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The careers of Michael Jordan and LeBron James never overlapped. Jordan retired for the third and final time two months before James was drafted in 2003. That separation hasn't stopped NBA fans from constantly speculating what would happen if the two took the court to face off.

Last week Jordan said he'd beat James in a 1-on-1 game with the two players in their primes, sparking the latest debate to fill the dog days of summer without NBA action.

Friday on NBC's "Today" show, James was asked the same question and responded.

"Oh, I take myself. For sure. I mean, I'm gonna take myself versus anybody."

That's not surprising coming from the player who called himself "the best player in the world" during the NBA Finals, despite his team trailing 3-2 at the time to the reigning MVP (who, you might remember, went on to win that series and hand James his fourth NBA Finals loss).

James, though, did at least acknowledge that beating Jordan wouldn't be easy, telling Today: "I'll tell you one thing -- they're gonna have to have a few wheelchairs and a couple ambulances there to get us off the floor."

For those who care to try and solve this unsolvable dilemma themselves, here are the key numbers to know: James has the height and weight advantages (6-8 to 6-6 and 250 to 216). Jordan has higher career averages in points (30.2 to 27.3) while James has the edge in assists (7.1 to 5.3). Jordan also bests James in All-Star selections (14 to 11), MVPs (5 to 4) and, of course, rings (6 to 2).

Jordan vs. James graphic

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On Saturday at his Michael Jordan Flight School camp in Santa Barbara, California, the eponymous NBA legend took a number of questions -- and some of them were tough, ranging from Phil Jackson or Dean Smith, all-time Chicago Bulls vs. all-time Los Angeles Lakers, one-on-one with LeBron James and much more.

As he tends to do with basketball-related queries, MJ answered them with candor. Here's a selection of the questions and answers, as seen in the video above from Bay Area HQ:

(Questions as said by Jordan himself.)


If I had to play one game, who would I want to coach: Phil Jackson or Dean Smith?

"Dean Smith. [Some audible gasps/murmurs.] Fortunately Dean Smith helped me become the basketball player I am today. Phil was lucky because I was taught the game by Dean Smith."


How did I feel when the Detroit Pistons walked off after we beat them in 1991 [in a 4-0 sweep in the Eastern Conference finals]?

"I felt fine. I felt accomplished. We beat them and they felt ashamed about us beating them. I felt like it was bad sportsmanship. I would not advise you guys to do that. You've got to be able to lose in grace and win in grace -- so don't walk off the court. Even though you hate losing, that's just bad sportsmanship if you do that."


Biggest trash-talker I ever played against?

"Probably Larry Bird. He talks a lot of trash. Good trash, though, not dirty trash. Good trash."


What did I think about when Shaq said that the all-time five of the greatest Lakers could beat the Bulls' five greatest players?

"I just felt like he was just talking. It's a debate. The thing is that we would never know. I think we would have killed them. He thinks they would have killed us. You guys decide. It's just a debate."


"Favorite player to play pick-up games with?"

"My best pick-up game I've ever played was the games and the practices with the [1992] Dream Team. ... My team was myself, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird and Chris Mullin. We played against Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, David Robinson -- that's five, right? -- and we killed 'em.

Note: That's not five; the other player team's fifth had to be either Karl Malone, John Stockton or Christian Laettner. There's also a chance Jordan is misremembering a bit, and he's talking about this scrimmage covered in-depth by Sports Illustrated, which featured a Jordan-Malone-Ewing-Pippen-Bird five against Magic, Barkley, Robinson, Mullin and Laettner (although a 40-36 final score in favor of Jordan's team hardly constitutes a "killing.")


If I had the chance to go one-on-one with Steph Curry or LeBron, which one would I choose to go one-on-one with?

"Right now, or when I was in my prime? Right now? Buddy, I couldn't beat -- well, I'd go against [Stephen] Curry because I'm a little bit bigger than him. So I could kind of back him in. But LeBron is a little bit too big."

