metta Sandiford-Artest, formerly Ron Artest and Metta World Peace, squashed any doubts on Jordan being able to succeed in today’s NBA. In fact, the 17-year vet believes MJ would be able to score at will.
Metta Sandiford-Artest thinks Michael Jordan would lead the NBA in scoring
On an appearance on the Club Shay Shay podcast, Sandiford-Artest discussed Jordan, LeBron, Kobe Bryant, and more with host Shannon Sharpe. Sharpe asked the former NBA Defensive Player of the Year how many points Jordan would average per game if he was playing in today’s era.
“More than James Harden,” Sandiford-Artest shot back. “I [played in] the Jordan era, I was in the LeBron, Kobe, Duncan [era], and I was at the tail end. I played with these guys, I’ve seen all the three-point balls go up. Jordan would average 50.”
“James Harden wants to average 50, he just can’t. [He can average] 38, amazing. But if Jordan wants to average 50, if he was playing in this era, I think he’s averaging 50. And that’s no disrespect to any of the guys that’s killing like KD (Kevin Durant), LeBron. No disrespect.”Metta Sandiford-Artest
Harden is a three-time scoring champion who in 2018-19 averaged a career-best 36.1 points per game with the Houston Rockets. He has also averaged 30 points in three different seasons, less than halfway to Jordan’s eight seasons with 30 or more.
Jordan would be able to become a three-point shooter
One of the biggest differences between Jordan’s era and today is the three-point shot. Last season, NBA games saw an average of 34.6 three-point attempts per game, a record-high. Meanwhile, in Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1997-98, there was an average of only 12.7 attempts per game.
But even in an era that relies on outside shooting more than ever, Sandiford-Artest believes Jordan would have adapted seamlessly.
“Well when you practice, it makes perfect,” Sandiford-Artest told Sharpe. “Stephen Curry came up shooting threes, he changed the game for sure. But James Harden didn’t come into the league shooting like this. Then he started working on that step-back. If Harden, who’s an amazing player, can average 38, [Jordan could average 50].”
Jordan was never a consistent three-point shooter, shooting 32.7% on 1.7 attempts per game. But he did have his moments from deep, most notably when he knocked down six threes in the first half of Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Others agree that Jordan would be a star in the modern NBA
Sandiford-Artest isn’t the only player who thinks MJ’s dominance would exist today. Talking to Jay Williams on The Boardroom, Kevin Durant said Jordan would be the best player in the current era.
“He can adapt his game to anything,” Durant said. “He would fit in as the best player in the league. That’s what he would be. He would have more possessions to do more things. More space for MJ to go to work. We’ll never know, but for sure he’s a masterful basketball player, and like we’ve been saying, his skill level is unmatched.”
In an interview for 247Sports’ “Social Distance” series, John Wall said something similar to Sandiford-Artest in terms of Jordan’s scoring average.
“Jordan’s averaging 45 and whatever else he wants,” Wall said. “You can’t touch nobody. You can’t hand-check. The league is totally different.”
Even Jordan spoke on how he would fare today. But His Airness was not as braggadocious as you would think (h/t The Athletic).
“I think you’ve got a lot of different descriptions of how I would play against these guys. I’m pretty sure I would make my adjustments. I think the game would still be played with a sense of passion. I don’t think the passion in the game of basketball has changed … Yeah, you have younger players and you have bigger players. But overall, you still have to shoot, you still have to defend, you still shoot free throws, you still shoot threes. You do all those things. You have to play as a team, Those things transcend generations.”Michael Jordan
There will unfortunately never be an opportunity for prime Michael Jordan to take a crack at scoring 40 or 50 points in today’s NBA. But there seems to be enough confidence from today’s players that if MJ suited up in this era, he would still manage to become the GOAT.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.