Over the years, basketball fanatics have argued over who the greatest player of all time is. Although players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Magic Johnson are all in the conversation, the one player that elucidated greatness was Michael Jordan.
Indeed, it’s tough to differentiate players from different eras. But defining greatness is assessing how dominant the player was over the course of his career. Michael Jeffrey Jordan hoisted five MVP trophies, was named to 10 All-NBA First Teams (known as the best five players in the NBA) and won six NBA Champinoships. However, what truly separated Jordan from the rest was his defensive prowess. He illustrated this by being securing nine All-NBA Defensive First Team selections in his amazing career.
Though Wilt Chamberlain once scored 100 points in a game and Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s the all-time scoring leader with 38,387 points, Jordan is still the greatest scorer we’ve ever seen. He boasted an incredible 30.1 points per game, while winning a record of 10 scoring titles.
While no player is deserving a comparison to His Airness, these 15 players were once thought to be the “next” Michael Jordan. Though some players on this list are surefire first ballot Hall of Famers, some never lived up to the hype.
15. Grant Hill
Had it not been for injuries, could Grant Hill have lived up to the lofty expectations that were put on him to be the next Michael Jordan? We’ll never know the answer to this question, but we’d doubt it, as no one else has been able to reach those expectations.
After being drafted out of Duke, where the comparison began due to his prolific play, with the 3rd overall pick in 1994, the first half of Hill’s career looked promising. Unfortunately, he was extremely injury prone in the second half of his career and he only played more than 80 games six times in his illustrious NBA career.
14. Michael Finley
After Michael Finley dazzled Michael Jordan in a one-on-one contest in high school that left Jordan fascinated, Jordan was quoted as saying that the two would meet again in the NBA down the road. In the end, Finley was drafted 21st overall in the 1995 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns.
Following his rookie season, Finley was traded to the Dallas Mavericks on December 26th, 1996 in a package deal for Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd. Jordan was right about meeting Finley in the NBA, but the former Badgers star was another flop that had a good NBA career, but failed to live up to the expectations that Jordan set for him.
13. Jerry Stackhouse
A lethal scorer scorer out of North Carolina, Jerry Stackhouse failed to live up to expectations as the next MJ. Though Stackhouse had a solid career, he never won a scoring title or an NBA Championship. So where’s the comparison? Well, Stackhouse did attend the University of North Carolina just like Michael, but that’s where the similarities end.
Though Stackhouse falls in the category of pretenders, he did put together a good career for himself with two All-Star appearances and he now serves as one of the assistant coaches for the Toronto Raptors. On September 9th, 2016, the Raptors promoted Stackhouse to become the head coach for Raptors 905, the franchise’s NBA developmental team.
12. Tracy McGrady
During his illustrious 16-year NBA career, Tracy McGrady won the NBA scoring title twice and was similar to Jordan athletically, but MJ was a multiple-time NBA Champion, while T-Mac struggled to get out of the first round at his peak with the Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets.
McGrady stormed straight out of high school in 1997 and quickly established himself as a scoring threat who was nearly unstoppable on the offensive side. His deficiency on the defensive end, injury issues and lack of postseason success negated some of his Jordan comparisons, though that didn’t stop people from making the comparison.
One has to wonder if T-Mac had stayed healthy his entire career, could he have been the closest player to Michael Jordan? We doubt it, but like with Grant Hill, there’s no way to say for sure.
11. Harold Miner
Living up to any nickname after the greatest player of all-time is certainly hard to overcome and Harold Miner couldn’t live up to the “Baby Jordan” nickname he received in high school due to his dunking ability. Heck, MJ’s own kids couldn’t even succeed at the collegiate level. While at USC, Miner became the school’s all-time leading scorer, led the Trojans to a No. 2 seed in the 1992 NCAA Tournament and won the Sports Illustrated College Basketball Player of the Year award, over rising superstar Shaquille O’Neal and Duke’s Christian Laettner.
