A video went viral recently where Michael Jordan drained 11 jump shots in a row for one of his youth camps. Clearly, the best player that has ever played the game still has a lot of game left in the tank. Even north of fifty-years old, Jordan’s desire to entertain and put on performances for tantalizing crowds has not ceased. His competitive nature is unparalleled and his love for the game has not wavered a single bit.
Jordan’s career averages are 30.1 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 5.3 assists per game. He had nearly a 50% field goal shooting percentage and even shot 50% from the 3-point line one year. He was College Player of the Year in ’83-’84, Rookie of the Year in ’84-’85, Defensive Player of the Year in ’87-’88, a five-time MVP, six-time Finals MVP, and six-time NBA Champion. He has made the All-NBA First Team 10 times and the All-Defensive Team nine times. Jordan was a two-way player with no weaknesses in his game. He had the best characteristics of the best players to ever play the game, which is what makes him the greatest.
So, having said all that, who are some of the players that could possibly beat Jordan in a one-on-one matchup? A game of 5-on-5 is very different from a game of 1-on-1. In a game of 1-on-1, there is no help side defense, a center grabbing the rebound for you, or anyone to bail you out from over penetrating with a pass to the three-point line.
To win a game of one-on-one means you have to be able to do it all: shoot, rebound, play defense, and most of all, be able to create your own shot. And to beat the best basketball player of all-time means that you have to do all of these things fairly well.
This is a list of the top-ten players of all-time that have the capability of beating MJ one-on-one. No guarantees that they would win, just a possible occurrence!
10 Vince Carter
From a physical standpoint, Vince Carter is a clone of Michael Jordan. In many ways, Vince was an even better athlete than MJ was in his prime. How many players have ever dunked over a 7-footer during an actual game? Only one – Vince Carter. Carter has the athleticism and the jumper to beat almost anyone one-on-one. His Achilles heal is not his offense, but his lack of defense. There is no doubt that Vince could score on Michael, but the question is, could Vince stop Michael?
9 Carmelo Anthony
Melo has proven to be one of the most lethal scorers in NBA history. For the past 11-years, Melo has averaged over 20 points per game. There was not a single season in Melo’s career, where he averaged less than 20 points per game, including his rookie year. He was and still is a lethal scorer. And at 6’8” and 230 pounds, he has the height and the weight to bully anyone in the post, including MJ. It is no coincidence that Melo often can play the power forward position at 6’8”. If Melo and MJ were going one-on-one, he would be a handful for even MJ to guard.
8 Jamal Crawford
Jamal Crawford may not have the celebrity status or even a starting five position in the NBA, but no one doubts his ability to score one-on-one. Very few players have been able to transition a street ball type of game into the NBA, but Crawford has been able to bring his crossovers, shake-and-bakes, and his rainbow 3-pointers into the NBA without sacrificing his inefficiency. Crawford’s game is predicated upon going one-on-one with defenders even bigger than him and he has shown the ability to score on anyone despite his lack of size. This two-time former 6th Man of the Year is instant offense and has proven that he can score on anyone.
7 Tracy McGrady
T-Mac once scored 13 points in less than one minute in a game. Most players cannot score 13 point in an entire game, but T-Mac did it in less than one minute. This two-time scoring champion averaged 32.1 points per game in the ’02-’03 season and 28.0 points per game in the ’03-’04 season. T-Mac is an assassin on offense. He can penetrate to the hole with his handles and speed and he can rise above defenders with his vertical leap and 6’8” frame. T-Mac always made basketball look easy, but it was never because he was not trying hard; the game just came natural to him.
6 Mitch Richmond
Jordan once said that Mitch Richmond was the hardest person that he ever had to guard. That is the simple reason as to why Mitch Richmond is on this list. Richmond was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, and for good reason. Richmond averaged over 20 points per game 10 out of the 14 seasons he was in the NBA. The six-time All-Star never got the press that he deserved because he played in Sacramento during his prime, which was long before the days of NBA League Pass. Richmond has always been one of the best 3-point shooters and free throw shooters when he was playing in the NBA, so there is no way that MJ could give Richmond any space on defense.
5 Dwyane Wade
Dubbed the 3rd best shooting guard to ever play the game behind Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, it was only natural to put D-Wade on this list. Wade is one of the best two-way players to ever play the game. Wade led the league in scoring in the ’08-’09 season where he averaged 30.2 points per game. But what makes Wade even more remarkable is that he may go down as the best shot blocking two guard ever. Yes, his 3-point shot is suspect, but the 10-time All-Star and three-time NBA Champion, has always had a whole arsenal of weapons from any spot on the floor.
4 Scottie Pippen
Is there anyone that knows Michael Jordan’s tendencies and weaknesses better than his teammate Scottie Pippen? The 6-time Champion, 7-time All-Star, and current Hall of Famer, is considered one of the best perimeter defenders to ever play in the NBA. If there is anyone that would be able to stop Jordan from scoring, it was Scottie Pippen. The extra two inches that he has on Jordan would definitely give Pippen the edge, but his lack of a go to move on offense would hurt him if he failed to score.
3 Kevin Durant
The Slim-Reaper stands between 6’10’ and 6’11”. He is wiry, lanky, and extremely long. Durant has been the best scorer in the league for quite some time now and has proven that he can score at will against anyone in the league, including LeBron. Despite being only 25-years old, Durant has already led the league in scoring for five different seasons; averaging over 30 points per game in two of those seasons. And at nearly 7-foot tall, KD could shoot over Jordan with ease. Durant does not have a developed post-game yet, but he wouldn’t need to use it with his silky smooth jumper.
2 LeBron James
King James has been considered the best player in the game for quite some time now. The only weakness in LeBron’s game was his 3-point shot and post-up game, but LeBron’s has vastly improved his outside shot and is a legitimate threat in the post now. There simply are no weaknesses left in his game. You have to pick your poison with LeBron and hope that he has an off game. At 6’9”, LeBron has the size and strength to shoot over anyone and bully anyone in the paint. The rumor is that LeBron is on a new paleo diet and has lost a significant weight, but prior to this new diet, LeBron was probably close to 260 pounds, which is a totally different weight class than Michael was ever in.
1 Kobe Bryant
Kobe is the closest thing that we may ever see to Michael Jordan. Kobe has always been compared to MJ his entire career. The five-time champion stands at 6’6” just like MJ, has won the dunk contest just like MJ, and has played for Phil Jackson just like MJ. Kobe’s career pretty much parallels Michael’s game in every facet. But what makes these two shooting guards even more similar is not their careers, but their games. Kobe has long studied Jordan’s jumper, fade-aways, and even footwork. In many ways, Kobe has the edge on Jordan because he was able to study all of Jordan’s moves, but Jordan was never able to study Kobe’s moves.
Kobe simply has no weaknesses in his game. In the ’05-’06 season he averaged 35.4 points per game and has led the league in scoring twice. It is no coincidence that he made the All-NBA first team 10 times. But Kobe is not only an offensive weapon. He made the All-Defensive First Team nine times as well. Do you know how many times Jordan made the All-Defensive First Team? Nine times. Jordan and Kobe are nearly identical in everything. In fact, later on in Kobe’s career, he also developed a post-game, very similar to Jordan during the latter stages of his career.
I’m not sure who would a single game of one-on-one, but if they played 10 games of one-on-one, chances are it would be split down the middle. However, one thing is for sure, it would be something that we’d all pay a lot of money to see.