The latest episode of The Last Dance, showcased Michael Jordan's popularity and how people wanted to play and live like the Chicago Bulls legend. While most people consider Michael Jordan as the greatest of all time, his legacy has caused fans to label many NBA players as the 'the next Michael Jordan'. Some names like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have remained constant, while a number of names have also been termed as 'forgettable'.
The first mention of 'the next Michael Jordan' came when a Virginia Daily Press article included a quote from St John's head coach Lou Carnesecca, who called Grant Hill the 'next Michael Jordan or Julius Erving'. Hill had an illustrious college career at Duke where he won two titles for his team and was the No. 3 pick in the 1994 NBA Draft, just like Jordan. Hill went against the comparisons multiple times but was constantly put next to Jordan. He suffered multiple injuries during his career and was soon referred to as the 'hobbled star' by 2002. Hill is now the part-owner of Atlanta Hawks and works as an analyst for CBS. During his career, he had stated that it was Kobe Bryant's turn after his, and everyone will have to 'gang up' on Jordan next.
The New York Times first wrote about Kobe Bryant as a 'high school hoop phenom causing a stir', where his coach Ira Berkow stated that Kobe Bryant could be the next Michael Jordan. While people wondered how Kobe Bryant would live up to Jordan's legacy, the late Lakers legend started playing and winning, which only increased the comparisons with Jordan. Though reports called Bryant inconsistent and inefficient later in his career, he did lead the Lakers to five NBA championships.
In the 2000s, Kobe Bryant was referred to as the 'figurehead' of the NBA. Throughout his career, Bryant stated that his gameplay was heavily inspired by Jordan, which only caused people to point out more similarities. In March 1999, Charles Barkley stated that while people like to believe Kobe Bryant is 'Jordanesque', he is not. Kobe Bryant, who Jordan considered a little brother, passed away in a tragic helicopter crash on January 26.
Many reports consider Lakers star LeBron James to be the only one worthy enough to be 'the next Michael Jordan'. A 2002 Sports Illustrated cover called James 'the Chosen One', but the Jordan-James comparisons had already started in February 2001, when LeBron James was 16 years old. He is considered to have lived up to the 'teen Jordan' comparisons and is one of the current most valuable players in the NBA. While players like Bryant were said to play like Jordan, LeBron James was said to have developed his own style. James was averaging 25.7 points before the league was suspended, and was leading the Lakers to a 49-14 win-loss record in the Western Conference. In 2005, James had addressed the comparisons and stated that he wanted to be LeBron James and not the next Jordan.
Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, Rashad McCants, Antawn Jamison, Penny Hardaway, Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O'Neal, Yao Ming, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, Harold Miner and Felipe Lopez are other players who have been compared to Jordan. Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant are two of the active players who have been compared to the six-time NBA champion. Tynesha Lewis, Seimone Augustus and Chamique Holdsclaw are three WNBA players who have been compared to Jordan over the years. Apart from them, players like Serena Williams and Tiger Woods have been referred to as the Michael Jordans in their own field.