After being drafted by the Miami Heat 12th overall in the 1992 NBA Draft, Harold “Baby Jordan” Miner attempted to live up to his nickname by winning the NBA Slam dunk Contest in 1993 and 1995. Sadly, those were the highlights of the explosive dunker’s career.
Miner’s head coach at USC George Raveling divulged, “I always felt the worst thing to happen to Harold was the Baby Jordan tag.” He was right.
10. Derrick Rose
A Chicago native who had the city on his shoulders, Derrick Rose was touted as “the next MJ” after being named the youngest MVP in NBA history at only 22 years old. It looked like Rose was on his way to becoming the next Chicago Bulls franchise player. Maybe not Michael Jordan great, but a player the Bulls franchise could rely on for a long time.
His explosive combination of speed and athleticism was something the NBA hds never seen before. Rose took the league by storm and won an MVP trophy in only his third season.
Sadly, injuries took a toll on the dynamic point guard as he tore his ACL in 2011-12 during the first round of the playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers, leading to him missing an entire year. Rose would then tear his right meniscus in a 2013-14 regular season clash against the Portland Trail Blazers and missed the rest of that season.
9. Vince Carter
Considered by many as the best dunker of all-time, Vince “Air Canada” Carter drew comparisons to Jordan because of his dunking ability at the shooting guard position. Oh, and he so happened to play for the Tar Heels in college as well.
After six seasons in Canada, the Toronto Raptors traded Carter to the New Jersey Nets on December 17th, 2004, after failing to build a championship team around him. Carter had impressive displays in four full season with the Nets, which earned him a few All-Star appearances and he’s currently in the top 10 of nineteen different statistical Nets categories, which includes points, defensive rebounds, assists, turnover rate, 3-point field goals, offensive rating, player efficiency rating, and win shares. Well done, Vince.
While dunking doesn’t win you games, Carter played in one Eastern Conference finals with the Orlando Magic in 2009-10, but sadly never secured an NBA Championship. With no title and handful of personal accolades, Vince Carter never came to close to Michael Jordan’s status.
8. Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony was a destructive scorer that many projected to be on Jordan’s level when he started his career with the Denver Nuggets, following his NCAA title glory with Syracuse. Then, the New York Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony on February 22nd, 2011 to bring championship glory back to the Garden, but the 6’8″ scoring forward hasn’t been able to deliver any trophies.
The furthest Carmelo Anthony made it in the playoffs was when he led the Nuggets to a Conference Finals in 2009, but he was ousted by Kobe Bryant’s Lakers. Though he is one of the prolific scorers in the NBA today, Melo has failed to make it past the second round of playoffs in any of his other 12 seasons.
Melo, just like Dan Marino in football, will probably end up with no titles in his Hall of Fame career.
7. Allen Iverson
Even though Allen Iverson lacked Michael Jordan’s physicality and size, “The Answer” still managed to get Jordan’s comparisons due to his legendary crossover and incredible scoring touch.
He changed the NBA culture with his cornrows, tattoos, sick crossovers and clothes that a lot of people considered unprofessional. However, Iverson did his most important talking on the court, as he battled against giants each night for 14 years.
Just like most players on this list, Iverson was more of a scorer and led the league in scoring four times in his career. His lack of defense, inability to get his teammates involved and losing in five games to the Lakers in the 2001 NBA finals put him out of reach of Jordan.
6. Stephen Curry
Similar to Allen Iverson, Stephen Curry doesn’t have the size or sheer athletic ability to make a realistic Jordan comparison, but his impressive displays over his first seven seasons have led to the comparison anyway, in terms of pure scoring ability.
Just like Jordan, Curry frightens opposing teams every game because of his ridiculous shooting ability. The man can catch fire behind the arch at any time, which makes him unguardable at times.
Although Curry has won more games in a single season with 73 and the Warriors added star Kevin Durant to their squad to build an NBA dynasty, Curry will never be on Jordan’s level because of the fact that His Airness was an assasin in NBA Finals with an amazing record of 6-0. This is a record no player on this list have come close to. Also, defensively, Curry can’t match Jordan’s ability to play both ends at an elite level.
