It’s always difficult to rank basketball players across eras, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. It’s nearly impossible to come to a consensus, but perhaps that’s why it’s always such an interesting topic to discuss. Fans aren’t the only ones to do it, either. Current and former players debate who was better all the time and they disagree just as much as fans do (if not more).
Case in point, on a recent episode of ESPN’s The Jump, Paul Pierce, Tracy McGrady, and Scottie Pippen got into it over where Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James should be included in an all-time starting five.
McGrady included James at the expense of Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson and Pierce couldn’t believe it (via Andrew Joseph of USA Today):
Pierce: Has he passed Magic?
McGrady: He’s a better player than Magic.
Pierce: Has he passed Magic all-time now?
Pippen: Not in my eyes.
Pierce: See! So, how do we talk about Jordan if you don’t think he’s passed Magic?
McGrady: If I’m starting my five, I’m gonna put LeBron. I’m not putting Magic. I’m putting LeBron in my five.
Pierce: Wow. WOW! Wow. Oh my goodness. Oh, man. Magic!? Magic? He’s passed Magic Johnson?
McGrady: I’m just saying, if I’m doing my starting five, LeBron James is in my starting-five lineup.
Pierce: And Magic’s not?
McGrady: Nah, I can’t. No.
Pierce: Oh my goodness.
It does have to be noted that Pierce grew up in Los Angeles during the Showtime Era, so he saw the best that Magic had to offer. McGrady, on the other hand, grew up in Florida, where he wouldn’t have had access to nearly as many of Johnson’s games.
Pierce also included Kobe Bryant and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in his starting five, while only choosing one Boston Celtic in Bill Russell. Apparently, even spending a career in Boston wasn’t enough to take the Lakers fan out of Paul Pierce.