LeBron, Jordan hug it out during NBA 75th anniversary ceremony

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CLEVELAND — “I did not want to lose the opportunity to shake the man’s hand that inspired me throughout my childhood.”

There’s a perceived rivalry between LeBron James and Michael Jordan over who is the GOAT, but to hear LeBron speak of Jordan, such as in that quote above — or to watch the joy on his face as LeBron hugged one of his childhood idols — it is hard to see.

“I haven’t had much dialogue with him in my 20 years or 19 years in this business, but part of me wouldn’t be here without MJ’s inspiration,” LeBron said. “I always wanted to be like him growing up.

“It’s crazy that the game-winning shot tonight was a fadeaway, and it was inspired by MJ. The way he wore his shoes, the way he wore his uniform, I mean, all the way down to some of the cars that he drove, how much he inspired me. I didn’t want to waste that opportunity because we’re just not in — we’re not in the same building a lot and haven’t been in the same building a lot throughout my career. It meant something to me.”

That rivalry is still there. Jordan green-lit the fawning “The Last Dance” documentary after LeBron’s title in Cleveland made the GOAT conversation a little closer. LeBron is chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record in part to bolster his GOAT resume.

But it can be a friendly rivalry, one filled with admiration. At least from LeBron’s perspective.