Power Ranking Kobe Bryant and the Careers of the "Next Jordans"
Every so often a player comes around that is such a total package in terms of athleticism and basketball skills that the comparisons to Michael Jordan inevitably creep up.
It is completely unwarranted, and nobody will ever live up to the legend that is Michael Jordan, but the comparisons happen all the time, putting all kinds of pressure on the guy that is supposedly next in line to Michael Jordan.
In honor of the eight-year anniversary of Michael Jordan's final retirement (I felt I had to do it in honor of something), I'll rank for you, from top to bottom, the careers of the "next Jordans."
With each player I have included a quote from Space Jam that will sum up their careers, because who doesn't immediately think of Space Jam whenever they hear the name Michael Jordan?
By the way, if they were to make a version of this movie today, instead of using Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley and Shawn Bradley, they would probably go for Nate Robinson, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki and as the out of nowhere center they would take JaVale McGee, with Dwyane Wade taking MJ's part.
15. Harold Miner
Would you get over it? It's over. It's done with. You can't play.—Larry Bird to Bill Murray
The first player to really start up the talk about being the "next" Michael Jordan, the USC standout was given the nickname "Baby Jordan."
Needless to say, Miner did not live up to that nickname, unless of course it is taken literally and he was the equivalent of what MJ would have done as an infant, in which case he may be close.
For your entertainment, and because I am such a huge dork, I compiled the 82 worst scoring, rebounding and assisting games from Jordan's career and compared them to Miner's best season.
Jordan at his very worst would have gotten you just over 13 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Meanwhile, the best season from Miner yielded 10.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists.
The worst of Michael Jordan could have easily beaten the best of Harold Miner. How's that for sad?
14. Mickael Pietrus
You ever heard of the Dream Team? Well, we're the Mean Team, wussy man.—The Monstars after they first show up with the NBA players talent.
Known as the "French Jordan," Mickael Pietrus has the basketball skills to be known as one of the better players ever to come from France.
Pietrus is one of the best and most physical young defensive players in the game, even being called the LeBron Stopper for a short time after the Magic beat the Cavaliers in the 2009 NBA Playoffs.
Pietrus can score pretty well, has some impressive athleticism and is a good three-point shooter, but he is no MJ.
13. Hedo Turkoglu
Larry's not white, Larry's clear.—Bill Murray on why Larry Bird was a good basketball player.
The only white guy on this list deserves my favorite quote from Space Jam.
Like Pietrus is known as the French Jordan, Hedo Turkoglu was once known as the Turkish MJ in his native country.
Turkoglu is a three-point shooter at his best and not much more than that at this point in his career. He has been good for the Magic and was even key to their run to the 2009 NBA Finals, but he is in no way, shape or form any kind of Michael Jordan.
12. Isaiah Rider
I mean, you look good when you strike out, man. When I strike out, it looks nasty, man. But at least you look good, man.—Teammate after MJ strikes out.
Isaiah Rider started out with a phenomenal career that could have been Hall of Fame-worthy had he played long enough.
However, with an assault charge, multiple marijuana possession charges and once even spitting on a heckler while on Portland, no team could afford to put too much stock into Rider, and he retired in 2001.
Isaiah Rider may have struck out, but boy, did he look good doing it.
11. Ron Harper
I've got other skills. I could go back and work on the farm. Or maybe...I could go back to the jungle and be a missionary again.—Shawn Bradley, deciding what to do without his basketball skills.
First, I have to marvel at the inclusion of Shawn Bradley in this movie. Him losing his basketball "skills" probably wouldn't do much damage to him. He didn't have much of that in the first place.
Ron Harper usually garnered comparisons to Julius Erving, but sprinkled in were Jordan comparisons as well.
After being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, the high-flying, fleet-footed Harper was hit with the full brunt of the Donald Sterling Curse, injuring his knee, robbing him of his athleticism and speed.
Harper was a hard worker, however, and reinvented himself as a tough defender, allowing him to be a part of championship teams in Chicago and Los Angeles, netting him five rings in the process.
10. Jerry Stackhouse
Whatever you do, don't forget my North Carolina shorts.—Michael Jordan
The biggest thing that Jerry Stackhouse had in common with Michael Jordan was that he went to UNC and was extremely hyped coming out.
His peak was short, as it came and went in four years in Detroit, but it was something to see, as he averaged 29.8 points a game in the 2000-01 season.
After leaving the Pistons, Stackhouse got progressively worse, with people so affectionately referring to him as Jerry Wackhouse.
9. Michael Finley
Whoa hoa hoa! I don't play defense.—Bill Murray in the huddle drawing up a play to run.
Michael Finley first met Michael Jordan in high school after he won a contest to play a one-on-one game with MJ, after which Jordan was so impressed that he hinted that he wouldn't be surprised to see Finley at the professional level one day.
Finley was a good player for a long time but never really hit a huge peak like a lot of the other Next Michaels have done.
