Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant and the 50 Best 1-on-1 Dream Matchups
Michael Jordan got the chance to go head-to-head against Kobe Bryant, but never under ideal conditions allowing us to accurately determine who indeed is the greatest shooting guard in history.
And who, just maybe, is the greatest basketball player to ever grace the face of the earth.
Sadly, we'll never get the chance to know for sure.
But as His Airness reminded us during one of his commercials, we are free to imagine the unimaginable.
The prospect of seeing Kobe and MJ play one-on-one in their primes is the inspiration behind this list of the 50 clashes we would absolutely love to see.
Our goal was to create intriguing matchups by pairing players with similar size, skills and style of play while crossing the many generations of NBA basketball.
The list features plenty of superstars, Hall of Famers and basketball icons.
It also includes a handful of clashes that simply would be downright entertaining.
The most important thing to remember is this idealized scenario would take place with the players in the prime of their careers.
After all, nobody wants to see Michael Jordan wearing a Wizards' uniform take on Kobe with a balky right knee.
Here's a look at 50 of the best one-on-one pairings we would love to see and which players would come out victorious.
No. 50: Chris Bosh Vs. Dave Cowens
A battle of two big men who have soft touches and a great deal of versatility.
Bosh Brings: Bosh isn't anywhere close to being considered a Hall of Famer yet, but that could change after a few NBA titles. Obviously, much more athletic and quicker than Cowens.
Cowens Brings: One of the most well-rounded big men in NBA history, Cowens was known for an intensity that might literally frighten the mild-mannered Bosh into submission.
The Winner Is: Bosh is so skilled offensively, it's just difficult to imagine him losing unless he got scared after getting popped in the chops.
No. 49: James Worthy Vs. Ron Artest
Two more versatile players, Worthy and Artest bring similar size and strength to the table. This would be a fantastic matchup, that is as long as it didn't become a jump-shooting contest...
Worthy Brings: The ability to finish on the break and around the rim. His perimeter skills weren't great, but he is much more athletic than Artest.
Artest Brings: Aside from probably having a better handle than Worthy, Artest has a considerable advantage in strength against his potential foe.
The Winner Is: Remember, this features both players in their prime. In his prime, a young Artest could get to the basket almost as well as Worthy thanks to his massive frame.
In the end, Worthy is a little more skilled on the offensive end and uses his length to beat Ron-Ron...
No. 48: Charles Oakley Vs. Brad Miller
Another matchup featuring two NBA greats...OK, not so much.
But why not give out some love to two of the NBA's most successful role players in recent memory?
Just don't count on seeing any dunks...
Oakley Brings: A decent offensive game featuring a reliable mid-range jump shot to the table. He would have an edge in strength against Miller, and is also a better defender.
Miller Brings: A fairly diverse offensive game. It's easy to mock his plodding style, but Miller can't shoot from the outside and has a nice touch around the basket.
The Winner Is: As an NBA fan, I have difficulty remembering ever seeing Oakley actually dribble the basketball.
Nonetheless, his rugged defense would give him the edge against Miller.
Both players end the game covered in blood, with Oakley coming out on top...
No. 47: Joe Dumars Vs. Chauncey Billups
A battle of World Champion Pistons, both Dumars and Billups have a solid mid-range game and the ability to bury three-pointers...
Dumars Brings: A solid offensive game and underrated defensive skills. The so-called "Jordan Rules" get a great deal of credit for Detroit's success against a young Michael Jordan, but NBA fans know Dumars did a very solid job containing His Airness in one-on-one situations.
Billups Brings: Slightly better three-point shooting than his opponent and a great handle.
The Winner Is: Mr. Big Shot uses his ball-handling abilities to pull off a close win over Joe D...
No. 46: Brandon Jennings Vs. Calvin Murphy
A pair of cat-quick guards who can heat up at a moment's notice, doing it behind the three-point line or using an array of floaters...
Jennings Brings: Lots of three-point shots and plenty of creativity on the offensive end. No interest in playing defense, but it wouldn't matter given all of Murphy's skills.
Murphy Brings: Not many players are quicker than Jennings, but Murphy might be.
The Winner Is: Jennings is more of a volume shooter than anything else, and Murphy's moves in the lane and around the basket give him the edge.
Calvin wins in a tight game...
