Before he entered the never-ending GOAT debates, LeBron James, like everyone else, was a huge fan of Michael Jordan. LeBron once talked about his first encounter with MJ. According to him, the man appeared to levitate — and they weren’t even playing basketball yet.
LeBron’s first encounter with Michael Jordan
LeBron was asked who he looked up to growing up. After reflecting for a bit, the King revealed that he looked up to Michael Jordan — not necessarily because of his playing style, but because of his attitude towards the game and his competitiveness.
“I love Michael Jordan. The way he approached the game and the way that he led his troops when he went out on the court, and his never say die attitude... it was something I always looked up to,” James said, per Late Night with David Letterman.
James went on to tell a story about his first encounter with his idol at a gym in Chicago. LeBron was in his junior year in high school, and he was already known around basketball circles as the next big thing, which probably helped him get closer to the GOAT.
“I think it was my junior year in high school I go up to Chicago and I go to a gym called Hoops where he plays basketball in the summertime. I didn't know he was going to be there. But I [saw] him walking towards me and it was kind of like he was walking on air. I had to pinch myself. Is that Michael? He was like Black Jesus to me,” James said.
The infamous Jordan-LeBron scrimmage
James also shared an expanded version of this encounter in 2020. LeBron shared the hardcourt with NBA players like Paul Pierce, Ron Artest, Penny Hardaway, and Jamal Crawford. Even though he was a top-ranked prospect, James found himself at the end of the bench.
“They didn't let me play for like a first hour. The only reason I played is because the guys that was in the league, you know, after a few hours some of them get tired, they're like, 'I'm done with this sh*t, hey young fella, we need a fill, you wanna play?'” James said, per Uninterrupted.
This is definitely one of the more interesting behind-the-scenes stories about two legends of the game. Fans and analysts continue to pit MJ and LBJ in senseless debates, and such conversations spark all sorts of emotions, with most of them, unfortunately, being negative.
Perhaps from time to time, we should just enjoy feel-good stories like this one.