Pat Riley: Prime Magic Johnson Would Beat LeBron James 1-on-1

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

Pat Riley has a curious nomination for the greatest basketball player of all time: not Michael Jordan or LeBron James, but Magic Johnson.

“He’s the greatest player of all time,” the Miami Heat president said while sitting next to Johnson, now the president of the Los Angeles Lakers, at an American Express event on Monday night.

Not only that, Riley said Magic would beat LeBron in a game of one-on-one in which both players were in their primes.

Of course, there’s plenty of reason for bias on Riley’s part.

Riley was the head coach of Magic’s Showtime Lakers teams that went to four straight NBA Finals, winning two of them and a total of four rings together. Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls prevented Riley’s New York Knicks and Heat teams in the ’90s from advancing out of the East. And then there’s the massive amount of butthurt Riley emitted when LeBron left the Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

That petty jealousy appears to be alive and well three years later. A week before this sitdown, Riley refused to say he was pulling for LeBron against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

“I’d like to see a great Finals,” Riley told TMZ. “I’m about a great Finals and I think it’s going to be one of the best ever. But I love LeBron, we all do, he was part of our team for four years.”

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