Metta talks 15-yr-old LeBron vs. Jordan in pickup game: 'Could've gone pro.'

Celebrities At The Los Angeles Lakers Game
Celebrities At The Los Angeles Lakers Game / Allen Berezovsky/GettyImages

The passage of time has ruined every possible debate of the greatest players from every era and how they stack up against one another, and Cleveland Cavalier legend LeBron James' legacy is no different.

While James has played enough time in the NBA to face multiple generations of NBA talents, figuratively and literally, the debate between LeBron's greatness and Michael Jordan's greatness is undecided with such drastically different eras of basketball that each player dominated. There will never be a game in which prime LeBron James guards prime Michael Jordan in a Game 7 to decide the fate of the GOAT debate. Space Jam was much better than Space Jam: A New Legacy, though, so there is at least an answer to the debate between Looney Tunes screenwriters between eras for anybody curious.

The former All-Star forward Metta Sandiford-Artest did offer another basketball tale on his recent appearance on Podcast P with Paul George, Presented by Wave Sports + Entertainment. While it did not include a starring role for Bugs Bunny, it did feature a true story of a young 15-year-old LeBron James taking on the challenge of competing one-on-one with Jordan.

When LeBron James played against Michael Jordan

Sandiford-Artest said that by the time the adolescent James entered the facility during a one-on-one showcase, his reputation already preceded him. The NBA legend was curious to see what LeBron could do but was not prepared for just how NBA-ready the teenager would be.

""[LeBron James] was cookin'. Like, he was 15 or 16 postin', getting to the basket, and I'm like 'this is going to be a huge issue,'; you know. And it sure was. Three more years, and he right there. He actually motivated me. When I saw that, it motivated me.""

Metta World-Peace

Sandiford-Artist also added that he believes James could have been a professional basketball player at that moment during his game with Jordan. He did say that the game was not highly competitive, as Jordan did not go over the top in his attempt to outdo the teenage king.

The conversation redirected to a general discussion and praise for the best city-based leagues for basketball, including the Drew League and more. Unfortunately, the change in topic meant that Sandiford-Artest did not divulge the final score or winner of the exhibition bout.

At the time that James was 15 years old, Jordan would have been roughly 36 or 37, toward the end of his time with the Chicago Bulls and shortly before his stint with the Washington Wizards that everybody wishes they could magically forget. The age difference would have made for an exciting but unique head-to-head, though Jordan's experience and age likely gave him the edge over LeBron.

Three years later, LeBron James fulfilled his dream of being drafted into the NBA, selected by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers first overall in the now-historic 2003 NBA Draft. James brought Cleveland the franchise's first NBA Finals trophy in 2016 after a four-year run with the Miami Heat. With four Finals rings and 20 seasons completed, James is still one of the leading names in the NBA on Metta's former team Los Angeles Lakers. Last season, James averaged 25.7 points, 8.3 assists and 7.3 rebounds in 35.3 minutes per game. Until Father Time catches up, LeBron will continue reigning just as he did at 15 years old.

With the 2024 NBA Draft approaching, LeBron may have an opportunity to pass the torch to his son LeBron "Bronny" James, Jr. in a similar fashion to MJ. Bronny is set to enter the draft and begin his own NBA journey this summer. Though rumors have swirled that the Senior wishes to play for the same organization as his son, new reports suggest that LeBron may play against Bronny rather than sign with whatever team drafts the younger James. The expectations for Bronny are not nearly as lofty as those of his father, but the opportunity stands for LeBron James, Sr. to be the first NBA legend to play on the same court as his child.

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