[Note: Take that, 34 percent of America.]


If I had a chance to add another member to team Jordan, who would I hire?

"I'm a big fan of [Mike] Trout, the baseball player. I absolutely love him. I wish I could hire him. But he's Nike, so I can't steal Nike's guys."


This is the ESPN question. I know it's going to be all over ESPN. [Note: He was right.] If I was in my prime, could I beat LeBron in a one-on-one game?

[Long pause in which the campers mutter/shout their opinions.]

No question!

[Huge applause.]


What did I see in Kwame Brown when I drafted him [No. 1 overall for the Washington Wizards in 2001]?

"I, along with everybody that was in that draft room, wanted Kwame Brown because of his athleticism, his size, his speed. He was still a young talent, 18-year-old, 19-year-old kid."


If you went back and you couldn't play basketball or baseball, what sport would you play?

"Great question. I went to college, I got my degree in cultural geography, and everybody wanted to know what is cultural geography? Well it's an introduction to meteorology. I always wanted to be the weather man. Don't laugh. But that's what I really wanted to do. So if I wasn't playing basketball or baseball, I was going to tell you what the weather was going to be like tomorrow."

[Note: Don't think meteorology is a sport? Tell that to Jim Cantore!]


What kind of advice would I give Kobe Bryant?

[Uncomfortable laughter in the crowd.]

"Actually, Kobe and I are good friends. I like Kobe, we talk a lot, I hope he comes back healthy. I think he's one of the great players of the game, I think he's done a lot for the game, and he has a true love for the game of basketball. I absolutely have high regard for Kobe Bryant.

"Even though he stole all my moves, but that's OK. I still love him like a brother."

H/T Bay Area HQ and For The Win

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Michael Jordan, of course, is a Chicago Bulls legend.

Jimmy Butler isn't one -- yet -- but he's an All-Star and, arguably, the new face of the franchise.

So what better idea than to have the two of them face off in a shootout at Michael Jordan's Flight School basketball camp in Santa Barbara, California, with a little help from a pair of young ballers?

Spoiler: MJ hits a J at the buzzer:

video

Now, we're not sure who won. It appears His Airness & Co. came out victorious, and with the stroke Jordan still has at age 52, this isn't a shocker.

Butler, to the surprise of no one, showed respect to the greatest ever to play his sport.

la cabra. @mjflightschool

A photo posted by Jimmy Butler (@jimmybutler) on


Don't think Jordan is the greatest? Take it up with Butler; "la cabra" is Spanish for "the goat."

H/T The Big Lead.

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Vin BakerRocky Widner /NBAE/Getty Images

The story of Vin Baker can be seen as a sad one: A former big man for the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics and other teams -- he of four straight All-Star appearances and one 20-and-10 season -- fell into alcoholism and ended up losing nearly $100 million.

But that story is far from over, and it's taken a significant and positive turn.

As profiled by the Providence Journal, the 43-year-old Connecticut native is now living in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, and training to be a manager at the Starbucks for which he works.

"In this company, there are opportunities for everyone," the 6-foot-11 Baker told the paper. "I have an excellent situation here at Starbucks, and the people are wonderful."

As for the people who view his story as tragic, Baker was quick to downplay that notion. He isn't running away from it, either; he wants people to learn from his mistakes.

"When you learn lessons in life, no matter what level you're at financially, the important part to realize is it could happen," he told the Journal. "I was an alcoholic. I lost a fortune. I had a great talent and lost it. For the people on the outside looking in, they're like, 'Wow.'

"For me, I'm 43, and I have four kids. I have to pick up the pieces. I'm a father. I'm a minister in my father's church. I have to take the story and show that you can bounce back. If I use my notoriety in the right way, most people will appreciate that this guy is just trying to bounce back in his life."

There's much more in Kevin McNamara's piece on Baker, who recently worked with the Bucks coaching staff at the Las Vegas Summer League, thanks to an invite from Jason Kidd.

