As high-profile disses go, this one is relatively mild. But, at the same time, it comes from one of the up-and-coming young stars and the guy who was arguably the biggest breakout player of the NBA’s restart—Nuggets guard Jamal Murray. And it comes at the expense of the highest-profile player in the NBA, Lakers star LeBron James.
Speaking on CNBC, Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon was asked about the comparison between James and Michael Jordan, the Bulls star who was drafted with the No. 3 pick in the 1984 NBA draft, in which Olajuwon went No. 1 to the Houston Rockets. Olajuwon, not surprisingly, declared Jordan ahead of James.
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When a quote from that interview hit Twitter through the NBA Central account, many took noticed that Murray hit it with a, “like,” seemingly endorsing the selection of Jordan as better than James. This was the tweet:
Maybe Murray was just bookmarking the tweet for later reference. That, however, is highly unikely.
Olajuwon’s Jordan vs. James Preference is Clear
In context, there is little doubt that Olajuwon is keeping the Greatest of All Time crown on Jordan’s head, even as James won his fourth championship and has now led three organizations to title. Here’s what Olajuwon said:
It depends how you—according to the position that he plays—when people start comparing him with Jordan, then that’s not a fair comparison because Jordan was a far more superior player in a very, very tough league, and he was very creative. That’s not taking away anything from LeBron James, who is a great player, but it is not a fair comparison because I think Jordan is a far superior player.
Note: “Far superior.” There is nothing ambiguous there, and Murray gave that sentiment his approval. He is not alone in that, obviously, but for someone who was a little more than a year old when Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1998, it is a head-scratcher.
Jamal Murray and LeBron James Had Memorable WCF Moments
Murray, of course, had his season ended just weeks ago by James and the Lakers in the Western Conference finals after the Nuggets shocked the league by executing a comeback from a 3-1 series lead to beat the Clippers, the Lakers’ presumed West rival.
One of the great moments of the Lakers-Nuggets series came here, in the second quarter of Game 4:
In that game, though, James famously asked coach Frank Vogel for the assignment of guarding Murray down the stretch. That was after Murray had 28 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in Game 3, the Nuggets’ only win of the series. Murray also had 28 points in Game 4 when James volunteered for the defensive assignment with about five minutes to play. Murray tacked on four more points but was 0-for-2 shooting from the field to close the game.
“I knew it was winning time,” James told reporters after that game, “and Jamal had it going.”
He also offered some praise for Murray after that one. “He’s a tough guard,” James said, “very shifty has dual-threat, being able to shoot the 3—well actually, a triple-threat, shoot the 3, mid-range and be able to get to the line.”
Murray, at the time, seemed unimpressed and poked holes in the narrative of James having shut him down with any kind of especially tough defense late in Game 4.
“They switched (Davis) on me, too,” Murray said. “When I see LeBron, I do the same stuff I do when I see (Alex) Caruso, same stuff when I see (Rajon) Rondo and (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) and Kawhi (Leonard), Paul George, Pat Bev(erley). I appreciate the respect but it’s the same thing.”
It was only a “like” on a LeBron vs. Jordan tweet, but for Murray, maybe there is more to it.