No. 45: Steve Kerr Vs. Derek Fisher
Two clutch players who rode the coattails of NBA greats to NBA titles.
If Michael Jordan needed a teammate to hit a big shot, he wanted the ball in Kerr's hands.
If Kobe Bryant needs a clutch shot, he still wants the ball in Fisher's hands.
Kerr Brings: Underrated toughness and beautiful shooting at all the big moments. Just don't ask him to play defense.
Fisher Brings: Overrated toughness and beautiful shooting at all the big moments. Fisher is a true point guard, giving him a big edge over Kerr.
The Winner Is: Fisher is a much better ball-handler than Kerr and more accustomed to creating his own shots.
It won't even be close...
No. 44: Dennis Rodman Vs. Wes Unseld
Two of the best rebounders in NBA history with limited offensive skills...
Unseld Brings: A slightly better offensive game than Rodman with much better touch around the basket.
Rodman Brings: Better defensive skills than his opponent, but not nearly as much physical—or mental—strength.
The Winner Is: Early in his career, Rodman wasn't a horrible offensive player and could still rebound and defend at a high level.
Just don't think about his awkward-looking free throws during his later days in the NBA.
Rodman's agility gives him the edge, along with quickness and instincts that were often overlooked during his playing days.
No. 43: Eric Gordon Vs. Mitch Richmond
Two great scorers who never really get the credit they deserve while starring out West...
Gordon Brings: Underrated explosiveness and a good handle. His shooting numbers aren't horrible, but his jumper isn't necessarily the strength of his game.
Richmond Brings: The ability to score in a variety of ways. His strength lies in his mid-range game, but he could fill it up from three-point range and use his strength to get free for shots.
The Winner Is: Richmond has more versatility in his offensive game and gets Gordon to settle for outside shots en route to an easy win.
No. 42: Drazen Petrovic Vs. Latrell Sprewell
Two of the NBA's more explosive scorers and most gritty competitors in their primes...
Sprewell Brings: Athleticism, speed and the ability to heat up from the outside in a hurry.
Petrovic Brings: One of the most beautiful strokes you will ever see. Not great quickness by any means, but a crafty scorer capable of filling it up off the bounce.
The Winner Is: Petrovic is a much more consistent three-point shooter, giving him the edge against streaky Spree.
No. 41: David Thompson Vs. J.R. Smith
Another matchup featuring two explosive scorers capable of getting hot in a hurry...
Thompson Brings: A dynamic leaper, Thompson and Dr. J help the Slam Dunk Contest literally reach great heights in the old ABA.
Smith Brings: Unbridled athleticism and a horrible notion of what is a good shot. That doesn't really matter as much in one-on-one.
The Winner Is: Smith is an underrated player off the dribble and a good one-on-one defender, but Thompson can really leap and really score.
Thompson breaks off some nasty jams and humbles Smith at his own game...
No. 40: Russell Westbrook Vs. Kevin Johnson
Two quick point guards with a scorer's mentality and the ability to finish with authority...
Westbrook Brings: An improving mid-range jumper and more leaping ability than any guard in the league today besides Nate Robinson.
Johnson Brings: A reliable jump shot inside the arc and a knack for getting all the way to the rim.
The Winner Is: Johnson is a better perimeter shooter than Westbrook, giving him the edge despite his size disadvantage.
Westbrook hasn't even come close to reaching his prime potential yet.
No. 39: Tim Hardaway Vs. Monta Ellis
Speed, wiggle and killer crossovers. Remember, we're talking about a young Tim Hardaway with the Warriors here, not the aging version who spent his time launching three-pointers in Miami.
Hardaway Brings: The ability to get to the basket at will and keep defenders on their heels.
Ellis Brings: The same quickness and explosiveness of his opponent, plus incredible jumping ability.
The Winner Is: Hardaway is a much more consistent shooter than Ellis, but he would have problems staying in front of Ellis.
Monta gets to the basket and beats the leader of Run TMC...
No. 38: Patrick Ewing Vs. Bob Lanier
Steady, reliable and skilled, neither of these players ever got the credit they deserved.
Ewing Brings: A great offensive game and an intimidation factor.
Lanier Brings: Mr. Reliable with all the skills necessary to be an All-Star center.
