Gary Payton: LeBron James better 'all-around' than Michael Jordan

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Rob Schaefer
·2 min read
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Gary Payton: LeBron better 'all-around' player than MJ originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Gary Payton doesn't appear to be a fan of direct debate between LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

The Hall-of-Fame guard competed against both players, though his highest-profile matchups with Jordan, including the 1996 NBA Finals, came in his prime. Based on that experience, and his observation of both players, Payton sees James and Jordan's skill sets as too varied for a tidy comparison.

"Two different basketball players," Payton told Brandon "Scoop B" Robinson in a recent appearance on the Scoop B Radio Overtime podcast. "Jordan was a guy who, he's gonna make big shots, he's gonna take the ball every time and shoot it every time he has to. I think LeBron is an all-around basketball player."

The ice-veined mentality to which Payton refers endeared Jordan to legions of fans -- Bulls and otherwise -- during his time in the NBA and decades after. Especially because it helped him steward unparalleled levels of team and individual success in the 1990s.

Still, Payton sees James as the more well-rounded basketball player.

"If you asked me: 'Who is the better all-around basketball player?' LeBron James by far," Payton said. "He does everything. He can pass the ball better than Jordan, he can dribble I think a little bit better than Jordan. Shooting-wise, I don't think so. Rebounding I think he did, but Jordan did rebound. But they're two different basketball players."

James' game, Payton went on to explain, is a better analog for Magic Johnson.

"I think LeBron is more like Magic. He can bring the ball down, he can play all different positions. He passes the ball, he makes everybody around him better," Payton said. "People would criticize him about 'Why you didn't take that shot, throw it over there?' -- that's the way he plays basketball. Let that go. You know what I'm saying? He's putting his teammates in a position to have confidence to make that."

If your mind if made up on the James vs. Jordan conversation, it's likely never changing. But Payton's perspective reminds of how eye-of-the-beholder player debates can be, especially when the players being debated are so stylistically different.

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