Had he not retired twice, Jordan would have scored more than 32,292 career points, which is good for fifth in NBA history. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant have scored more points than His Airness.
Jordan faced Bryant a few times near the end of his career, but he retired for good the season before LeBron entered the NBA in 2003. Basketball fans routinely think about what it would have been like to see Jordan face LeBron one-on-one. Apparently, the Bulls legend has thought about it as well.
We were one season away from seeing Michael Jordan face LeBron James
Jordan’s last season in the NBA was 2002-03. He appeared in 82 games with the Washington Wizards and averaged 20.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists while shooting 44.5% from the field, 29.1% from beyond the arc, and 82.1% from the free-throw line.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft. They selected LeBron, who wore No. 23 because of Jordan. We were one season away from seeing the icons face each other in the NBA. That would have certainly been a sight to behold.
LeBron was overcome with emotions during the 2018-19 season when he passed Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. It was heartwarming to see him talk about passing his childhood idol in the scoring ranks and dive into how much the Bulls great meant to him.
Even though Jordan has tremendous respect for the four players ahead of him on the scoring list, he believes he could beat anyone in a game of one-on-one during his prime. However, out of the six players he would want to face one-on-one, only two of them scored more points than him.
Michael Jordan named six players he would want to play one-on-one
In October 2013, Jordan told 2KSports that he would want to face Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron, and Bryant in a game of one-on-one during his prime. And as expected, the six-time champion said he wouldn’t lose to anyone, although he did claim that Bryant may have a chance to beat him.
“Start off with Jerry West. Elgin Baylor, Kobe Bryant, LeBron, D-Wade, Melo. That’s a good start,” Jordan said. “I don’t think I’d lose. Other than Kobe Bryant because he steals all my moves.”
Bryant patterned his game after Jordan and is universally recognized as the second-best shooting guard in NBA history after MJ. Meanwhile, LeBron is more like Magic Johnson than Jordan since he’s a pass-first player, but that doesn’t mean he can’t take over a game with his scoring when he wants to.
Jordan averaged 30.1 points during his Hall of Fame career. That’s No. 1 all-time. Meanwhile, Baylor is third, West is fourth, LeBron is sixth, Bryant is 13th, Anthony is 26th, and Wade is 36th. While there is no way to predict who would win these one-on-one games, it’s hard to bet against Jordan since he’s got the most scoring titles out of the group and the best points per game average.
LeBron James is in a class of his own when it comes to scoring and assists
The GOAT debate between Jordan and LeBron may never end. It will only get louder if the latter wins more rings and Finals MVPs in the future.
Jordan won six championships and six Finals MVPs with the Bulls. Meanwhile, LeBron has four rings and four Finals MVPs, but he’s 4-6 in the Finals. He’s also been swept in the Finals twice, although he was outmatched team-wise both times.
The one area in which LeBron beats Jordan is scoring and assists. He’s the only player in NBA history to rank top-10 all-time in points and assists. When it’s all said and done, the King has a chance to pass Abdul-Jabbar in the all-time scoring list if he remains healthy and productive. If he can also win a couple more rings and Finals MVPs, the GOAT debate could reach a halt.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.