The Winner Is: With Mark Jackson and Isiah Thomas on hand to make entry passes to help out the competitors, Ewing's high release proves impossible for Lanier to stop...
No. 37: Dell Curry Vs. Stephen Curry
Father vs. son. Great shooter vs. great shooter.
Dell Brings: A size advantage and maybe, just maybe, a better touch from the perimeter.
Stephen Brings: Great shooting, but also the ability to use the bounce to get to the basket.
The Winner Is: Steph is a much more natural scorer than his father, and finds his way to the basket repeatedly to earn bragging rights...
No. 36: Elgin Baylor Vs. Chris Webber
A matchup of skilled forwards who could shoot it from the perimeter and score inside.
What Baylor Brings: Undersized, but rugged and a flat-out scorer.
What Webber Brings: A rare mix of ball-handling, mid-range shooting and post game. It's all about keeping him focused.
The Winner Is: Baylor has too much offensive ability for Webber to handle and wins easily.
No. 35: John Stockton Vs. John Havlicek
Get out your short shorts and get ready to watch two gritty competitors go at it...
Stockton Brings: He almost never takes a bad shot, and he has just enough speed and savvy to get to the basket.
Havlicek Brings: Besides having eight more titles than Stockton, Hondo has the toughness and perseverance needed to deal with his competitor's shady tactics, including scratching and elbowing.
The Winner Is: Havlicek is more of a finisher than a creator, but he can also handle the ball and has a height advantage on Stockton.
Hondo hits more bank shots than his opponent and wins...
No. 34: Earl Monroe Vs. Dennis Johnson
One of the most creative playmakers in NBA history faces a tough competitor who could score and defend.
Monroe Brings: Beautiful spin moves, graceful drives to the basket and the ability to always play under control.
Johnson Brings: Hardly a great three-point shooter, but a very good scorer who just finds ways to get to the basket.
The Winner Is: Earl the Pearl could score on anyone and look good doing it.
What a treat this would be, with Monroe prevailing in the end...
No. 33: Manute Bol Vs. Shawn Bradley
An unlikely one-on-one clash featuring two of the game's gentle giants...
Bol Brings: He's tall and can block shots.
Bradley Brings: He's tall, can block shots and thinks he has a sky hook.
The Winner Is: How can you forget Manute's ability to hit the three-point shot? Bradley lazily lets Bol shoot standstill threes, and he pays for it.
At least he probably won't get dunked on by the slender Bol...
No. 32: Nate Robinson Vs. Spud Webb
Two of the most electrifying little men the NBA has ever seen...
Robinson Brings: He can certainly jump, but Robinson is a very good scorer who can shoot from long range.
Webb Brings: Quickness, leaping ability and much more smarts than his competitor.
The Winner Is: During his playing days, Webb was listed at 133 pounds. That will be a problem against his powerful little competitor.
Robinson is the epitome of a one-on-one player and wins easily...
No. 31: Paul Pierce Vs. Chris Mullin
Two of the NBA's best swingmen in recent memory with a below-the-rim style...
Pierce Brings: An improved three-point shot and a smooth, effortless offensive game.
Mullin Brings: A deadly shooter also able to score in a variety of ways.
Fear the flattop.
The Winner Is: Paul Pierce is more accustomed to having the ball in his hands, and takes Mullin down to the block.
Pierce wins, then tries to arrange a one-on-one battle with Larry Bird in hopes of finally gaining respect as one of Beantown's best...
No. 30: Reggie Miller Vs. Ray Allen
As much as we want to try to cross historical boundaries, it's simply impossible to pass on this one-on-one battle featuring the top two three-point shooters in NBA history.
Miller Brings: He can sure shoot it, and he isn't a horrible defender.
Allen Brings: Not only can Allen shoot it, he can also handle and get to the basket.
The Winner Is: Allen has too much of an advantage here, so the rules are altered to prevent the competitors from scoring inside the three-point line.
Allen's ability to shoot off the bounce helps him prevail...
No. 29: Deron Williams Vs. Walt Frazier
Grace, power and style...
Williams Brings: Great speed to go along with his size and outside shooting ability.
Frazier Brings: A diverse offensive game that always seems to be under control.
The Winner Is: Frazier was a great all-around player and a terrific scorer, but he wouldn't have the speed to stay in front of Williams.
