Trought his illustrious career Michael Jordan has faced many great players and established heated rivalries due to his competitive nature and love for trash-talking his opponents. From Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, Gary Payton, to Karl Malone, MJ battled some of the greatest names in NBA history. But one of the rare guys that matched up with MJ on the same position and actually earned comparisons to the GOAT was Clyde Drexler.
“Clyde the Glide” was regarded as the #2 shooting guard throughout most of his career, always playing in the shadow of Michael Jordan. That made fans overlook him at times, but the Blazers legend had the whole package. His fans were calling him MJ with a jump shot, which really rubbed Jordan the wrong way. In the biggest battle of their careers in 1992, the two guards had an intense MVP race, with MJ getting the slight edge eventually.
So when the Blazers and Bulls met in the Finals the same year, MJ had all the motivation to fire himself up and take over the series. The fact people even had doubts about who is the better player had Jordan fuming, as he was the undisputed #1 in his mind, no matter how much he respected Drexler’s game. Jordan took home the championship and Finals MVP, dominating the Finals in a direct matchup with Drexler. Oddly enough, Jordan wasn’t doing his usual trash-talking like with other players, but just playing in silence and doing his job:
“He never said anything to me.‘ How’s your family? How you doing?’ A lot of mutual respect.”Clyde Drexler, In the Zone’ with Chris Broussard
Jordan didn’t have anything personal against Drexler, as Clyde was one of the nicest guys in the league, but the fact his talents endangered Jordan’s throne was enough for MJ to destroy him. Despite their rivalry and battles, the two remained friends, as they even shared the locker room after those Finals, playing together in the Dream Team. Drexler always praises MJ for his game and competitiveness, as he talked about their battles with joy:
“He’s a phenomenal competitor. You know when you love the game, and you play to compete, when you play players like that, you don’t have to do anything to get up for the game. You’re so siked, the moment I wake up I’m ready. It’s hard playing the teams that are a little subpar or players you don’t have to get a whole lot of rest for. But players you know are good; that’s what you live for. It was a treat.”Clyde Drexler, In the Zone’ with Chris Broussard
We always hear about players loving to play against the greatest due to their game rising up to the competition. Playing against MJ, everybody wanted and brought their A-game. Clyde was no different, as he loved the big stage. Even though MJ stopped him from winning more individual and team awards, Drexler never showed any resentment towards MJ, proving he is a true class act. The humbleness paid off for Clyde later in his career, as he managed to get a championship by his name with the Houston Rockets in 1995. Well deserved for one of the most underrated players in NBA history.