15 Retired NBA Players Who Could Beat LeBron James 1-on-1

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15 Retired NBA Players Who Could Beat LeBron James 1-on-1

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It is a matchup that will never happen because time simply will not let it. However, it is certainly fun to think about who would win in a one-on-one battle between Michael Jordan and LeBron James. While Jordan is considered the greatest basketball player of all-time, rightfully so, James is thought of as the most athletic. Plenty of people have weighed in on the debate over the years, while Jordan decided to voice his opinion on the matter today.

Jordan talked about players he would have loved to play one-on-one against while he was filming a video promoting the basketball video game NBA 2K14 on Tuesday. When the topic of James came up, he responded with the following statement:

"I don't think I would lose," Jordan said, according to SI.com, "Other than to Kobe Bryant because he steals all of my moves."

What did James have to say after he was informed of the legend’s quote?

"Absolutely, I thought about the matchup," James told SI.com. "But no one would ever see it. It's not going to happen. But it's good for people to talk about."

Maybe technology will allow us to see the matchup one day in the not so distant future. A three-dimensional computer generated image of both players taking the court and putting all talk to rest. There is no question it is a possibility, but even then, people will argue it is still not the real thing.

For now, we will just have to dream about what the two players would look like going against each other. And while we are at it, who are 15 other NBA players who could beat James one-on-one in their prime?

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15. Charles Barkley

Barkley
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Want to beat James one-on-one on a half-court? Considering he is listed at 6’8”, 250 pounds, pretty much the only way to do it is go big or go home. One player (among many on this list) that is capable of physically handling James is Charles Barkley. The 16-year player was someone who simply never backed down from a challenge while he was on the court. Heck, he does not back down from a challenge during the TNT halftime show. Barkley would be able to use his weight to gain an advantage over James, which is basically the only way he could win.

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14. Bill Russell

Russell
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Bill Russell is a player that would have to rely on a great defensive performance to defeat James. If his defense fails then he would as well because there is simply no way his offensive game is good enough to match that of James.

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13. Jerry West

West
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Jerry West is on one of the greatest guards to ever play in the NBA. Even though he was a tremendous offensive threat, many people in the present day may not realize that he was a terrific defender. Sustaining James’ physicality would certainly not be easy, but West could use his dominating defense to get the job done.

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12. Scottie Pippen

Pippen
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Many people do not realize how good Scottie Pippen truly was because he was constantly overshadowed by Jordan. However, Pippen was an outstanding defender who typically took the difficult assignments. With all of the practice against some truly great offensive threats, Pippen would have the necessarily knowledge and talent to keep James from lighting up the scoreboard. The 17-year player would have to use his above-average ability to steal to his advantage.

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11. David Robinson

Robinson
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At this point, it does not take a genius to figure out the only way James will be defeated one-one-one is with a great defensive performance. At least, a player’s chance for success will greatly increase. Even though David Robinson is capable of exploding on offense, it would be his superior ability to block that would keep him in the game. The fact that Robinson always put forth a great offensive performance when it mattered most gives me confidence that he would do the same against James.

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10. Oscar Robertson

Robertson
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Even though it is very unlikely that Oscar Robertson would be able to keep up offensively, especially if James decided to throw down, he is one of the few players on this list that has a chance to go basket for basket. By using an impressive fadeaway jump shot and various moves, including the famous head fake, Robertson could come out on top in a very close battle.

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9. Patrick Ewing

Ewing
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Ewing is another player that could use his tremendous size to prevent James from reaching the basket. Forcing James to shoot a jumper is not always a good idea because he is very good at hitting a shot from all over the court. However, it is certainly a way to get a step up in a one-on-one contest.

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8. Karl Malone

Malone
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Karl Malone is widely considered to be one of the greatest power forwards in the history of the NBA. “The Mailman” has the size, power and forcefulness to explode around the basket. He also had a decent mid-range jump shot that could certainly be a factor if James gave him enough room.

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7. Julius Erving

Erving
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Julius Irving was an incredibly gifted and athletic basketball player in his prime. To watch two of the most athletic players in the history of the league go one-on-one would be something fans all around the world would tune in to see. I am not saying Irving’s athleticism would be able to match that of James, but there is no doubt it would be close.

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6. Larry Bird

Bird
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Is there anyone in NBA history that had a better shot than Larry Bird did? Up close and personal is definitely not his style. For that reason, he would have a legitimate shot at defeating James if he could make his shots. Considering he converted almost half of his field goal attempts in his career, I have to imagine he would have no problem sinking them against James.

