Brendan Haywood’s place among rare company qualifies him to enter the Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James debate.
Haywood, a former teammate of Jordan and James, discussed what makes the NBA legends similar to and different from one another Tuesday during an interview with The Ringer’s John Gonzalez. Just four players, Haywood, Scott Williams, Larry Hughes and Jerry Stackhouse, played alongside Jordan and James during their careers. Haywood’s experience playing with Jordan on the Washington Wizards between 2001 and 2003 and with James on the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014-15 gives him unique insight into what drives their respective greatness.
“LeBron is totally different than Mike from a personality standpoint,” Haywood said when comparing them. “LeBron is a great people person. He loves to interact with his teammates. Heâs a hard worker as well. But theyâre different people as far as their approach. Mikeâs approach is, everything is competition. If thereâs shooting on the side, he wants to hit the most shots. If weâre playing a scrimmage, he wants to win that scrimmage. LeBron goes out there and just plays excellent, great basketball. The difference is Mike wants to win at every little thing. That would be the biggest difference between the two … .”
Haywood then reveals one reason why James is popular with teammates.
“He (James) gave the best gifts,” Haywood said. “Of all the superstars I played with, he gave the best gifts. Anything that he was sponsored by, he would give to his teammates. So if he was sponsored by Samsung, everybody got free Samsung phones. Beats by Dre. I had so many extra Beats by Dre headphones I was giving them away to people as gifts. Thatâs how many he made sure we had. Just taking everyone out. Making it a family atmosphere. That was his best thingâ– âhow he communicated and interacted with teammates.”
However, Haywood offered a firm answer when asked whether Jordan or James is the GOAT.
“For me, nobody touches Mike,” Haywood said when asked which legend is better. “If somebody can touch Mike, heâs not in the NBA right now. I canât say whatâs going to come down the pike 10 or 15 years from now. But like right now, I donât see anyone that touches Mike. LeBron is in the top five. Mike is obviously number one, because he combines the great stats with all the individual accolades as far as MVPs, Finals MVPs, All-Star appearances, All-NBA appearances, and heâs 6-for-6, never went to a Game 7 in the NBA Finals. That tells you how dominant he was on his run. No one else really comes close to that. Maybe Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but besides that itâs Mike. The guy was MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same year. A lot of people forgot that. Youâre probably not going to see that again. Thatâs why Mike is the greatest of all time. LeBron is in the top five, but Mike is the greatest.”
The public probably is keen to hear what the three other members of the Jordan-James teammate club have to say about one of the hottest topics in NBA circles.