There’s a constant debate about whether Michael Jordan or LeBron James is the NBA’s greatest player of all tine, with younger basketball fans typically choosing James and older ones going with Jordan.
That talk has only seemed to increase after the ESPN docuseries “The Last Dance” aired, which focused on the retired NBA legend and his years with the Chicago Bulls and especially his 1997-1998 season when he won his sixth NBA championship.
Charles Barkley, who played against Jordan and was his teammate on the 1992 USA Olympic basketball team, weighed in on the Jordan-James debate during an interview with podcast host Adam Lefkoe on the May 20 episode of “The Lefkoe Show” last week.
But Barkley added a third player to the debate, former Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant, who was the player most compared to Jordan before James became an NBA superstar
“I ain’t never going to say anything bad about LeBron James,” said Barkley. “The closest to Michael I’ve ever seen was Kobe.”
“What I mean by that, a guy who has a singular vision, like, I just want to win,” he added. “I’m not worried about what my teammates think, I’m not worried about what the coach think. I just want to win. In my opinion, Michael is the GOAT and LeBron to me, I’ve always said, he’s closer to Magic Johnson than he is to Michael.”
Those who responded to Barkley’s comments agreed and said James’ fans shouldn’t be offended by the comparison to Johnson, a point guard on Lakers championship teams in the 1980s.
“This is correct,” one person tweeted. “I think certain folks are trying to spin this as a shot at Lebron he’s talking personality and play style Lebron has never been a comparison with either of those things.”
“He’s right,” another person tweeted about Barkley’s opinion. “Isn’t a dig at Bron it’s just body type and play style.”
Barkley’s analysis becomes clear with a breakdown of the positions and playing styles of all four players.
Comparing Jordan and Bryant, both players were 6-foot-6 shooting guards, both were considered to have an unmatched drive to win, and they seemed to have a natural ability to thrive in pressure situations, often getting the ball in the final seconds of a close game.
Johnson and James, meanwhile, also have similarities, which further supports Barkley’s point. Both are 6 feet 9 and defy expectations for their height by being able to run the point guard position.
Each player is also known for stellar passing ability and both usually played with a pass-first, score-second mentality while still being huge scoring threats.
Barkley’s recent take on the Jordan-James comparison was his second time in recent months addressing the debate. In April the TNT analyst was talking to Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari and gave him his all-time greatest NBA players list. James didn’t even make his top five.
Barkley had Jordan at No. 1, Oscar Robertson second, then Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James coming in seventh.