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5 NBA Players Who Were Supposed to Be the Next Michael Jordan

Updated on October 20, 2017
Jan Michael Ong profile image

Jan enjoys writing about his favorite sports and television shows.

Many great players have received the Jordan comparison. The closest may be Kobe Bryant.
Many great players have received the Jordan comparison. The closest may be Kobe Bryant.

Michael Jordan

Whenever there is a great athlete, people always look for the athlete's successor. We are looking for the next Dan Marino, the next Derek Jeter, the next Wayne Gretzky, and the next Michael Jordan. While it may be flattering to be compared to an all-time great, it puts tremendous pressure on the athlete to perform. They may experience tremendous backlash if they fall short of expectations.

Among the list of basketball players compared to Michael Jordan, five stand out. They are:

  • Harold Miner
  • Jerry Stackhouse
  • Vince Carter
  • Kobe Bryant
  • LeBron James

Harold Miner

Harold Miner hoists the Slam Dunk Championship trophy.
Harold Miner hoists the Slam Dunk Championship trophy.

Harold Miner was perhaps one of the least successful of the “next Jordans.” He only lasted four seasons in the NBA and retired from basketball soon after. He started with a lot of hype and fanfare and ended with a whimper.

The man that was supposed to be the next legendary player ended up scoreless in his final NBA game and was waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The hype was not unfounded however. Miner was a star at the University of Southern California. He averaged as much as 26.3 points per game. He was indeed a scoring machine and was very much a human highlight reel. He beat out future NBA stars such as Christian Laettner, Shaquille O'Neal, and Alonzo Mourning for Sports Illustrated’s 1992 college basketball player of the year award.

In the 1992 draft, the Miami Heat drafted Miner as the 12th overall pick. This was an exciting day for the expansion franchise as they already had shooters Glen Rice and Steve Smith as well as an inside presence in Rony Seikaly. While Harold was not an immediate impact player like Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, or Magic Johnson, his rookie year numbers were quite solid. He averaged 10.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, and 0.5 SPG with an average of 18.9 minutes per game. The future looked bright for the Miami Heat rookie.

His profile was raised tremendously by winning the 1993 Slam Dunk Competition. He dethroned the 1992 champ Cedric Ceballos. However, he was not able to join the 1994 contest due to injury; Isaiah Rider won the contest that year. The 1995 contest ended up being a showdown between Miner and Rider. Harold was able to successfully regain his crown in triumphant fashion.

Despite his success in the Slam Dunk contest, Harold was not the all-time great many people projected him to be. As the years went by, he showed very little improvement. His stats never reached the heights they were supposed to and he never got the playing time that people thought he would get. On June 14, 1995, Miami pulled the trigger and decided to go with Sasha Danilovic as part of their future. They traded Miner along with their 1995 2nd-round draft pick, Donny Marshall, to the Cleveland Cavaliers for their 2nd-round draft pick, George Banks. This was essentially a salary dump.

A change in scenery did not change Harold’s fortunes. He continued to ride the pine and did not get sufficient playing time. To compound things further, he had knee issues. For a player that relied on athleticism and explosiveness, this is one of the worst things that can happen. It did not take long for Harold to wear out his welcome in Cleveland. On October 18, 1995, he was shipped to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Victor Alexander. The trade was rescinded though as Victor did not pass the physical.

Seeing the Raptors’ interest in him, Harold tried his luck and signed as a free agent. He got cut during the preseason and decided to call it quits. He really did not have much of a choice in the matter as his knee problems were getting severe and it hampered his playing ability.

Harold was out of the limelight for a decade and a half. He resurfaced in 2010 when he agreed to be interviewed by LostLettermen.com. While many other players have ended up broke after squandering their money, Harold has carved out a pretty successful business of flipping real estate properties. He now lives with his wife and kids in Las Vegas. He parlayed the $30 million he earned through his short playing career into a comfortable life for him and his family.

In 2011, Miner was inducted into the Pac 10 Basketball Hall of Honor. The following year, his jersey was retired by USC. Though Harold may not have found NBA success, people never forgot his great collegiate career.

Jerry Stackhouse

Jerry Stackhouse makes a ferocious dunk.
Jerry Stackhouse makes a ferocious dunk.

Just like Michael, Jerry Stackhouse was an alumni of the University of North Carolina. He was picked third overall in the NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. Standing at 6’6” and weighing 218 lbs, his size was very comparable to Michael’s. He also had a very similar skill set and a very athletic game. Not only were the two highly touted prospects during their respective draft classes, they were showmen. They could easily awe the crowd with their athleticism and thunderous dunks.