The one thing that did stick out to me whenever I watched him play, however, was how lackadaisical he would become on defense at times.
Besides Harold Miner (for obvious reasons) and Hedo Turkoglu, he would be the worst defender of the Next Michaels.
8. Grant Hill
I've been MRI'd, EKG'd, X-rayed, laser beamed...—Larry Johnson after visiting doctors to see what happened to his talent.
Poor Grant Hill.
His time as a "Next Jordan" candidate ended too prematurely for a player as exciting and as dedicated as he was.
Aside from two other people (they're higher on this list, and I don't want to give them away yet), Grant Hill was probably the closest to Jordan in terms of will to win.
He went down in 2000 with an ankle injury and hasn't been the same since, although he is still one of the league's better defenders and can still score quite well.
7. Penny Hardaway
Pardon me, Mr. Jordan, but could I have your autog-g-g...your autog-g-g...your John Hancock, please?—Porky the Pig upon meeting Jordan.
Why did I pick this quote you might ask?
Well, Penny Hardaway was a great player for much of his career, but he just couldn't seem to break on through to that next level.
Just like Porky can't break through that final word to end the sentence, Penny just couldn't seem to break through to the next level to become extraordinary.
Hardaway averaged at least 15 points a game in his first six seasons, but injuries and no longer playing with one of the most dominant centers in the history of the NBA took their toll, and Hardaway fell into being just a good player for the last half of his career.
6. Tracy McGrady
We ain't a-goin' nowheres!—Yosemite Sam
Basically, if you have Tracy McGrady on your team, you are in for an exciting regular season, but by the time the playoffs roll around, you ain't a-goin' nowheres.
McGrady is famous for never having won a playoff series in his career despite being one of the best players of the past decade.
Unless he ends up signing with one of the better teams in the league next season, it seems that McGrady will continue that streak and possibly retire without ever experiencing the second round of the playoffs.
McGrady was a special player who could score as well as anyone in the league, but come playoff time he just couldn't get the job done.
5. Vince Carter
And I'm a Shakespearean actor.—Bugs Bunny, in response to MJ claiming to be a baseball player.
The Captain of Crying, the Tsar of Tears, the Sultan of Sobs, Vince Carter can be found writhing around in pain almost as much as he can be found soaring through the air.
Carter had to have been trained to sell contact by a professional soccer player, because he is down on the ground more than anyone in the league.
Despite his tendency to milk injuries, Carter is arguably the best dunker in NBA history and was an amazing player for a time.
4. Dwyane Wade
Eh, not so fast, docs... You can't just toin us into slaves; that would be bad. You've got to give us a chance to defend ourselves.—Bugs negotiates with the Aliens.
The best negotiator in basketball right now has to be Dwyane Wade. I am thoroughly convinced that Pat Riley sent him out to lure LeBron James and Chris Bosh to the Heat four years ago, and he did just that.
By convincing them to come to Miami, he became a hated player himself, but he comes across as one of the smartest guys in the NBA.
As one of the few "Next Jordans" to have led his team to an NBA championship, Wade has something many of the others don't: a ring.
Wade seems like he will have an injury-shortened career, but he will have had a successful one even if he were to announce his retirement today.
3. Allen Iverson
The mouse? He picked the mouse?—Stan's reaction to the mouse getting picked to play over him.
One of the strangest Michael Jordan comparisons came when his name started getting thrown around with Allen Iverson.
At only 6'0", Iverson is by far the shortest of all of the "Next Michaels," but he was possibly the best scorer of them all.
Blessed with a mediocre cast of players around him at times and the ability to not care how many shots he took, Iverson averaged over 30 points a game four times in his career, more times than Kobe Bryant and the most of any "Next Jordan."
2. LeBron James
Thanks guys, you got a lot of...a lot of...well, whatever it is, you got a lot of it.—Jordan after winning the game.
We're still trying to put a finger on LeBron James. We haven't exactly figured out what he is yet.
He doesn't seem to have the unwavering will to win that Michael Jordan had, but he is without a doubt stronger and more athletic.
Is he a freakish version of Julius Erving or a huge Magic Johnson? Who knows really, but all I can say as of right now is that LeBron James is LeBron James.
You can berate the man for not having any rings on his fingers, or for absolutely quitting on the Cavs a year ago, or for backing down from a challenge and copping out to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but you can't deny that he is a special player.
1. Kobe Bryant
And now, the player coach of the Toon Squad, at six foot six from North Carolina, his Royal Airness: Michael Jordan!
This is the closest person we have seen to Michael Jordan since the real deal.
Between his five championships, his uber-competitive nature, the numbers and the whole having Phil Jackson as a coach thing, Kobe Bryant is just a few intangibles away from Jordan.
Jordan was a better scorer and defender at his height and was a much better clutch shooter, but Kobe has lived up to quite a large amount of the hype that surrounded him coming out of high school, and for that I say bravo.