LeBron James -500
Michael Jordan +300
Everyone should take a second (or two, or three) to ponder who would actually win a game of one-on-one basketball between LeBron James (35 years old) and Michael Jordan (57 years old). “The Last Dance” was fantastic and I’m sure it got Jordan’s competitive juices flowing, but would he really have a chance to dethrone “King James”?
Michael Jordan, who is the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, has stated that he could beat every member of the Hornets squad in a game of one-on-one basketball. Regardless of whether or not you saw “The Last Dance,” this seems like a “slam dunk” bet if you took LeBron at -500. But I’m not counting out the six-time NBA champion so abruptly.
In this game, rules would obviously need to be established. This contest could get creative with not one but two referees. Where I come from, we played up to 11 points, you have to win by two and if you make a shot, you get to keep possession of the ball. Those rules seem to be legit and fair.
Jordan’s last game in the NBA was on April 16, 2003, as a member of the Washington Wizards. Jordan played 15 seasons, while James is in his 17th year in the NBA. Jordan is six-foot-six, and LeBron is three inches taller and probably has 40 pounds on MJ. Jordan still looks extremely fit and plays golf all the time, but golf isn’t basketball. So how in the world is James not a bigger favorite than -500 and could Jordan at 57 years of age have a shot at winning this battle?
Two words: heart and defense.
Jordan was a guy who excelled under the pressure and no one wanted to win more than him. Not Bird, not Magic, not Kareem, NOBODY! When it came down to making the game-winning shot, Jordan is the best ever and no one is close. However, at 57, could he still hit the open jumper and play his world-class defense against James?
Jordan’s defense was amazing and he was named to the all-defensive team nine times in his career (James, six times). Jordan also led the league in steals three times; James has never topped the NBA in that category.
If we are going to include endurance in the equation, LeBron at 35 can still get things done while putting in plenty of time on the court. Three times James has led the league in minutes played per game and all three were with Cleveland (2004-05, 2016-17, 2017-18). So on defense I sway in Jordan’s favor, but with him being LeBron’s senior by 22 years, the endurance issue is a huge factor on the side of James.
Bonus Props for LBJ vs MJ
Player to Commit More Fouls
The +200 looks juicy, especially if Jordan tires late and has to foul. James can possibly wear Michael down with his extra length and much wider frame.
Pick: Jordan +200
Player to Make First Free Throw
This really is a toss-up based on who gets the ball first. I could see James pulling up for a jumper to start and then Jordan drives to the hole early and draws a reaching foul while shooting. He should try that while he has all his energy.
Pick: Jordan -130
Player to Score 1st Point
Can’t embarrass Jordan here so the King must bow down to the real king and give him the first point. Plus, in another toss-up bet, I’ll take the plus money any time.
Pick: Jordan +110
If these two resorted to long-range jumpers when the chips were on the table, they both have a lifetime playoff shooting percentage of 33.2 from three-point range. We could go back and forth about stats such as Jordan’s 10 scoring titles, but in the playoffs, James has 1,000 more rebounds and 700 more assists than Michael.
This, however, is a much different situation when we are talking one-on-one. Jordan’s defense should not be ignored even at 57 and I’m positive his defensive prowess will help with possessions against James, who has 320 more playoff turnovers in his career than Jordan.
When it comes right down to it, James is such a freak of nature with his tremendous size and at -500, with 22 years on MJ, he has to be the play. James being -500 actually shows the respect that Jordan deserves because in all honesty LBJ should be -1500.
Pick: James is the Sportsbook -500
Here’s how I see it going
Jordan gets the ball first, drives and gets fouled and gets a point from the free-throw line, then hits a jumper to go up 2-0. James uses his body to back Jordan down and scores four straight points (4-2 James). Michael gets the ball back but can’t get anything inside against James. Jordan will hit a few jumpers, but eventually Father Time more than anything gets to Michael, and James wins this contest by a final of 11-7. (Normally, Jordan would love that number on the craps table but not on the losing end of a basketball game.)
One-on-one up to 11 points
LeBron James 11
Michael Jordan 7