Kobe Bryant

How Drew Gooden thinks LeBron James can surpass Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant

How Drew Gooden thinks LeBron James can surpass Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant

Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? Who is truly the greatest of the bunch?

For Bulls supporters — and, it seems, most basketball fans in the wake of “The Last Dance” — the answer is simple. Jordan, of the five MVPs, six rings (and Finals MVPs), nine scoring titles and a litany of additional accolades is without comparison.

But appearing on Lunch Talk Live with Mike Tirico, Drew Gooden, now an NBC Sports Washington analyst and a teammate of James with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2004-2008, brought up an interesting swing variable in the debate: Phil Jackson.

“There’s one variable that we never talk about when this discussion comes up between Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and it’s one guy that I think is the variable in this formula and it’s Phil Jackson,” Gooden said. “I mean, if you take Phil Jackson out of this equation, how many championships does Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant have?

“LeBron James is in a unique situation outside of not having a Phil Jackson, being able to have to go like a vagabond and go figure it out himself with multiple coaches, multiple organizations, multiple systems. With that being said, I think his book is a lot different than Michael Jordan’s and Kobe Bryant’s, because I feel like they had the structure with Phil Jackson most of their career and were successful with Phil Jackson.”

Indeed, James’ three titles are divided between two franchises, two with the Miami Heat, one with the Cavaliers. And he's positioned for another deep run with the top-seeded Lakers this year. Jordan and Bryant’s title-rearing years came under one coach’s tutelage, James’ two (that he actually won titles with) and counting, and he's cycled through countless rosters and team infrastructures. Some will point to that tumult being his own doing, but the point stands.

Gooden wasn’t ready to anoint James ahead of Jordan and Bryant. But he did say this season could be a pivot point.

I think this will be the tale of the tape of, OK, I’ve not only done that two times, but I’m gonna do it a third time in Los Angeles,” Gooden said. “Doesn’t matter who the coach is, doesn’t matter who my teammates are, I’m gonna provide another championship for the city of Los Angeles. 

“Now if he does that now, you’re starting to see, alright, where does he separate himself from Michael Jordan and the late Kobe Bryant.”

It won’t look conventional, but with the NBA announcing a 22-team return plan for the late summer, it seems James will get a chance.

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Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony delayed to 2021 due to coronavirus

Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony delayed to 2021 due to coronavirus

Count the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2020’s induction weekend as the latest sports-related event in need of a scheduling update.

The festivities, originally slated for the weekend of Aug. 28 - 30 (with the enshrinement ceremony on Aug. 29), are being delayed until 2021 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan reports.

“We’re definitely canceling,” Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the board of governors of the Hall of Fame, told ESPN. “It’s going to have to be the first quarter of next year. We’ll meet in a couple weeks and look at the options of how and when and where.”

Colangelo was unequivocal that the Class of 2020 will still receive a separate ceremony from the Class of 2021, according to MacMullan.

Headlined by Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant, this class is set to be one of the most stacked in recent memory. Also set for enshrinement: Tamika Catchings, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton, Rudy Tomjanovich and Patrick Baumann.

Garnett spent a year of his illustrious high school career at Farragut Career Academy on the West Side of Chicago, and received both McDonald's All-American and national player of the year honors in 1995. Catchings won an IHSA Division AA state title as a freshman and Ms. Illinois Basketball as a sophomore in a stint at Stevenson.

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Charles Barkley says Kobe Bryant is closest he’s seen to Michael Jordan

Charles Barkley says Kobe Bryant is closest he’s seen to Michael Jordan

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.

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