Check it out here.

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Shaquille O'Neal and Scottie Pippen Johnny Nunez/WireImage

A week ago, Shaquille O'Neal and Scottie Pippen got into an Instagram feud over the former's suggestion that an all-time Los Angeles Lakers lineup would beat that of the Chicago Bulls ... by 50.

On Tuesday, Shaq talked about it on his podcast, The Big Podcast with Shaq ... and did nothing to dump water on the fire.

Instead, he poured gallons and gallons of gasoline.

It all started when he was asked if his Instagram post was meant to call out the Bulls.

"Of course not. ... I didn't even make the picture; some other little guy made the picture so I just took it. ... And I said we'd beat 'em by 50. And that's how I feel and I'm sticking to it. I didn't say: 'Hey at Scottie Pippen, we'll beat you guys by 50. Hey, at Rodman we'll beat you guys by [50].' I just said, 'I'll beat you by 50.'"

This is where Pippen went wrong, according to Shaq. O'Neal explains:

"He made it personal when he said, 'Oh, at Shaq, hey I don't believe in hypotheticals.' So he swung first, so I'm going to swing second, and I'm going to swing last. Because I don't let bums disrespect me.

"Yeah, he was a great player, but I'm the bridge, he's the water. He will always be under me. Every now and then he will rise to the occasion and get to the same level as the bridge. But when reality kicks in, I am bridge, he is water, he is under me. Scottie Pippen can't disrespect me. So he comes at me, I'm coming back. And we can do this all day, because I have nothing to do."

Shaq wasn't done.

"He made it personal when he put 'At Shaq, we've got six rings,' like he was the main focus of the six rings. You were not the main focus of the six rings. Don't make me put out the scouting report. He wasn't even a factor in the scouting report. It was all about [Michael Jordan]. ... You double Mike, Scottie was open, Scottie hit a couple shots."

Still not done.

"Let's just talk reality. When you say top 10 players, his name will never be mentioned. When you say top 20 players, his name maybe will be mentioned. So don't come to me like I'm not a player. ... You're a Benz, you're a 550. I'm a 600, V-12. OK?"

At this point, O'Neal was asked if he really meant "bum." His response?

"Bum."

Then:

"Think about why I'm saying 'bum.' Because I have the G-14 classification to say that. Everybody can't say that about a Scottie Pippen, but I can. ... I can say he's a bum."

G-14, if you were wondering, is from the movie "Rush Hour."

Now, does O'Neal have a relationship with Pippen?

"I don't. ... He was cool, respectful and all that. But he made it personal when he came at me, flashing his six rings like he was the main, main factor of the six rings. Stop it, Scottie. We all know you were second fiddle. You'll always be second fiddle. ... You're Robin. you're not Batman. You're not Puffy, you're Mase."

Was Shaq a Robin?

"Yeah, towards the end."

But ...

"Three Finals MVPs ain't got Robin on it. Robin Hood [maybe]."

Then O'Neal went back in on Pippen. At this point, if we'd been tagging these with fire emoji, we'd be out.

"When Michael left, you didn't do nothing. All you did was cry and whine when Phil [Jackson] didn't give you the last shot. He gave it to Toni Kukoc, who was a much better player than you. Toni Kukoc hit the game[-winning] shot. When you left and went to Houston, what did you do? Nothing. When you left and went to Portland, what did you do? Oh yeah, you took us to a Game 7 ... up by 17 in the fourth quarter, what happened? You lose."

For the unfamiliar, this is the infamous refusing-to-come-off-the-bench moment from during Jordan's first retirement, and this is the write-up for the Lakers' epic 2000 comeback (it was actually 16 points in the game and 15 in the fourth).

Shaq was just about done, but wanted to make one last point:

"Those are Mike's six rings."

Woof. Pippen has been invited to go on the podcast to debate; we'll see if that happens.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

H/T Sporting News

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