5. Dwyane Wade
Born and raised in Chicago, Dwyane Wade has often expressed his admiration for Michael Jordan and had been in the conversation regarding “the next MJ.”
One way that Wade is similar to Jordan is that he’s never had the rely on the three-point shot to assist him in scoring. However, the 6’4″ guard relies on his phenomenal athleticism and incredible body control which make him one of the toughest players to guard when he’s driving to the hoop.
When LeBron signed with the Heat in 2010, Wade took the back seat, something Jordan would have never allowed. But to his defense, he did win two more NBA Championships with Chris Bosh and LeBron James. Despite his three total NBA Championships, Wade isn’t in the same breath as MJ in total contributions, though he’s been compared to him a ton.
4. Kevin Durant
Not many realize this because of how prolific he was, but Michael Jordan won his first of six NBA Championships at 28-years-old. Now 28 years old himself, Kevin Durant is in the prime of his career and already has four scoring titles and one MVP award to his name.
Durantula stands at 6’9″ and is one of the deadliest scorers in NBA history. However, if he wants to be mentioned in the same breath as MJ, he has start winning some titles. Since entering the league in 2007, Durant has improved his game each season. His ability to shoot off the dribble makes him an unstoppable force along with his post-up game.
On July 4th, 2016, Kevin Durant announced that he would be leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to join forces with Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, giving him a huge chance to win multiple titles and make the comparisons to MJ a little more realistic.
3. Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway
The electrifying and athletic point guard for the Orlando Magic was rated highly on many observers list to be the next Michael Jordan. In his second season in the league, Hardaway averaged 20.9 points and 7.2 assists per game and the dynamic duo of Penny and Shaq made the Magic one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. They were so dominant that they even exceeded Jordan’s Bulls to make the NBA Finals in 1995, but they were defeated by Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets in four games.
At 6’7″, “Lil Penny” could have easily been the best point guard of all-time if it weren’t for his health issues. His size for a point guard was unmatched and, at his peak, he was arguably a better shooter and passer than both Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose.
In 1997, Hardaway was diagnosed with an ACL injury, which he never fully recovered from. Though the former third overall pick did manage to make the 1998 All-Star game, Penny wasn’t the same anymore.
2. LeBron James
LeBron’s combination of size, speed, defense, athleticism, and power makes him the best small forward the league has ever seen. Since entering the league in 2003 as “The Chosen One,” he’s been compared to MJ in a lot of ways. He even chose #23 as his number when he began playing for the Cavs. Though he hasn’t surpassed MJ, LeBron has lived up to these lofty expectations in so many ways. With career averagse of 27.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists, and 1.7 steals per game, James’ legacy continues to grow.
Though Rhe King has four NBA Finals losses, which automatically disqualifies him from any Jordan comparisons (Jordan was 6-0), he’s going to continue dominating the Eastern Conference for years to come. At 31 and with three NBA Championships already, James could potentially tie or pass Jordan’s six championships before he retires.
1. Kobe Bryant
The NBA has been seeking for Jordan’s heir to his throne for quite some time and many players have tried to be the next Michael Jordan and failed for a multitude of reasons, which we’ve already covered.
According to Roland Lazenby, who worked on a book about His Airness, Michael Jordan thinks only Kobe Bryant deserves to be compared to him.
“Kobe’s ultimate competition is MJ. That’s why MJ watches him. MJ made people think what he was doing wasn’t human. Ditto the Kobester. I never said Kobe was better than MJ. MJ just told me Kobe’s the only one to have done the work, to deserve comparison,” via PBT.
Now, Kobe didn’t eclipse Jordan’s legacy, but he has done a magnificent job being the second-best shooting guard of all-time. The Black Mamba instilled fear in opponents nightly, just like Jordan, and imitated every one of his moves, from the post-up to the mid-range game His Airness punished teams with.
Bryant matched Jordan in every category and is the closest player to Jordan in terms of ability, making difficult shots, and the killer instinct needed to win games. But even Bryant couldn’t oust MJ, even though he played six more seasons and finished higher on the all-time scoring list than his idol.
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