Pat Riley Says Magic Johnson Is Greatest Player in NBA History

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2017

NEW YORK - 1990:  Magic Johnson #32 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks with head coach Pat Riley during a game against the New York Knicks, circa 1990 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1990 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Every year the debate grows louder about who the best basketball player of all time is between Michael Jordan and LeBron James, but Pat Riley has presented a third option.

The Hall of Fame coach said Monday that Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson is the G.O.A.T., per ESPN.com.

However, he did give James credit for his ability to replicate Johnson's skill set.

"LeBron is the closest thing to [Johnson] that we've ever seen because of his size, his speed, his acceleration, his vision—everything that he can do," Riley said.

Riley coached Johnson when he was in charge of the Lakers from 1981 to 1990, winning four NBA titles in that stretch. The team also won the championship in Johnson's rookie year of 1980 when Riley was an assistant coach.

The three-time MVP only averaged 19.5 points per game in his career, but that didn't reflect his impact on the Lakers.

"He didn't have to score because of Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and James [Worthy] and everyone else we had," Riley said. "He was a winner."

Johnson was alongside Riley during this discussion in Los Angeles on Monday, and he interjected by instead calling James the best player.

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"He has it and it just rubs off," Johnson said. "He's just special."

James has three titles in his career but is currently competing in his seventh straight NBA Finals.

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