Michael Jordan invited some high-profile players to secret scrimmages when he planned to make a comeback in 2001, including a 16 year old LeBron James.
Michael Jordan and LeBron James are often pitted against each other in the GOAT conversation. The debate has gained even greater momentum as we inch closer to LeBron’s retirement. It’s a shame that fans couldn’t witness them locking horns on the court.
It’s fascinating how close the two certified legends came to doing so, however. Michael Jordan made a second comeback to the league in 2001 with the Washington Wizards where he was part-owner as well. He would go on to retire for good in 2003, just months before LeBron James was selected No. 1 in the draft.
Apparently, this didn’t stop the duo from playing against each other.
MJ hit the game-winner against LeBron during the scrimmage and reportedly said “That’s why they pay me $33M to do this.”
Former Celtics star Antoine Walker recalled Michael Jordan reaching out to him and a couple of other players for practice back in 2001. This was before MJ had announced his comeback, and was trying to get into game shape. The scrimmages included big names like Tim Hardaway, Michael Finley, and Juwan Howard, hence it meant serious business.
“We treated LeBron like the 16-year-old he was” remarked Antoine, as the big guys battled it out in the beginning. “Very competitive. All we talked about every day was winning. He used to give me so much stuff about not winning a championship. If you weren’t a winner, he had little respect for you.”
For LeBron though, the opportunity itself was unreal, and he wasn’t even expecting gametime. “The only reason I played is because the guys that was in the league you know, after a few hours some of them get tired.”
Bron says he got to play pickup against MJ when he was 16 years old.
MJ hit the game-winner and reportedly said “That’s why they pay me $33M to do this.” 😤
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 19, 2020
“For me to be on the court at 16 years old, a sophomore in high school, with my favorite player of all time [Jordan] it was like, this can’t be real, man.” The 4-time champ was clearly starstruck, but he made sure to build from that experience.
Fans can only wonder how the legendary practice would have looked like. However, we know for sure that it must have been a heck of an experience for the high-schooler who would go on to achieve greatness himself.