Even casual basketball fans can recite the talking points for each side of the Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James debate at this point.
Jordan has more championships (six to three) and MVPs (five to four) and is likely the better pure scorer, while James made more NBA Finals (nine to six) and is likely the better passer. Jordan fans will point to an arguably more difficult road to the NBA Finals in the Eastern Conference in the 1990s, while James fans will highlight daunting Finals opponents such as the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs dynasties.
The debate has grown tiresome for many, but Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone can offer a unique perspective because he was an assistant coach on the Cleveland Cavaliers when James played in Northeast Ohio.
Malone seemingly sided with Jordan during a Tuesday Zoom call with reporters and pointed to his "killer mentality," per Mark Medina of USA Today:
"It's always an ongoing argument about who is the GOAT. Michael obviously is up there and is the greatest of all time. There are not many Michael Jordans out there. I coached LeBron James for five years and have a great relationship with him. LeBron did not have the same mindset or killer mentality that Michael Jordan is supposed to have had. But LeBron James is arguably the greatest of all time as well.
"Michael Jordan was not just a great player. He would reach into your chest and pull your heart out if he had to win a game. You don't see that really often. He had that killer mindset and brought it every single night. That's why all of these many years later, he's the greatest of all time."
Jordan hasn't played in the NBA since the 2002-03 campaign, but he is the center of attention once again thanks to ESPN's The Last Dance documentary chronicling his dominance and the Bulls teams of the 1990s.
A side effect of the documentary is reigniting the Jordan vs. James debate on social media, and fans of His Airness now have another talking point.
One of James' former coaches doesn't think the King can match Jordan's "killer mentality."