Michael Jordan turned 50 today, and while His Airness has been out of the game for a while, we're still looking for his replacement among the NBA's stars past and present. Jordan won six titles despite a one-year hiatus from baseball during his prime years. He represented a persona bigger than the game itself: "Is it the shoes?!" He was to basketball as Ali was to boxing: perfection.
After all, we’re talking about a guy who averaged 37 points a game during one season, the same guy who shot 50 percent or better five years in a row, and yeah, the same guy who once recorded ten triple-doubles … in eleven games. MJ has been retired for a decade now, and you’d think that we’d stop looking for his heir apparent, because there is only one Mike.
With that in mind, here is a look at the top eight guys who have come closest to 23 or resembled his playing style the most.
Quite honestly, nobody has come closer. At 6-foot-6, Bryant is the same height, and like Jordan, possessed the same remarkable ability to get into the paint and finish for the first half of his career. Bryant was a lockdown, All-NBA defender well into his 20s, which Jordan was as well. Then, also like Jordan, he developed a dominant post-game when he lost a step. His five titles -- and possibly one more to tie -- are rather convenient as well. And, even in his elder years, Kobe has the same killer mentality and late-game clutchness, not to mention is a gruesome teammate to guys who don't have the same fire.
I know, we're dating ourselves a bit here, but statistically, Robertson may actually be the closest to Jordan. In fact, the "Big O" is often called the original Jordan thanks to his unique athletic prowess and overwhelming power in the paint. Robertson -- who once averaged a triple-double for an entire season when he put up staggering averages of 31 points, nearly 13 rebounds and 11 assists -- had a remarkable post-up game as well. His downfall is that he won just one title, and some have considered him to be a selfish teammate.
Portland drafted Drexler the year before Jordan entered the league. The team didn't think the two could co-exist together, so it took Sam Bowie first overall instead. Clyde "The Glyde" was a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds9KFfG4H6g">magnificent scorer who dominated above the rim like Mike</a>, yet his game was less refined and far less disciplined. Despite his scoring prowess and smoothness, the ten-time All-Star captured just one championship.
James has a very different style given his size and brute strength (which is why he's not first on this list), but he has the same special ability to take over games in every aspect. Ultimately, his legacy will be determined by the number of rings he wins, but he's undoubtedly the most dominant player since Jordan. Didn't hurt that he came into the league wearing No. 23 either.
At 6-foot-4, he's a couple inches shorter and never developed the same accuracy from deep. But in terms of sheer attacking ability and the willingness to take over big games, Wade offers a resemblance. In 2006, before his slew of knee problems and when he was Finals MVP and averaged over 26 points per game, "Flash" was an All-NBA defender and remarkable two-way player.
One of the most naturally gifted scorers the league has ever seen, but like his cousin Carter, didn't have the ability to be "the guy" when it mattered most. Despite playing with an elite center in Yao Ming -- something MJ never had -- T-Mac inexplicably never once won a playoff series.
Unfortunately, Carter is a story of what could have been more than what was. He's a athlete and a dominant scorer with rare takeover ability, but he never maximized an abundance of skills and never captured a ring.
"Baby Jordan" was an <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMlg0i1t3Eg">awesome athlete</a> who unfortunately never improved a suspect jumper and shady handle. He was also plagued by off-the-court issues and drug addiction. Miner certainly could have been a big-time scorer, but didn't possess the necessary basketball acumen that Jordan had. Instead, he played just four NBA seasons and never averaged more than ten points.
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