In recent weeks and months, NBA fans and analysts have debated LeBron James’ place among the game’s all-time greats. Is he on par with Michael? Has he passed Michael? Is he officially the GOAT?
Well, John Salley believes James has already passed Jordan. In fact, Salley doesn’t even have Jordan in his top two.
“(LeBron is) No. 2 behind Magic,” Salley said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Magic is the No. 1 player I ever played against. That’s because he’s 6-9 and he smiled. We talk about sportsmanship. Hey, he used to kiss Isiah (Thomas) on the face and then elbow him in the head. Now that’s sportsmanship.”
Salley entered the league in 1986, thus having a front-row seat for Johnson’s dominance. Magic won five NBA titles, was a three-time MVP and a three-time Finals MVP. Salley, meanwhile, won four NBA titles as a role player with the Pistons (1989, 1990), Bulls (1996) and Lakers (2000).
That’s right. Salley won a title with Michael – on the 72-win team, in fact – but still gives Magic the nod.
“Michael Jordan is one of my favorite people and friends on the planet, and (we’ve) been friends since 1981,” Salley said. “They’re going to say the greatest player of all time; I’m just going to say (Michael was) the greatest player of the ’90s, Magic was the greatest player of the ’80s and LeBron is the greatest from (the) 2000s and beyond.”
For now, anyway. If LeBron keeps playing and winning at this level for the next couple of seasons, he could become the greatest of any era.
“This is more than just his athletic athletic, which is above anybody’s I’ve ever seen,” Salley said. “Dribbling, shooting, passing, his IQ of the game, his jumping ability – he is basketball. I think LeBron, if they go by numbers when they put all the numbers together when he finally finishes, they’re going to have to put him in the top conversation.”