Illinois beats Southern Illinois in this one-on-one matchup...
No. 28: Derrick Rose Vs. Jason Kidd
Two big, fast and explosive guards with almost identical size. Remember, we're talking Jason Kidd in his prime.
Rose Brings: A reliable jump shot inside the arc and the ability to jump over just about anyone who tries to defend him.
Kidd Brings: His all-around skills won't help him here, but Kidd can still get to the rim well enough to compete.
The Winner Is: Since we're already dreaming, let's make this a full-court game of one-on-one.
Rose's jump shot is already better than Kidd's has ever been and helps lead him to the win.
No. 27: John Wall Vs. Gary Payton
One of the best perimeter defenders in NBA history meets one of the fastest players the league has ever seen...
Wall Brings: Speed, speed and more speed and long arms to help him finish at the rim.
Payton Brings: Never a great shooter, but an excellent post player and very good scorer along with being a great defender.
The Winner Is: Payton punishes Wall in the paint, frustrates him and forces him to shoot jump shots.
At the moment, at least, this one isn't even close.
No. 26: Karl Malone Vs. Elvin Hayes
A matchup of two beasts from Louisiana, both among the best power forwards to ever play the game.
Malone Brings: A fadeaway jump shot that cannot be defended—with help from a little kick.
Hayes Brings: Toughness, strength and skill. He is a perfect matchup for the Mailman.
The Winner Is: Big E had more traditional power forward skills, including a post-up game.
Malone was never a great one-on-one player and wouldn't be able to beat Hayes in his prime.
Big E wins big.
No. 25: Dirk Nowitzki Vs. Kiki Vandeweghe
Two sweet-shooting big men with dynamic scoring ability...
Nowitzki Brings: His high release and fading jumper makes Dirk difficult to defend.
Vandeweghe Brings: Better perimeter skills than his opponent, including a great outside touch.
The Winner Is: This is a great matchup, but Dirk does have at least three inches on Vandeweghe.
His mid-range post-up game carries him to the win.
No. 24: Chris Paul Vs. Isiah Thomas
Two power-dribbling machines with almost identical skills...
Paul Brings: A competitive streak and a vastly improved outside shot.
Thomas Brings: That same competitive spirit and great quickness getting to the bucket.
The Winner Is: Thomas will do anything to win, so things would likely escalate between the two. Like most players in recent years, Paul has an edge in strength and would be able to deal with Zeke's cheap shots.
CP3 beats his idol and the two refuse to shake hands...
No. 23: Dwight Howard Vs. Darryl Dawkins
Power vs. power in the post...
Howard Brings: A somewhat-improved offensive game and ridiculous athletic ability.
Dawkins Brings: Size and strength that made him dominant at times during his playing career.
The Winner Is: Howard is just too quick for Dawkins and dunks his way to victory over Chocolate Thunder.
No. 22: Pau Gasol Vs. Kevin McHale
Beautiful footwork, post moves and length with underrated toughness...
Gasol Brings: A good jump shot and incredible length and touch around the rim.
McHale Brings: Grit, toughness and the ability to score on anyone inside.
The Winner Is: Gasol has the edge in athleticism, and his length would allow him to exploit McHale inside.
No. 21: Charles Barkley Vs. Len Bias
Barkley was quick, explosive and fierce during his prime in the NBA. The world never got the chance to see what kind of player Bias would have been in the pros...
Barkley Brings: The ability to handle like a guard on the break, shoot from the perimeter and finish around the rim.
Bias Brings: Rim-rattling jams, brute strength and fierce rebounding.
The Winner Is: As usual, Sir Charles would have to contend with a taller player in this particular one-on-one matchup.
Barkley never wanted to play much defense, and Bias would go around and over him en route to a win...
No. 20: David Robinson Vs. Robert Parish
The Admiral vs. the Chief. Two of the most regal big men in NBA history...
Robinson Brings: A nice lefty touch and terrific shot-blocking instincts.
Parish Brings: Toughness and good post moves around the basket.
The Winner Is: Both players have the ability to move well for their size, but Robinson has the advantage in strength and is a better defensive player.
The Admiral wins in a close, polite contest.
No. 19: Blake Griffin Vs. Dr. J
Two of the most athletic forwards basketball has ever known.
