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- Kareem-Adul Jabbar: The GOAT conversation has mainly become a popularity contest. Jabbar has two things going against him: He’s a big man, and he’s not a gregarious as the media would like. Despite it, he has a legit case as the GOAT.
- Magic Johnson: Bird and Magic saved the NBA before Jordan had a chance to elevate it to new heights. Magic was a hell of a player; his style embodied the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Magic finished his career with five titles, 3 MVPs, and as the all-time leader in assists.
- Larry Bird: Let’s be honest part of the appeal of Bird was his race. It has nothing to do with the kind of player he was. Bird drew white viewers who had given up on the league during the drug hazed 70’s.
- Hakeem Olajuwon: The Dream is the only player selected in front of Jordan, and to this day, no one says it was a mistake. He had it all; silky smooth post moves combined with the agility of a guard.
- Kobe Bryant: Kobe caught the tail end of Michael. Most of their battle happened during Jordan’s forgettable run with the Wizards. Still, the rivalry and admiration were clear whenever they faced off.
- Moses Malone: Not sure which was more iconic, his prophetic Fo-Fo-Fo-Fo declaration before the 76ers nearly swept their way through the 83 playoffs or his tendency to miss shots on purpose to pad his rebounding stats.
- Dr.J: Jordan is the natural heir to Erving. Both had a raw combination of grace, artistry, and a flair for the dramatic. In the ’70s, Dr. J was the man. The ’80s were not as kind, but he’s still an enduring icon that forever left his mark on the league.
- Karl Malone: The two met in two different finals. The Jazz always seemed just a step short from dethroning the Bulls. Malone is criminally underrated. He’s second all-time leading scoring in league history along with 11 All NBA first-team selections.
- Isaiah Thomas: The Joker to Jordan’s Bad Boys. Thomas is one of the few men that can claim a winning playoff record against his Airness.
- Charles Barkley: Good friends, better enemies, in 1993 NBA Finals Barkley’s Suns lost to the Bulls despite Sir Charles posting a stat line of 27, 13 and 5. Jordan’s line? 41, 8, and 6.
Note: Shaq should be in here. It’s an egregious error on my part. I’d probably put him fifth or sixth.