Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson: “Michael Jordan is the Greatest One-on-One Player”


Ask one of the greatest players of all-time if he could beat someone else one-on-one, and you can usually predict the answer. Professional athletes have to think very, very highly of themselves. You can’t be one of the best if you don’t think you are. It’s just how it works.

That’s why you don’t see many elite athletes come out and say, “I would lose because he’s better than I am” and just leave it at that. Even when they’re retired.

Magic Johnson almost did, though. He came super close.

When Magic Johnson was asked who would win a game of one-one between him and Michael Jordan, he didn’t hesitate.

“Michael would win. That’s not my game. My game is assisting, setting up my teammates. Michael’s the greatest one-on-one player. I couldn’t go out and drop 60 like him, but he couldn’t run a team like I could.”

Via Jon Becker of the Midland Daily News (hat tip to

Magic was heaping on the praise for Jordan and showing some impressive humility, but then he almost seemed to have an epiphany halfway through, like, hey, I’m Magic freakin’ Johnson.

And let’s make something clear: Magic is right. He couldn’t go out and drop 60. He couldn’t even drop 50, as 46 points was his career-high. It just wasn’t in his blood to play that way, even on the nights he couldn’t miss.

And while Jordan could run a team in the sense that he’d handle all of the scoring and pass once (if?) he was slowed down, he was never the distributor Magic was. In 1251 career regular season and playoff games, Jordan registered double-digit assists only 94 times.

Both players stuck to their strengths, and their careers worked out pretty okay, I think.

But while we’re here, in standard one-on-one rules (make-it take-it, game to 11 by all ones, take-out on all fouls) give me prime Yao Ming over everyone. He’s about a foot taller than Jordan, he could shoot from range if he got bored of slowly backing down in the post, and he’d get every rebound and make MJ shoot from distance. Michael Jordan ain’t stopping Yao once (if?) he gets the ball, you know?

These are the things we think about in the offseason, of course. Can real actual NBA games start soon, please? Pretty please?

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.