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5. Shaquille O’Neal

O’Neal
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The only player on this list that actually played with James. I have to imagine Shaquille O’Neal and James used to play one-on-one for fun in practice. The fact that Shaq was able to take Jordan in an unofficial one-on-one matchup gives me hope that he could do the same against James. Remember, O’Neal was an incredibly talented player in his prime who was able to move swiftly for a big man.

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4. Hakeem Olajuwon

Olajuwon
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The greatest blocker in NBA history would certainly give James a run for his money. Hakeem Olajuwon was a tremendous talent who would excel on both offense and defense. Using the “Dream Shake” on James would certainly take the current Miami Heat star out of his element. If James caught on to Olajuwon’s ability to block like nobody’s business, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year would just have to switch over to steal mode.

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3. Magic Johnson

Johnson
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Magic Johnson was capable of many things on the court. His multiple ways to get to the basket and finish would certainly help him in a one-on-one matchup with James. The fact that he was able to consistently raise his level of play when all eyes were on him means that he would not let a showdown with James go unnoticed. Even though he is not the best defensive player in history, he certainly was more than capable of creating turnovers.

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2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Abdul-Jabbar
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is another player that could use his unbelievable ability to block shots on a consistent basis to prevent James from driving to the basket. However, unlike some of the other NBA legends on this list, Abdul-Jabbar would also bring a devastating offensive arsenal with him. The 19-time All-Star, six-time MVP and seven-time All-Defense Team would have no problem whipping up on James, whether he was facing the basket or not. Towering at 7’2”, Abdul-Jabbar would use his exceptional height to his advantage to the point where James would have to settle for fadeaway jump shots. Not to mention, James does not have the defensive ability to stop someone of Abdul-Jabbar's talent.

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1. Michael Jordan

Jordan
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Jordan is the reason this slideshow was created in the first place so it is only fitting that it ends with him. Even James himself did not deny that Jordan would take him in a one-on-one battle. Whether that is out of respect or simply the desire to avoid any backlash from a loyal NBA fan base, he still accepted Jordan’s comment without retaliation. Jordan is hands down one of the greatest offensive threats the NBA has ever seen. Whether he is changing his dunk in midair, making it rain from all over the court, or generating steals at a ridiculous pace, nobody can match his skill level. James could attempt to physically overpower Jordan, which is something he most definitely would do. However, Jordan would always find a way around it.

Around the Web

  • Carl Thomsen

    40 years ago Bob Lanier actually DID win a league-wide one-on-one tournament. Elgin Baylor and David Thompson were spectacular athletes. Nate Archibald and Allen Iverson could run circles around LBJ. Pistol Pete Maravich and Earl The Pearl Monroe gave everyone fits. Wilt Chamberlain and Moses Malone were rather tough to push around. Any of these guys, and I’m sure a number of others I’m forgetting, could easily get plugged into an expanded list. This was a fun mental exercise for an old guy like me who misses the way the NBA used to be.

    • rumshots2013

      Say no to drugs!

    • Woos

      Come on Carl. The players you mention were all great players, but the question is who would win a one-on-one game. Obviously, Archibald, Iverson, Maravich and Monroe would have no chance defending Lebron. Lanier was really good, but couldn’t handle Lebron’s quickness. Thompson and Chamberlain are at least worth discussing. You forgot an old-timer who would have a chance- Connie Hawkins.

  • Billfry13

    agreed Carl, I too remember the old NBA from the 60′s till now and there would definitely be a number of legends who could beat Lebron 1on1 but if it came down to a best of 7, I would probably place Lebron in the top 10. 1. Kareem, 2. Jordan, 3. Dr. J, 4. Wilt, 4. Kobe, 5. Larry “legend” B., 6. Magic J., 7. Lebron J., 8. Pete Maravich, 9. Jerry West, 10. Bill Walton (healthy, of course) & Bill Russell tie.

    • rumshots2013

      What are you smoking!

  • torpedo

    Kobe aint scary… ask chris childs

  • JayDee2

    Barkley had no left hand. How could he beat Lebron one-on-one?

  • Guest

    If the one-on-one game had a unbiased referee there would be a lot more players that could be Lebron. Call that left-arm-swinging-push-away move that Lebron does on just about every drive and he would foul out in the first half of every game. Lebron is a freakish athlete but the “bully-drive” is not basketball.

  • inkyford

    If the one-on-one game had a unbiased referee there would be a lot more
    players that could beat Lebron one on one. If the refs would call that left-arm-swinging-push-away-clearout
    move that Lebron does on almost all his drives, he would foul out in
    the first half of every game. Lebron is a freakish athlete but the
    “bully-drive” is not basketball.