Michael Jordan has never defended LeBron James—what we're looking at never happened, nor will it ever.
But what if it did?
What if Jordan and LeBron actually squared off on the basketball court? What if His Airness was tasked with defending the Chosen One from the top of the arc? What then?
James himself has clearly thought about it. Why else would he have a photoshopped picture of he and Jordan waging battle on the hardwood together as a screensaver on his cell phone?
Again, this is something we will never see. But just because this is a hypothetical matchup doesn't mean we can't deduce what would happen next.
Because we can.
James is a masterful ball-handler, one who prefers to attack the basket—a preference that would hold true here.
Sure, LeBron is shooting a career-best 42.3 percent from beyond the arc right now, but is he about to pass up the opportunity to posterize one of his idols?
I don't think so.
James would ultimately do what he does best—a one-step crossover to his right, hoping to create a clear path to the rim.
We've seen LeBron do it about a million times before. His superior athleticism and ball protection allows him to quickly maneuver his body over to the weak side only to head back to the right. From there, he usually has created enough space to get to the basket without much resistance.
And yet, Jordan would know this, so wouldn't James change it up? Wouldn't he perhaps attack the left by throwing an additional crossover into the mix? Or maybe even settle for a jumper?
For some, that would make sense, but not for James. As he faces up the man he idolized, he's going attempt to get to the basket his way, not based on what Jordan may or may not be anticipating.
To be clear, this isn't a sign of disrespect, ignorance or arrogance at its best. This would be about one player proving to the other that he can ball. It would be about LeBron proving to his role-model that he's worthy of the comparisons that continue to be made.
Plus, would Jordan change his train of thought just because he was being defended by James?
Absolutely not. Partly because he's the king of making mid-air adjustments, but mostly because he'd want to exploit LeBron on his own terms.
Don't expect that to entail a rim-rocking display either. Jordan was never one to shy away from attacking the basket, but his biggest shots against the greatest of foes came on some crafty work from the outside.
Facing James, and like James himself, Jordan would undoubtedly utilize the crossover—only differently.
One of the things that made Jordan so great were his displays from the weak side. He would so often dribble right only to crossover and subsequently shake his defender going left. From there he'd have an open fadeaway that he would usually drill. Just ask Bryon Russell.
Could James successfully guard Jordan's on-ball perimeter escapades? Would he wind up being the modern day Russell? Or would his defensive toughness reign supreme?
And could Jordan prevent James from overpowering him at the rim? Could he force James to his left or even into a contested jumper? Or we he ultimately fall victim, like so many before him, to LeBron's strong side accolades?
Outside of the video game realm, the world will never know.
But it's more than exhilarating to imagine that we do.
All stats used in this article are accurate as of December 5th, 2012.
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