Despite never officially sharing the floor, NBA legend Michael Jordan shares surprising doubts about LeBron James as a rookie

LeBron James, despite being only 18 years old and a recent high school graduate, went on to enter the NBA Draft in 2003. Many people immediately began expecting that he would be a franchise player, and scouting efforts focused heavily on him.

Despite the widespread upbeat outlook, famous NBA star Michael Jordan was the lone dissenting voice. Famously, Jordan stated his doubt, saying, “Not a chance” that LeBron could become a franchise player in his first season. Yet as time has proved, LeBron James has not only met but surpassed everyone’s lofty expectations. Since then, he has established himself as one of the NBA’s all-time greats, forging a career of legendary proportions despite playing in the shadow of Michael Jordan.

Jordan skeptical about LeBron James’s rookie impact

Even before making his NBA debut, LeBron James was being heralded as a future franchise player. However, one major skeptic stood out: the icon himself, Michael Jordan. There was no mistaking Jordan’s disapproval of an 18-year-old LeBron becoming the franchise player when he proclaimed, “Not a chance.”

During an open interview before the 2002–03 NBA season, Jordan expressed his concerns, highlighting the significance of LeBron’s adjustment to the league’s defensive demands. Having picked high school player Kwame Brown, whose career fell short of the tremendous expectations set around him, Jordan also alluded to his own experiences.

“That’s a tough label to give a kid at 18. It depends on how well he adapts,” Jordan explained about LeBron James. “And don’t just think of the offensive end. Defensively, I wouldn’t say that’s his strong area right now.

“He may think he’s great enough to be on this level now,” Jordan said. “But when he gets on this level and plays against guys who’ve been competitive and very good on this level, he’s going to find it’s a big difference from that 5-10 high school kid.”

Jordan wasn’t entirely negative, though. He said that LeBron James may become a legend if he worked hard to improve his skills and sought out new challenges. Jordan was confident that if LeBron adopted the correct mentality and worked hard, he could make it as a professional basketball player.

Beyond the court, Michael Jordan had conflicting feelings towards LeBron James during his time as majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets. Despite some lackluster team performances, Jordan’s net worth has surged to $3.5 billion, cementing his position as a G.O.A.T. in basketball and in the world of business.

Did Michael Jordan and LeBron ever play together?

Fans saw the two basketball legends pair up during one of Michael Jordan’s camps in California, but they never got to see them play against each other in the NBA. During this one-of-a-kind relationship, LeBron James boasted that the two of them were unbeatable, winning every game they competed in together.

This unbelievable incident occurred at Michael Jordan’s Santa Barbara training camp. LeBron remembered that he had just entered the NBA as a rookie. Normal camp closing time was 9:00 p.m., but Jordan had made other arrangements. Around 8:30 o’clock he’d let the kids watch the first game before he had them go to bed. The legendary MJ then invited LeBron and a handful of other college players to stay and play with him for the rest of the season.

For basketball fans, the possibility of seeing some footage from the training camp games where Jordan and LeBron teamed up is a dream come true. Spectators would be able to forget about the forever-revolving “greatest of all time” debate and instead marvel at the on-court chemistry of two basketball legends.

Sami Haider

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Sami Haider is an NBA writer at SportsKnot. His foray into basketball scriptwriting started in 2020, when he was enthralled by the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA championship victory. His previous experience was limited to dribbling and dunking as a neighborhood kid. His insightful writings show how much he loves the sport. His writing goes beyond numbers and scores, giving readers a unique viewpoint on the players, teams, and events that define the basketball scene. Whether you're a die-hard fan or a casual observer, Sami's work is essential for anybody trying to expand their knowledge and love of the NBA.


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