The future looked bright for Jerry as he averaged 19.2 points per game right out of the gate and was named to the All-Rookie First Team. The next year, the talented Stackhouse was paired with future Hall of Famer Allen Iverson. Together, the two torched the league for an average of 44 points a night.

As much as the backcourt of Stackhouse and Iverson sounded like a highlight reel factory, the two were simply not a good fit. While they were scoring machines, they were not efficient scorers, did not play much defense, and were black holes in offense as they did not pass as much as they should.

Midway in the 1997-1998 season, Stackhouse, along with fellow North Carolina alum Eric Montross, was shipped to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Aaron McKie, Theo Ratliff, and a future first-round draft pick. While the 76ers lost out in the offensive department, they acquired two key pieces in McKie and Ratliff, who would bolster their defense.

Just like in Philadelphia, Stackhouse continued to be an offensive threat in Detroit and averaged a career-high 29.8 points at one point. While Jerry was able to reach the playoffs in his Pistons stint, they never got that deep into it. Pistons management decided to switch to a new direction and they traded Jerry to the Washington Wizards in a six-player swap. The Detroit Pistons sent Jerry Stackhouse, Brian Cardinal, and Ratko Varda to the Wizards in exchange for Richard Hamilton, Bobby Simmons, and Hubert Davis. While the trade was initially deemed as highway robbery by the Wizards, the Pistons eventually made two NBA Finals appearances and captured one NBA Championship with Hamilton. The Wizards never even made the playoffs with the pairing of Michael Jordan and Jerry Stackhouse.

Now ravaged by injury, Stackhouse was no longer the borderline star he once was. Once a scoring machine and human highlight reel, he was now just a role player and bounced around the league a bit before retiring. He played for the Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, and Brooklyn Nets. It was in Dallas that he found the most success as he reached the NBA Finals for the only time in his career.

Once his playing days concluded, Jerry became a commentator for Fox Sports Detroit. He also ended up as an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors and helped lead them to an Eastern Conference Finals berth. The next year, he coached the Raptors 905 D-League team and helped guide them to the championship—something Jerry never did as a player.

Vince Carter

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Vincent Lamar Carter is one of the most electrifying players of all time. Drafted by the Golden State Warriors with the fifth pick in the 1998 draft, Vince was ironically traded to the Toronto Raptors for the fourth pick Antawn Jamison, who was Vince’s friend and former Tar Heel teammate. It seems that the Raptors got the better end of the deal as Vince helped set league attendance records because people wanted to see Vince play. While the Bulls had Air Jordan, the Raptors had Air Canada.

It was easy to compare Michael Jordan to Vince Carter. They were similar in height and weight, had shaved heads, came from the same alma mater, had the same college coach in Dean Smith, and were picked close to each other in their respective drafts. Jordan was picked third and Carter was picked fifth. They also had a similar game.

Carter’s vast arsenal of dunks would be on full display in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. Everyone knew he would win even before the first dunk was made. He basically outclassed the competition which included his cousin Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis. His dunks included a honey dip, a between-the-legs dunk, and two reverse 360 windmills. This was a time when the Slam Dunk Contest was not full of gimmicks and props. It was simply a man and his basketball.

Vince would lead his team to many playoff berths, including their inaugural post season foray in 2000. He and Tracy McGrady formed a formidable duo and carried the erstwhile underachieving young franchise. This pair would only be around for two seasons though, as McGrady signed with the Orlando Magic to form another formidable duo with Grant Hill. Carter was left to carry the Raptors on his own. He responded by averaging a career best of 27.6 points. He was able to will his team to the playoffs despite an average supporting cast. The Raptors were able to eke out a 3-2 series victory over the New York Knicks but fell in seven games to Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Eastern Conference semifinals is as far as Carter ever went. Injuries to Vince and his teammates, as well as incompetent management, have prevented the Raptors from pushing deep into the playoffs. Vince was unhappy that the Raptors were not able to surround him with a supporting cast that could compete for titles. Out of Toronto’s draft picks that were picked after Carter, only Morris Peterson and Chris Bosh panned out. Toronto’s selections were suspect at best. Jonathan Bender and Rafael Araujo headline the long list of draft busts picked by Toronto’s inept management.

In December 18, 2004, the Vince Carter era ended in Toronto. He was shipped to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for a package that included future Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, and a pair of first-round draft picks. The Nets made the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 and were hoping that the addition of Carter would put them over the top. However, injuries to Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson derailed the Nets’ season and they barely made the playoffs. They were promptly dismissed by the Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’ Neil-led Miami Heat in four games.