What Griffin Brings: Incredible leaping ability, impressive length and strength.
What Erving Brings: That same leaping and length, and the ability to finish over anyone at the rim.
The Winner Is: Griffin has a big edge in size and strength, but Dr. J has much better perimeter skills and the ability to make mid-range jumpers.
It will be closer than you think, but Dr. J gets the job done in the end...
No. 18: Magic Johnson Vs. Tracy McGrady
Two long, talented players with incredible handle. Again, we're talking about both players in their primes.
Johnson Brings: A size advantage and a legitimate post-up game from the point guard position.
McGrady Brings: More athleticism and a better pull-up game off the dribble than his opponent.
The Winner Is: Besides his passing, Magic wouldn't wow you on the offensive end.
At the same time, he could score in every possible way, and his size and post game would help him unseat T-Mac.
No. 17: Clyde Drexler Vs. Manu Ginobili
One of the most graceful players meets one of the most unorthodox wingmen the game has ever seen...
Drexler Brings: Power and finishing ability with much more strength than his opponent.
Ginobili Brings: Spastic finishing skills near the basket and an underrated three-point shot.
The Winner Is: In the words of Charles Barkley...Ginobili!
Drexler has the clear edge in talent, but the crafty Manu would be difficult for anyone to defend in one-on-one.
No. 16: Tim Duncan Vs. Arvydas Sabonis
Two of the most talented big men in basketball history...
Duncan Brings: Tons of offensive skills and an underrated ability to guard and contest shots.
Sabonis Brings: Prior to suffering an Achilles injury, Sabonis was regarded by scouts as the best big man in the world who had the ability to move like a guard at 7'3".
The Winner Is: Sabonis was dominant in his day, and would give Duncan fit with his size and skill.
It's too bad he didn't come over to the NBA earlier in his career...
No. 15: Rajon Rondo Vs. Bob Cousy
Craft, poise and incredible creativity. Just don't expect any three-pointers...
Cousy Brings: Quickness, poise and great handle.
Rondo Brings: Long arms, the ability to finish with either hand and score on an array of running shots.
The Winner Is: Cousy could score, but his points came within the framework of the Celtics' potent offense.
Rondo is more accustomed to going one-on-one, and would have the ability to find ways to score against Cooz.
No. 14: Scottie Pippen Vs. Rick Barry
One of the game's best defenders takes on one of the best scorers...
Pippen Brings: Long arms, great instincts and great slashing ability.
Barry Brings: Craft, shooting ability and insane competitiveness.
The Winner Is: Rick Barry's offensive skills are good enough to test even Pippen's defensive ability, and Scottie would need to hit his jump shots to prevail.
Barry wins in a close contest and claims he is the best basketball player in the entire world after the win.
Maybe we should have a playoff...
No. 13: Amar'e Stoudemire Vs. Shawn Kemp
Fierce dunks, great athleticism and good mid-range shooting...
Stoudemire Brings: A wealth of offensive skills and probably a little better handle than his opponent...
Kemp Brings: The ability to throw down so hard his hands will begin to bleed. A rare blend of strength and agility.
The Winner Is: Kemp is an absolute beast and goes right at Stoudemire.
Amar'e backs down in the end and comes up a little bit short...
No. 12: Allen Iverson Vs. Tiny Archibald
Two of the best-scoring little men in basketball history...
Iverson Brings: Long arms, a lethal first step and a deadly mid-range jumper.
Archibald Brings: Great quickness and a well-rounded offensive game honed on the playgrounds.
The Winner Is: Iverson's athleticism and ability to defend in a one-on-one matchup against a small opponent would be the difference against Archibald.
A.I. prevails in this crossover matchup...
No. 11: Vince Carter Vs. Dominique Wilkins
Two high-flying stars who could flat-out score...
Carter Brings: A good handle, three-point range and all the athletic ability in the world.
Wilkins Brings: Good size, strength and much more consistency.
The Winner Is: Wilkins was more of a finisher than a creator, but he rarely took bad shots and took the ball to the rim with abandon.
Even in his prime, Carter settled for jump shots too often.
The Human Highlight film wins and creates plenty of highlights along the way...
No. 10: Carmelo Anthony Vs. Larry Bird
Great scorers who can shoot, post and do whatever it takes to drop 30 on any given night...
