LeBron James Says Michael Jordan Was Still Best Player in the World at Age 35

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IIMay 18, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James watches for a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday, March 8, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

LeBron James reacted to The Last Dance on his UNINTERRUPTED platform Monday.

ESPN's 10-part documentary series aired its final two episodes on Sunday night, and the Los Angeles Lakers All-Star pondered what it would have been like if Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls ran it back following the 1997-98 season to go for a seventh championship (11-minute mark):

"You definitely would've loved to see him go for seven. And it's like, you know, when we watched Mike, when we was watching him in the '98 Finals, we're like, he's nowhere near washed. ... He's nowhere near to being on his last leg. This motherf--ker can still go. He's still the best player in the world, and I'm watching that in '98 at 14 years of age like, 'Wow, Mike's still the best player in the world at 35 years old."

The Last Dance centered around the 1997-98 Bulls that captured Jordan's sixth and final championship. After that campaign, the Hall of Famer announced his retirement for the second time—he later returned with the Washington Wizards for two seasons from 2001-03—while head coach Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and others also departed.

James is 35 years old and was playing some of the best basketball of his career before the league entered an indefinite hiatus on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic:

StatMuse @statmuse

LeBron James is having his 16th season averaging 25+ PPG, more than any other player in NBA history. The closest players are Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant — all with 12 such seasons. (Submitted by @pagingdrjones) https://t.co/rILAyPXvD9

StatMuse @statmuse

LeBron James since All-Star break: 30.4 PPG 7.7 RPG 9.4 APG 56.8 FG% The Lakers have won 10 of their last 11 games. https://t.co/haCGWbuoYw

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

LeBron’s last two games: 👑 37/8/8 vs. Bucks 👑 28/7/9 vs. Clippers 👑 50% FG 👑 Held Giannis to 7 PTS on 2/8 FG 👑 More PTS, REB, AST, STL, BLK than Giannis and Kawhi combined Year 17. (via @nbastats) https://t.co/PwsJepe5zu

Comparisons to Jordan have followed James since the Cleveland Cavaliers made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft.

In light of The Last Dance, an ESPN poll found that 73 percent of NBA fans "believe Jordan is the superior player overall," but Jordan downplayed the debate back in January:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

Michael Jordan weighs in on the 🐐 debate. https://t.co/ZiKkeAoCmU

James (34,087) surpassed Jordan (32,292) on the NBA all-time points leaderboard in March 2019. Rather than feed into what it might mean in the GOAT debate, James lauded Jordan (h/t Associated Press):

"He was everything. ... You guys have no idea what M.J. did for me and my friends growing up. Just in a sense of, some days where you just don't feel like you’re going to make it to the next day where I grew up, because of everything that's going on. Like I wrote on my shoes today, I thank M.J. more than he would ever know. I've got to carry it on to the next kid. Hopefully I can inspire the next kid."

Jordan was a 14-time All-Star, 10-time scoring champion, six-time Finals MVP and five-time league MVP, among several other accolades throughout his disjointed 15-season career. James is a three-time NBA champion, three-time Finals MVP, four-time NBA MVP and 16-time All-Star.


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