Charles Barkley is not here for the Michael Jordan-LeBron James comparisons.
Here’s what he had to say on the topic of that debate bubbling up in the wake of “The Last Dance” on Bleacher Report’s “The Lefkoe Show”:
“I ain’t never gonna say anything bad about LeBron James, but the closest to Michael I’ve ever seen was Kobe. And what I mean by that is a guy who has a singular vision, like, I just want to win. I’m not worried what my teammates think. I’m not worried about what the coach think. I just want to win.”
Indeed, Bryant and Jordan's games are stylistically comparable (in large part due to Bryant molding himself in Jordan's image), and only one championship separates them. Barkley did go on to pepper in some context for this take, adding that James’ play style isn’t even necessarily comparable to Jordan’s.
“In my opinion, Michael the GOAT,” Barkley continued. “And LeBron, to me, I’ve always said he’s closer to Magic Johnson than he is to Michael.”
Hard to argue with them there. Though technically listed as different positions, James and Johnson both stand 6-foot-9 and boast the ability to facilitate offense as off-the-dribble creators and passers — from the post, in the pick and roll and on the fastbreak. Johnson is the greatest point guard of all-time, while James probably owns that distinction among point-forwards.
Johnson led the league in assists per game four times in his illustrious 12-year career. James is on Year 17, and if the season ended today, would own the 2019-20 assist crown.
James is also third on the NBA’s all-time points leaderboard with 34,087 — trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone — with plenty still left in the tank.
There's no question in Barkley or many others' eyes who the greatest of all time is, though.