Michael Jordan Could Still Dominate in 2014: Here Are 10 Reasons Why

  • 1. The league is softer

    The NBA may be as big as it’s ever been, but the style of play has never been softer. During Michael Jordan’s prime years, he had to battle through teams that made it their mission to stop him by any means necessary. The Bad Boy Pistons, Pat Riley-coached Knicks, and Larry Bird-led Celtics punished Jordan with elbows and cheap shots every time he went down the lane. Today, he would be able to make his way to the hoop with no problem and would either find himself with an easy layup or get to the free throw line 20 times a game, a la James Harden.

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  • 2. Even at 50, Jordan still played and beat NBA players one-on-one

    As part-owner of the Charlotte Hornets, MJ still dusts off his Js from time-to-time to show the youngins he still has it. Last year, Hornets second-year forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played, and lost to his 50-year-old boss in a one-on-one matchup.

    “It was hard for me,” MKG told CSNHouston at last year’s All-Star Weekend. “I lost. I lost to a 50-year-old guy. He’s the greatest man that ever played the game.”

    If Jordan can bet guys 30 years his junior now, imagine what he would do to today’s players in his prime.

    There’s no video that exists of the famed MJ vs. MKG game, but there is video of Jordan working out with his Charlotte players.

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  • James Harden
    3. The shooting guard position is the weakest In the league

    A quick look at the top shooting guards in the NBA from last year yields the following results: James Harden, Dwyane Wade, DeMar DeRozan, Monta Ellis, and an injured Kobe Bryant. Hardly a group that would strike fear into the GOAT’s heart. Harden is well known for being a sieve on defense; Wade is playing on balky knees; DeRozan is still developing; and Ellis has never been known as a good, or even solid defensive player, despite the high steal numbers. A matchup with Kobe would be incredible, but thanks to Vino’s recent string of injuries, it’s tough to envision him getting the upper hand on a prime MJ.

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  • 4. Rule changes

    “It’s less physical and the rules have changed, obviously,”Jordan told USA Today back in 2010. “Based on these rules, if I had to play with my style of play, I’m pretty sure I would have fouled out or I would have been at the free throw line pretty often and I could have scored 100 points.”

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  • Michael Jordan, LeBron James
    5. All free agents would want to play with him

    Ever since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh teamed up, the landscape of the league completely changed. All big-time NBA players know that their path to a championship is much easier if they pair up with other superstars in free agency. A prime MJ would have no problem attracting any and all suitors.

    Seriously, who wouldn’t want to play with Jordan? It’s a guaranteed championship! Looking ahead to next year’s free agent class and you have guys like Marc Gasol, Goran Dragic, and LaMarcus Aldridge and in 2016, Kevin Durant is the marquee name of the group. Could you imagine a core of Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, and prime Michael Jordan?

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  • Kevin Durant
    6. The reigning MVP's best season is routine for Jordan

    From 1986-1993, Michael Jordan won seven straight scoring titles and won the MVP award in 1988, 1991, and 1992. Here’s a look at his stats:

    1986-1987: 37.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists

    1987-1988: 35.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists

    1988-1989: 32.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists

    1989-1990: 33.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists

    1990-1991: 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists

    1991-1992: 30.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.1 assists

    1992-1993: 32.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists

    Kevin Durant, the league’s reigning MVP, put together a 2013-14 stat line of 32.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.5 assists. Granted, KD has a long way to go in his career and has a legitimate shot to break the all-time scoring record, but he still has a lot of work to do to match Jordan’s offensive output during his prime years.

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  • 7. He played both ends

    One of the underrated aspects of Jordan’s game was just how good he was on defense. Even though he’s been retired for a decade, no one has come close to matching his all-around skill-set on both ends. Jordan won the Defensive Player of the Year in 1988 and was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team nine different times throughout his career. Jordan also led the NBA in steals per game three different times and may just be the greatest two-way player of all time.

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  • Michael Jordan
    8. His peers claim the league wouldn’t stand a chance

    No one knows just how dominant Jordan was during his playing days more than his teammates. A few years back, a reporter from The Chicago Tribune asked former teammate Horace Grant how MJ’s play would adapt to today’s game. Grant responded emphatically: “The rules have changed so much from our days and the Heat’s days. It was more physical back then. Today you can run around without getting touched. Today, Michael Jordan would average about 45 points.”

    Forty-five points a game may be a bit of a stretch, but Grant’s comments go to show not only how great Jordan was, but also what former players really think of today’s NBA.

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  • 9. No one could match his drive

    Today’s superstars all grew up together on the AAU circuit and now attend each other’s weddings, post Instagram photos congratulating them on milestones or contract extensions, and, for the most part, speak glowingly about each other in the media. MJ was having none of that sh*t.

    Known for punching his own teammates in the face during practice, Jordan’s competitive drive and intensity is legendary. As soon as he stepped on the court in today’s game, a prime Jordan would immediately have the mental edge over his opponent.

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  • 10. It's gotta be the shoes

    Though he hasn’t played since the 2003 season, Jordan Brand continues to release signature sneakers for their athletes and one can only imagine what kind of kicks Tinker and Co. at Jordan Brand would come up with for MJ if he were playing today. Granted, the shoes don’t necessarily make the player, but Jordan gracing the court in JB’s latest offerings would have sneakerheads going crazy. (And even other players — Jordan was first interested in the Air Jordan 1 because he thought it would distract his opponents. Every little bit helps.)

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  • Paul George
  • Gerald Henderson, Michael Jordan
  • James Harden
  • Michael Jordan, LeBron James
  • Kevin Durant
  • Michael Jordan
  • Michael Jordan
  • Air Jordan 1

From big names like LeBron and Russell Westbrook to up-and-comers like Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Davis, the current crop of NBA superstars are collectively the most athletic players the league has ever seen and for years, pundits, fans, and talking heads have debated how a prime Michael Jordan would fare. Jordan, of course, is right up there with Wilt Chamberlain as the most transcendent player in NBA history — the baggy shorts, the tongue, the sneakers, the bald dome… and, oh yeah, the fadeaway, the clutch shots, the reverse layups, the mid-air attacks, the ferocious defense. His style of play and athleticism would translate to any era.

BUY NOW: Jordan Brand Best Sellers

There’s absolutely no doubt that Michael Jordan in his prime would dominate no matter what year he is plugged into. He wasn’t Cousy, playing against a bunch of slow cats with no imagination, in grainy footage. He wasn’t Bird, a player who got by on skill and will. He wasn’t even He was a basketball prototype: a 6-6 swingman who could do literally anything.

If a prime MJ were to suit up for the 2014-2015 season, he could realistically have the best statistical season of his career. From rule changes to weaker competition at the shooting guard position, the odds are stacked in Jordan’s favor to put together an amazing season.

To celebrate the release of the Air Jordan 14 “Black Toe” on September 20 at Champs Sports, a shoe that is returning for the first time ever since the original release in MJ’s final year with Chicago — here’s where sneakerheads chime< in to say yeah it released in 2006, but that shoe had upper ribs and doesn’t count because they butchered it — we’re attempting to answer the question that’s hounded basketball fans for at least 15 years. Michael Jordan Could Still Dominate in 2014: Here Are 10 Reasons Why.

Follow Peter on Twitter at @Peter_M_Walsh