Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant went head-to-head late in Jordan's career and early in Bryant's career. Here, the pair talk during the 2003 NBA All-Star Game
Michael Jordan gave Kobe Bryant a smiling nod and labeled Bryant as the only player that could beat him one-on-one. Jordan said he could beat LeBron James without flinching.
Okay, everyone please calm down.
Jordan did not say Bryant would beat him. His “Airness” did not say that the Black Mamba was better than him. Actually, he gave Bryant a back-handed compliment that was more of a reinforcement of Jordan’s greatness than Bryant’s.
In an interview meant to promote the newly released NBA 2K14 video game, Jordan stated he would have loved to have played against all the greats one-on-one: Elgin Baylor, Dwayne Wade, Julius Erving, LeBron James, and the list went on.
“I don’t think I would lose,” Jordan said about playing anyone 1-on-1 in his prime. “Other than to Kobe Bryant because he steals all of my moves.”
Per NBA.com, Jordan was smiling when he made the comment. As much as his “Airness” may have been complimenting Bryant’s greatness—especially as a 1-on-1 player—Jordan sounded more like he was commenting on how difficult it would be to beat himself in a game of 1-on-1. Although the media may go mad on Tuesday, Jordan’s compliment to Bryant served to reinforce no. 23’s undeniable impact on no. 24’s game.
There are several YouTube videos dedicated to Bryant’s ability to mirror Jordan on the court, and Jordan has previously acknowledged parallels between himself and Bryant with regards to mentality.
“He’s cursed as much as I am,” Jordan previous stated in an interview discussing Bryant’s desire to win.
Last season, Jordan struggled with choosing between James and Bryant, but ultimately he chose Bryant’s five championships over James’ one. Well, James collected his second title in heroic fashion last June, and Miami is favored for a three-peat a month ahead of the 2013-14 season. Jordan and Bryant have both accomplished three-peats in their illustrious careers, so James is still a step behind in the all-time discussion.
Until Bryant gets to six titles, Jordan will always maintain a slight edge over the Mamba in the talk about the greatest of all time. When Bryant returns to the Los Angeles Lakers at the age of 35 following an incredible recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon, believe that Bryant is fueled by matching Jordan head-to-head and getting that sixth title.
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