Bird Brings: Great size and the ability to finish around the basket by using either hand.
Anthony Brings: An explosive first step and brute strength.
The Winner Is: Both players can get really hot, but the crafty Bird would find a way to frustrate Carmelo and shoot his way to victory.
No. 9: George Mikan Vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Two dominant big men who were rarely challenged early during their careers...
Mikan Brings: A simple but effective offensive game.
Abdul-Jabbar Brings: That famous sky hook and astounding length.
The Winner Is: Kareem dominated on both ends during his career, as did Mikan.
In the end, Mikan would have no idea what to do against a player his own size.
Kareem wins, and wins easily...
No. 8: Steve Nash Vs. Pete Maravich
Two of the most creative basketball players to ever play the game...
Nash Brings: The ability to get his shot off against anyone and shoot a great percentage from three-point range.
Maravich Brings: Improvisational skills and a deadly jump shot.
The Winner Is: Pistol Pete has a height advantage, but neither player would have much interest in relying on the inside game to score.
The streaky Maravich gets hot to defeat the defensively challenged Nash...
No. 7: George Gervin Vs. Kevin Durant
Two smooth scorers with great length...just don't put them in a push-up contest.
Gervin Brings: The ability to get to the basket with ease.
Durant Brings: Long-range shooting and great handle for his size.
The Winner Is: With his size and stroke, Durant would be difficult for anyone to beat in one-on-one.
The Iceman has no chance as K.D. cruises to a win...
No. 6: Bill Walton Vs. Yao Ming
Two men who get it down with finesse, not power...
Walton Brings: Much more quickness than his opponent and a wealth of creativity around the basket.
Yao Brings: You can't argue against height, especially when you combine it with skill.
The Winner Is: The Big Redhead would be able to get around Yao all day long.
Walton wins as neither player gets many stops...
No. 5: Oscar Robertson Vs. LeBron James
The King of the Triple-Double vs. the King...
Robertson Brings: Great handle for his size and more of a true inside game than his opponent.
James Brings: Better outside shooting than his opponent and the ability to get to the rim at will.
The Winner Is: Basketball historians will tell you the Big O played in a somewhat watered-down era in his prime.
He never went against a player with LeBron's skills.
James wins rather easily in a breathtaking contest...
No. 4: Hakeem Olajuwon Vs. Bill Russell
Arguably the best offensive big man meets the best defensive man in the pivot...
Olajuwon Brings: The dream shake, great quickness and every possible post move.
Russell Brings: Simply the best set of defensive skills basketball has ever seen.
The Winner Is: What a game this would be.
Russell would be able to bother Olajuwon, but Hakeem's defensive skills would be enough to help him prevail.
If only we could make this happen...
No. 3: Dwyane Wade Vs. Jerry West
Power and speed vs. skill and shooting...
Wade Brings: A huge edge in strength and explosiveness over his opponent.
West Brings: The ability to play under control and get any shot he wants.
The Winner Is: The difference in size and athleticism would tilt the balance in Wade's favor.
West hangs tough, but Wade gives him fits off the dribble and wins...
No. 2: Wilt Chamberlain Vs. Shaquille O'Neal
Power, grace and dominant scoring ability...
O'Neal Brings: Much more than simply a dunker, Shaq would give Chamberlain fits with his size and quickness.
Chamberlain Brings: The ability to do whatever he wanted, as long as he wasn't facing Bill Russell.
The Winner Is: Assuming Chamberlain would actually be willing to foul while playing one-on-one, he would make life difficult for Shaq.
In the end, the Big Aristotle clamps down on Wilt the Stilt to prevail...
No. 1: Michael Jordan Vs. Kobe Bryant
Was there really any doubt who would be matched up at No. 1?
Jordan Brings: Just a pretty good player. The ability to post, score off the dribble, jump out of the gym and defend anyone in the world.
Bryant Brings: The ability to copy Jordan's mannerisms to a tee, both on and off the court. Dynamic athleticism and better long-range shooting than Jordan.
The Winner Is: Drum roll please...
NBA fans know it is never a good idea to bet against Michael Jordan and his cutthroat competitiveness.
Jordan would show Kobe three-point range isn't necessary by getting to the basket time and time again.
MJ's place as the best player of the world remains secure...