Carter continued to be a contributor to the Nets with mild success. Though they were perennial playoff contenders in the East, they were not able to get past the more powerful teams in the conference.

In 2009, the Orlando Magic made a draft day trade that sent Rafer Alston, Tony Battie, and Courtney Lee to the Nets in exchange for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson. The Magic hoped that Carter could provide some much needed scoring and veteran leadership. The Magic went as far as the Eastern Conference Finals and met up with the Boston Celtics. They were promptly dismissed in six games.

The following seasons would see Carter bounce around the league a bit with stints in Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, and Sacramento. There were talks that Vince would try to join Golden State in order to win a championship on the team that originally drafted him but he ended up with the Sacramento Kings instead.

However his career may end, many people will fondly remember Carter's jaw-dropping dunks and vicious athleticism during his heyday in Toronto where he was half man and half amazing.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant emulated Michael Jordan's patented fadeaway shot.
Kobe Bryant emulated Michael Jordan's patented fadeaway shot.

Kobe Bean Bryant is the son of former NBA player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant. Joe was a decent player but in no way a superstar. He had a short seven-year NBA career and played for the Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers, and Houston Rockets. He named Kobe as such because of his fondness of Japanese Kobe beef.

Kobe was a high school phenom at Lower Merion High School. He was one of the few freshmen in his school's history to start for the men's basketball squad. Though Bryant reinvigorated the team, they stumbled to a 4-20 record. However, the next three seasons were phenomenal and the Aces marched to a sterling 77-13 record. Kobe capped off a stellar high school career with averages of 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4.0 steals, and 3.8 blocks.

A lot of colleges wanted to recruit Kobe but he elected to go straight to the NBA. He was selected as the 13th pick for the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 draft. The team previously made a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers for center Vlade Divac and they offered their pick. One of the reasons the Lakers picked up Kobe is because he impressed them with his workout with Lakers legend Michael Cooper. Michael was the Lakers' defensive stopper during the Magic Johnson Showtime era, yet Kobe picked apart his defense like it was nothing.

While Kobe was obviously talented, he was not exactly the best teammate. He was a loner who sat on his own on the team bus and did not fraternize with his teammates. Even though he was a rookie and he had veterans such as Robert Horry on the team, he demanded that the ball be passed to him. Veterans with championship experience such as Horry took offense to this brash attitude as they felt disrespected.

Kobe rode the pine for the first half of the season behind Eddie Jones and Nick van Exel. During the second half of the season, he saw increased playing time and his production followed suit. He even raised a lot of eyebrows when he became the youngest Slam Dunk Champion in history. The season ended in disappointment however, as the Utah Jazz overwhelmed the young Lakers and trounced them 4-1 in the playoffs. The young Kobe made four straight airballs in the dying moments of Game 5.

Kobe was given a much larger role in his second season and was even voted to the All-Star Game. He joined fellow teammates Shaquille O' Neil, Eddie Jones, and Nick van Exel. This marked one of the few times four players from the same team became All-Stars at the same time.

The path for Kobe to ascend to stardom was clear once the Lakers traded away van Exel and Jones. The Lakers traded van Exel to Denver in exchange for Tony Battie and guard Tyronn Lue. Meanwhile, Jones and Elden Campbell were traded away to the Charlotte Hornets for a package that included Glen Rice, J. R. Reid, and B. J. Armstrong.

1998 marked the last dance for the Chicago Bulls. It was the last hurrah for the most dominant team of the 90s. After they won the championship, the team essentially disbanded. Michael Jordan retired for a second time, Dennis Rodman signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Scottie Pippen was traded to the Houston Rockets. Phil Jackson also became free to pursue another coaching gig. He chose Los Angeles as they had the best center at the time, Shaquille O' Neil, and one of the best emerging guards in league in Bryant.

In Jackson's first year with the Lakers, he was able to use his patented "Triangle Offense" to catapult the storied team to its 12th championship. Teams could simply not handle prime Shaq as he steamrolled through the competition. Double and triple teams could not stop him.

The team won two more championships, with Shaq being the MVP every time. Shaq getting the spotlight did not sit well with Kobe. Both wanted to be the alpha dog. Despite the team winning, there was trouble in paradise.

The then three-peat Lakers got an added boost as ring-chasing veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton joined the team. It was widely predicted that this newly minted super team would easily win the NBA Championship. However, injuries and chemistry issues ruined that and the team was disbanded the next season, leaving only Kobe to pickup the pieces.

The Lakers would not be in the championship picture again until the arrival of Pau Gasol and the emergence of Andrew Bynum. Post Shaq, the Lakers were in rebuilding mode and lost in the first round of the playoffs several times. At times they did not even make the playoffs.

