By Nick Wilder
Without Michael Jordan, there would never have been a LeBron James.
ESPN’s Chris Broussard interviewed James for his ESPN The Magazine article, and the four-time MVP discussed his thoughts on Jordan and his relationship with the former Bulls superstar.
When asked if he needed to win five or six championship rings to be compared to the likes of Kobe Bryant and Jordan, the Miami Heat star shared his opinion.
“I don't think about that,” James said to Broussard. “That really doesn't mean much to me. I don't play the catching game. I'm not trying to catch Magic (Johnson) or catch (Larry) Bird or catch Kobe. I'm into maximizing what I have while I have the opportunity to do it. I've played my first 10 years at a high level, and I'm trying to play my next 10 at a high level or as high as I can be.”
James also answered the question of whether Jordan is the greatest of all-time and if he can pass him.
“Yeah, that's who everyone puts as the best,” James said to Broussard. “But you're always going to have arguments, no matter what. People are going to like Jordan, people are going to like LeBron, people are going to like Kobe and so on, Magic, Bird ... But I don't really think about it too much and say, 'OK, I want to catch MJ.' I'm saying I want to be the greatest, and I think I have an opportunity to do it just because of my skill set and because I feel like I've got a lot of room to improve.
“But I definitely look at MJ as the greatest. Without MJ, there's no me. He gave me hope. He gave me inspiration as a kid. I still watch MJ tapes to this day. I was watching 'Come Fly With Me' and 'Jordan's Playground' and 'His Airness' on vacation earlier this summer. So I'm watching him all the time, trying to learn from him. I even watched a clip ... It was funny. I watched a clip last night when he had 51 while playing for Washington, the game after he scored in single digits. He put up 51 on the Hornets.”
In addition, James stated that he watches tape of former players frequently.
“A lot. A lot. I watch Jordan more than anybody, for sure,” James said to Broussard. “But I'll watch tapes of (Allen Iverson) too. I don't take anything from AI. Well, I do — his will. They say he was six feet, but AI was like 5-foot-10 1/2. Do we even want to say 160? 170? Do we even want to give him that much weight? And he played like a 6-foot-8 two-guard. He was one of the greatest finishers we've ever seen. You could never question his heart. Ever. He gave it his all. AI was like my second favorite player growing up, after MJ.”
The two-time defending champion admits he wishes he and Jordan had more of a relationship.
“Ahhh, I mean, I don't know. That's a trick question. I do. I do at times,” James said to Broussard. “You know, he's somebody who I looked up to, and I've never had a conversation with him about the game. I would love to sit down with him and just know exactly what he was going through and know what was his mind frame throughout all his special years. Throughout his pains — you know, not being able to get past Detroit, then overcoming Detroit. Or asking him, ‘Why did you retire? What made you come back? What made you come back again?’ You know, everything that we all think we know. Just kind of having a sit-down conversation.
“And then also to hear him talk about me. I would like to know what he thinks about my game and ways I can get better. He probably thinks he can beat me 1-on-1 right now. I know he probably thinks that. I know MJ definitely thinks he can beat me 1-on-1 right now.”
James also shared his thoughts on why they haven’t developed a relationship.
“I think it's just being busy. Obviously, I'm busy. MJ has a lot going on,” James said to Broussard. “I don't know the reasons, but it's never been sparked. I've seen him at times. Of course, I've met him a few times. I went to his 50th birthday party at All-Star weekend. I went to his party to show respect and pay homage to the greatest. I had a conversation with him there. Obviously, there were a lot of people there. But I don't know. I don't know.”