LeBron James respects his elders among the NBA’s greatest players of all time. Right now, he just doesn’t agree with two of them: Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
In a week dominated by league-wide debate and comparisons between James and Jordan (who will turn 50 on Sunday), James fired back again regarding Jordan’s claim he’d pick Kobe Bryant as the NBA’s best player according to ESPN.
“(Jordan) said he would take Kobe over me because … five rings are better than one, and the last time he checked, five is better than one. At the end of the day, rings don’t always define someone’s career. If that’s the case, then I’d sit up here and say I would take (Bill) Russell over Jordan. But I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t take Russell over Jordan. Russell has 11 rings. Jordan has six. I wouldn’t do that.
“(Jordan) said he would take Kobe over me because … five rings are better than one, and the last time he checked, five is better than one,” James said. “At the end of the day, rings don’t always define someone’s career. If that’s the case, then I’d sit up here and say I would take (Bill) Russell over Jordan. But I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t take Russell over Jordan. Russell has 11 rings, Jordan has six. I wouldn’t do that.”
James won his first championship with the Heat last season while Bryant has won five with the Los Angeles Lakers. Friday’s response from James came after Jordan initially said during an interview with NBA TV that he’d have a tough time deciding between Kobe and James.
“Five beats one every time I look at it,” Jordan told the league network of how he ultimately broke down the James-Bryant debate. “And not that (James) won’t get five. He may get more than that, but five is bigger than one.”
Earlier in the week, Johnson issued some statements on his Twitter account in which he sided with Jordan in comparisons with James as the better individual player.
“Easy answer MJ all day, every day!”
In a follow-up post, Johnson tweeted:
“If MJ and LeBron played 1-on-1 10 times, MJ would win all 10. MJ is the ultimate 1-on-1 player!”
James has been peppered with questions all week about comments made by two of the players he idolized growing up.
At first, James lightly dismissed the criticism and tried to change the conversation with his play on the court during one of the most productive stretches of his career. James guided the Heat on a seven-game winning streak leading into the All-Star break, which featured an NBA record six consecutive games when he scored at least 30 points and shot at least 60 percent from the field.
But when he again faced questions about Jordan’s comments during Friday’s media session in advance of Sunday’s All-Star game, James seemed annoyed at times.
“I don’t play the game and try to define who I am over what guys say or how they feel about me,” James said. “It doesn’t matter to me. I play for my family, for my teammates, for my coaching staff and I play for our fans, and that’s it. What I need bulletin board material for? My inspiration is the game I love. I don’t need nobody to pick me or not.”
Taking Jordan’s notion to task a bit further, James then rattled off a list of mostly role players on championships teams who ended up with more titles than marquee stars who never won at the highest level.
“Jud Buechler has multiple rings. Charles Barkley doesn’t have one ring. He’s not better than Charles Barkely,” James said of Buechler, who won titles alongside Jordan with the Bulls in the late 1990s. “Patrick Ewing is one of the greatest of all time. Reggie Miller is one of the greatest of all time. Sometimes, it’s the situation you’re in, the team you’re (on) and the timing as well.”