In 2009 and 2010, the Lakers were back in the promised land. After a bitter defeat at the hands of their rival, the Boston Celtics, the Lakers were on top of the mountain once again. Kobe finally got his rings without Shaq. This was a huge monkey off his back.

The 2012-2013 season was an important one for the Lakers. It was the last season that they were deemed as championship contenders and the season that the legendary Dr. Jerry Buss passed away. With a team comprised of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, and Antawn Jamison, the franchise appeared stacked and were heavy favorites. However, just as in the 2003-2004 season, the lack of chemistry and injuries took its toll on the team and derailed their championship aspirations. The Lakers were unceremoniously knocked out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs.

The next four seasons would be frustrating for Kobe. Not only would he never sniff a playoff game for the rest of his career, he was also beset with a myriad of injuries. However, he capped his career with the perfect Hollywood ending when he scored 60 points and led his team to victory over the Utah Jazz.

While Kobe no longer plays in the NBA, he is still firmly entrenched in the sport. He regularly advises the Los Angeles Lakers on making personnel moves. He also appears regularly on sports shows such as ESPN SportsCenter. He has also decided to pay it forward and mentor young players such as Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving.

LeBron James

Lebron James is one of the best in-game dunkers in league history.
Lebron James is one of the best in-game dunkers in league history.

LeBron Raymone James was a household name long before he even stepped foot in the NBA. He was a phenom on the St. Vincent-St. Mary varsity basketball team and graced the covers of SLAM Magazine and Sports Illustrated. Even at an early age, he already had comparisons to NBA greats such as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. During his senior year, LeBron averaged 31.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 3.4 steals per game. The opposition was simply no match for him.

LeBron wanted to declare for the 2002 NBA draft but was unsuccessful in lobbying to change the eligibility rules. He then had to wait a year before declaring for the star-studded 2003 draft. This draft was one of the most loaded of all time. It boasted players such as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, David West, Josh Howard, Leandro Barbosa, Kyle Korver, and Mo Williams. LeBron was picked first overall by his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Though James was a bonafide star, he did not have the best supporting cast during his first stint in Cleveland. The 2006-2007 Cavs that he willed to the finals had role players such as Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Booby Gibson, and Sasha Pavlovic. LeBron could only take his team so far as they were promptly swept by a stacked San Antonio Spurs, who had Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Michael Finley, Robert Horry, and Manu Ginobili. After seven years of trying to win a championship for the hometown team, LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat along with his buddies Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. James opened the floodgates for the formation of superteams in the NBA with "The Decision." He helped promote player movement which was against the old school way of thinking that players stuck with one team. Players such as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and John Stockton spent their entire careers with one team. LeBron moved around based on what was the best situation for him.

Going to Miami was both a good and bad decision. On a positive note, this led to four straight Finals appearances and two straight titles. On a negative note, this infuriated Cleveland fans, who resorted to burning jerseys, creating Internet memes, and booing LeBron whenever he visited Cleveland. He was part of the infamous "Banana Boat Team" along with his buddies Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony. They are an extremely tight knit and influential group of players who have a large pull in the NBA as well as in the coporate world. LeBron, Chris, and Carmelo are Nike endorsers while Dwyane is the pitchman for Li-Ning.

LeBron is one of the most polarizing players ever. Either you love him or you hate him. There is no in-between. He has always been a lightning rod for controversy. Critics of his, such as Skip Bayless, would criticize his lack of a "clutch gene" as he would oftentimes falter in the dying moments of a game or pass the last shot to a teammate instead of taking it himself. He was also criticized for taking the easy way out when he decided to team-up with fellow Dream Team members Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh in order to win a championship when he tried and failed for seven years to get one himself. He is also widely criticized for never having joined the Slam Dunk Contest, where his predecessors such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant competed in. He has also been castigated as a serial flopper who regularly exagerrates contact in order to draw calls from the officials.

While appearing in seven straight NBA Finals may seem like a great feat, we must consider that the Eastern Conference has been weak ever since Michael Jordan retired. What is glaring is his lack of success in the Finals, going only three of eight for a 37.5% success rate. Compare this to Kobe who won five of seven for a 71.43% success rate and Michael Jordan who went six for six for a 100% success rate.

While LeBron may be one of the greatest players ever, his vision extends far beyond the basketball court. With friends like Warren Buffet and Jay-Z giving him advice, he plans to be a business mogul when he retires in the same vein as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. After all, all the accolades in the world would mean nothing if you retire penniless and in debt after a stellar NBA career.

The Next Jordan

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