Michael Jordan IS the GOAT. Not sure why ESPN, CBS, and twitter folks continue to debate and discuss this. He is now and forever will be the best who ever played. But Lebron James is up there. He is absolutely one of the all-time greats. Lebron is just more Magic Johnson then Jordan. Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, is more Jordan then Lebron is.
All three of these men, given their larger-than-life statures and their place among the all-time greats, are all connected in many ways.
NBA Circle of Life
Both Kobe and Lebron made their first NBA Finals appearances in year 4. Year 4 was when Jordan won his first playoff series.
Kobe made his first All Star appearance in 1998, while MJ made his last appearance as a Bull in his initial “last dance”. Kobe’s third NBA title in 2002 coincided with the conclusion of Michael’s first year as a Wizard. MJ’s official last season in 2003, was the end of Kobe’s three-peat.
In 2003, as Jordan walked away, Lebron James stepped in, becoming the #1 pick by the Cavs a few months after MJ’s final retirement.
Tyronn Lue is the ultimate connection between Jordan, Kobe, and Lebron – no player was a teammate of all three men, but Lue was a teammate of two and a head coach of the third.
Lue began his career in 1998 as a member of the Lakers and teammate of Kobe Bryant. Together, they won the NBA Finals in 2000 and 2001.
Lue then spent two seasons in Washington, both with MJ from 2001-2003. In 26.5 mpg, Lue averaged 8.6 ppg, 3.5 apg in 2003.
In 2009, Lue’s final NBA season, he was a sparingly used bench player for the Orlando Magic. The Magic eliminated Lebron’s Cavs and advanced to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Lakers, in Kobe’s first non-Shaq NBA title.
Lue was promoted to Cavs head coach mid-way through the 2016 NBA season and led Cleveland to their first NBA title, overcoming a 3-1 series deficit, helping Lebron James achieve his goal of bringing an NBA title to his home state.
Jordan’s second “last dance” came in 1998. His final game was game 6 of the NBA Finals when the Bulls beat the Jazz. Jordan hit the famous jumper over Byron Russell to seal the deal on his 6th NBA title.
Kobe’s last dance came 18 years later, also against the Jazz. The stakes were much lower, as the Lakers were one of the worst teams in the NBA. Kobe scored 60 points in a game with a Finals-like atmosphere.
Lebron’s last dance is still TBD, but his highest scoring average against a single opponent is 29 ppg vs the Jazz (also has 29 ppg vs Celtics).
Kerr was Jordan’s teammate for 3 of his championships in Chicago and then won 2 in San Antonio. The 2 with Spurs came the year before Kobe’s first and the year after Kobe’s third.
Kerr coached the Warriors to 73 wins in 2016, breaking the regular season record set by the Bulls in 1996. Unlike those Bulls, Kerr didn’t win the NBA Finals, as the Warriors lost to the Cavs, giving Lebron his third ring and the first for Cleveland. Kerr is 3-1 as a head coach in NBA Finals against Lebron.
The night Kerr and the Warriors got their record-breaking 73rd win, was the night Kobe played his final NBA game, when he scored 60 points in the finale.
Luke is the son of legendary Hall of Famer and current commentator Bill Walton. Bill ended his NBA career on the Celtics from 1985-1987. In both of his seasons in Boston, the Celtics swept Jordan’s Bulls 3-0 in the first round (’86 and ’87 playoffs).
Luke was the #32 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, 31 spots after Lebron went #1. Luke played with Kobe in LA from 2003-2012, winning the NBA title in 2009 and 2010.
In 2018-19, he was head coach of the Lakers, during Lebron’s first season in LA. The Lakers finished 37-45, the exact record Jordan had in each of his two seasons with the Wizards.
Kobe’s last dance was in 2016 with the Lakers, coached by Byron Scott. Before Scott coached the Lakers for two seasons, he was the coach of the NJ Nets when they lost the NBA Finals to the Lakers in 2002 – Kobe’s third straight (and third overall) title.
Long before Scott was a coach, he was a player who started 4 (of the 5) games in the 1991 NBA Finals for the Lakers, who lost to the Bulls giving Jordan his first NBA championship.
In between his head coaching tenures in NJ and LA, Scott coached the Cavs from 2010-2013, as he was hired to lead Cleveland in their post-Lebron James world after he departed as a free agent to sign with the Heat.
Shaquille O’Neal – In 1995, MJ announced his return to the NBA after retiring to try baseball. He played just 17 regular season games and the Bulls would lose to Shaq and the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. Shaq later left Orlando to join Kobe in LA, where they won 3 NBA titles between 2000-2002, playing for Phil Jackson. Shaq played one year in Cleveland (2009-10), where he averaged 12 ppg and 6.7 rpg in 53 games as Lebron’s teammate.
Mike Brown – Brown was an assistant coach on the Spurs in 2003, when they won the NBA title during Jordan’s last NBA season and ended the Lakers (and Kobe’s) three peat. Brown coached Lebron in Cleveland from 2005-2010 and then coached Kobe in LA from 2011-2012.
Larry Hughes – Hughes played with Jordan on the Wizards during the 2002-03 seasons, averaging 12.8 ppg. He was later traded to the Cavs. He started 68 games and averaged 14.9 ppg during the 2006-07 season when Cleveland advanced to the NBA Finals (lost to Spurs).
Phil Jackson – Phil coached Jordan to 6 NBA titles in Chicago and coached Kobe to 5 NBA titles in Los Angeles.
Lebron never played for Phil Jackson and didn’t really like him.