Michael Jordan is known as the Greatest Player of All Time due to his intense drive and competitive nature.
1. Joe Dumars
Joe Dumars is Michael Jordan's counterpart with the "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons. While he may have given up a few inches to Jordan, he was an underrated defender who was able to hound Jordan and make life difficult for him.
Joe was not a highly touted prospect as he was just the 18th pick in the 1985 NBA Draft. In his maiden season, Joe already had an impact with averages of 9.4 PPG, 1.5 RPG and 4.8 APG in just 23.9 minutes per game.
He and Isiah Thomas formed one of the best backcourts in the league.
Both are multiple-time All-Star selections and Finals MVPs.
Together with a bevy of bruisers on the frontcourt, Joe and Isiah were able to become back-to-back champions.
Joe may be known to younger generations as a Pistons executive who assembled the Chauncey Billups Pistons and was able to reach two Finals and get one championship. Little do they know that Joe was an All-Star-caliber player who could score on one end and stifle his counterpart on the other.
What differentiates Joe from many players is that he thrives under pressure. A lot of players are not as productive in the postseason as defenses become tighter and the long grind of the regular season catches up to you. Joe was able to step it up a notch and was voted as the 1989 Finals MVP.
For his career, Joe Dumars averaged 16.1 PPG, 1.8 RPG and 3.5 APG.
Michael Jordan even acknowledged Joe as the toughest defender he has ever faced.
2. John Starks
Michael Jordan was actually born in New York, so it is ironic that the New York Knicks were one of Jordan's most bitter rivals.
John Starks was Michael Jordan's counterpart with the Knicks and they had many fierce battles in the 90s.
He and Michael Jordan had opposite paths in the NBA. Michael was a highly touted prospect out of North Carolina and was drafted third overall in 1984 by the Chicago Bulls. John Starks on the other hand was undrafted in 1988 and was signed to a short-term deal by the Golden State Warriors. Starks would try out with the New York Knicks the next year and work his way up to be their starting shooting guard.
Starks was not very productive in his rookie season as he had to compete with highly touted prospect Mitch Richmond for minutes. He only averaged 4.1 PPG, 1.1 RPG and 0.8 APG in his first year.
He would develop into a gritty defender and a deadly long range bomber.
Starks was brash, confident and a fan favorite. He would talk trash to any opponent whether it be a superstar like Michael Jordan or a second stringer.
He would help lead New York to the NBA Finals where they would eventually fall to the Houston Rockets.
For his career, John averaged 12.9 PPG, 2,5 RPG and 3.6 APG .
He is the Knicks' all-time three-point field goal leader with 982 made.
3. Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson was one of the people Michael Jordan idolized growing up. He even watched the NCAA Championship game between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
He was a winner in every sense of the word. He won a championship in high school, college and in the NBA.
Magic was a special kind of player. Right off the bat, he was a great player in the NBA. He did not need years of development.
He was a good pairing with superstar center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Magic would start the offense and Kareem would finish it. Magic posted impressive stats as a rookie. He averaged 18 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 7.3 APG and 2.4 SPG in his first year.
This was the genesis of the "Showtime Lakers."
The NBA was down during that time and needed a boost. Magic Johnson would have a rivalry with Larry Bird and the Lakers and Celtics rivalry would propel the NBA both financially and in terms of popularity.
With Kareem Abdul Jabbar retired and with an aging roster, the Lakers valiantly fought to reach the NBA Finals.
Though the Lakers would steal Game 1 of the Finals in Chicago, the Bulls would win the next four games.
Magic Johnson would then pass the torch to Michael Jordan.
There was a new sheriff in town and his name was Michael Jordan.
For his career, Johnson averaged 19.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.9 SPG and 11.2 APG .
He is fifth on the all-time assists totals list while first on the all-time assist average list.
4. Kobe Bryant
Among the wave of " next Michael Jordans," Kobe was the closest to being "like Mike."
From his mannerisms to his famous fadeaway jumper, Kobe copied what he could from MJ.
Kobe was a dominant high school player at Lower Merion High School where he averaged 30.8 PPG, 12 RPG , 4 SPG, 3.8 BPG and 6.5 APG in his senior season.
Drafting high schoolers was not in vogue yet and many teams were not as high on Kobe. Jerry West, one of the best general managers of all time, saw something special in Kobe and traded for him.
Kobe was not great out of the gate like Michael as he rode the bench in his rookie season and played behind starter Eddie Jones. His rookie season was still memorable as he captured the Slam Dunk Championship. He still had decent averages of 7.6 PPG, 1.9 RPG and 1.3 APG as a reserve.
Kobe would continue his development and was an All-Star in his second season and would join his teammates Shaquille O' Neil, Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel.
When the Jones and Van Exel were traded in his third season, Kobe blossomed as he was given more playing time and more opportunities.
With Kobe's fourth, fifth and sixth season, the Lakers were able to win three straight championships.
All was well in terms of wins and losses, but Shaq and Kobe could not get along. When they split, this left Kobe with a mediocre team and it took a while before they would get back in title contention.
Kobe would win his last two championships in 2009 and 2010. He would not win after that as injuries took their toll on the later part of his career.
For his career, Kobe averaged 25 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.4 SPG and 4.7 APG.
5. Anfernee Hardaway
If Kobe was the "next Michael Jordan," Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway was the "next Magic Johnson."
"Penny" was a phenom in college as he averaged 22.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.4 SPG, 1.2 BPG and 6.4 APG in his junior year with the Memphis State Tigers.
He was selected third overall in the 1993 draft and was acquired by Orlando in a package that included several draft picks in exchange for Chris Webber.
Penny and Shaq seemed to be the new Magic and Kareem. Together they formed a powerhouse team in the East. They were surrounded by quality starting pieces in sharpshooters Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott and in rebounder Horace Grant.
In just their second season together, they were are able trounce a returning Michael Jordan in the playoffs and march to the NBA Finals. Though they lost to the eventual champions in Houston, this was an impressive feat for such a young team.
The next season, Shaq and Penny would make it to the Eastern Conference Finals but would be beaten by the Chicago Bulls. This was the end of the partnership as Shaq left for Hollywood in the offseason.
Knee and foot injuries hampered Penny for the rest of his career after that. He would begin to miss many games and soon became a shell of what he was before.
He would later on be traded to Phoenix. Hardaway and Jason Kidd would form a duo known as BackCourt 2000. This did not yield the desired results as Penny was ravaged by injuries.
Hardaway would have a stint with New York and Miami after that and he would retire soon after.
For his career, Penny averaged 15.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG and 5 APG.
Michael Jordan's Rivals
© 2020 Jan Michael Ong