Ever since his first retirement, analysts and commentators have openly speculated about who is going to be the next Jordan. From his marketing prowess to his unmatched greatness on the basketball court, Jordan is the player that all others are judged by.
There have been numerous contenders for the ultimate title, including Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade. Each one very talented but none of them have ever completely filled the void left by his Airness.
Penny Hardaway was the original “next Jordan” when he erupted on the scene after Jordan’s first retirement in ‘93. Playing with the Magic alongside Shaq, Hardaway was an All-Star for multiple seasons that ended up leading the Magic past MJ’s Bulls in the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals. A knee injury would lead to the derailing of Penny’s basketball superiority.
Many people forget just how good Grant Hill was with the Detroit Pistons in the 90’s. He was quick and a tremendous athlete who brought the Pistons back to prominence after the dismantling of the Bad Boys. Hill would leave the Pistons for Orlando and more money, unfortunately for Hill, injuries would steal away most of the magic that he played with while a young man in Detroit.
Tracy McGrady didn’t start his career out fast, but he rapidly picked up steam when he left Toronto for the Magic. He would become a legitimate superstar and the comparisons started immediately with MJ. A tremendous athlete who could throw down monster jams and shoot from beyond the arc, T-Mac was a no-brainer to be the next Jordan. Then injuries would halt McGrady’s march towards inheriting the throne and he would join the Rockets searching for his first championship.
Another player that drew comparisons was Vince Carter. He had all the superficial qualities that the next Michael would need: a bald player from the University of North Carolina who had a tendency to amaze fans with his monstrous jams. He was a sensation and fans and the media anointed him the Canadian Jordan. His dominance in the Slam Dunk competition harkened back to memories of the great Jordan-Dominique battles in the 80’s. However, Carter never advanced further than the Conference finals with Toronto and has since been traded to the Nets and now the Magic.
Dwyane Wade also exhibits some Jordanesque qualities. He already has a championship under his belt, albeit with the help of Shaq, and has a tremendous ability to shift position while in the air and finish in sometimes-unbelievable ways. He has recently picked up the habit of playing defense and led the league in scoring, forced to carry the pathetic Heat to the playoffs.
LeBron James has drawn comparisons ever since he was a junior in High School as the next Michael Jordan. A player who will dominate the game and become “King” of the Association, James even wears the number 23. He plays in a market not named New York, Boston, or Los Angeles; so it’s naturally unfit to be the home of the best player in the game. Like Jordan, James is improving his game with every season he plays in. He earned defensive player of the year considerations this year when he decided to use his tremendous abilities on the other side of the ball. He is marketable to all demographics and all other the world. However, James has yet to win a championship, critical in becoming Michael Jordan.
The closest any player has come to being the next Jordan is Kobe Bryant. Kobe is dominant both offensively and defensively. He has the capability to drop 81 points in a game and shut down the opponent’s best player, like Mike. He is fearless in the clutch, like Mike. He is intense to the point of scary when he is on the court. His will to win is unmatched throughout the league and is generally regarded as the best player in the Association. His 4 championships also draw comparisons to MJ. Even the way he plays on the offensive side of the ball is reminiscent of Jordan. The ability to blow by his defenders, hit the quick pull up shot, or drains his perfected fade-away shot over the opponent’s outstretched arms. Kobe is the next best thing to Jordan, but he is not Jordan.
In short, there will never be another Michael Jordan. He was and is the greatest of all time. He dominated every phase of the game and his desire to win was also the greatest of all time. He won 6 championships with the Chicago Bulls while playing against the likes of Magic, Bird, Drexler, Barkley, Olajuwon, Ewing, Shaq, Malone, and Miller. He was the best offensive and defensive player on the court whenever he played. He left the game for an entire year and when he returned he was still the best. Even when he returned with the Wizards he was still one of the top players in the Association. There will never be another Michael Jordan in the Association, ever.