KEY POINTS

  • Michael Jordan has named several NBA legends as his first idols
  • Jordan admitted that Julius Erving was the most difficult player to match up with 
  • Erving once heralded Jordan as the junior version of himself

Michael Jordan may have been widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, but apparently, there was one player he wasn’t able to dominate.

To this day, many are still arguing about who could possibly beat Jordan in his prime. However, the everlasting debate may have already been addressed by the man himself more than two decades ago.

In his book "For the Love of the Game: My Story,” published in October 1998, Jordan admitted that among the legendary NBA players who have been dominating the sport before him, it was Julius Erving whom he “couldn’t do anything” about.

“When I came into the league [NBA], I wasn’t nearly as enamored with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as I was with Julius Erving,” Jordan revealed. “As a kid, my first nickname was ‘Magic,’ but the only player I really knew about was Dr. J.”

“I had a couple of good games against Philadelphia [76ers] during my first season, but I couldn’t do anything when I was matched up with Julius because I had so much admiration for him,” he added. “I was just happy to be on the same floor.”

Further expressing his deep admiration for Erving, Jordan stressed how “Dr. J” was instrumental to his rise to NBA stardom and other ventures outside basketball as well.

“At the time, he [Erving] was the king when it came to a professional basketball moving to corporate America,” the six-time NBA champion explained. “His Coca-Cola connection was like the connection I eventually had with Nike. In that sense, Dr. J made it possible for me to take the next step off the court. He brought so much class to the professional athlete.”

“In the 1950s and 1960s, you have Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson,” he added. “But Julius Erving was the first basketball player to combine dramatic athletic ability on the court with a clean, positive image off the court that connected with corporate America.”

Magic Johnson Michael Jordan Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson are two of the greatest NBA players of all time. Photo: Getty Images/Tiziana Sorge

Erving, on the other hand, had the same commendation for “His Airness.” In fact, the basketball legend even thought that Jordan was his second coming at one point.

However, as time passed by, the former 76ers superstar has realized that Jordan may have been the better basketball player.

“In the beginning you know it was interesting because when he [Jordan] came out of college and we, actually me, he and Dominique Wilkins went to an event in Atlanta, Georgia and it was a golf event,” Erving said in an interview last month. “[But] we ended up getting in the gym and playing some basketball.”

“So I saw what he had, but I also knew what I had and whatever, so you know it was like he [Jordan] was a junior version [of me],” the NBA Hall of Famer continued. “But as you know, time will tell the story, that’s a six-time championship, five-time MVP or whatever, he certainly surpassed my accomplishments.”

Julius Erving NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving is widely recognized as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Photo: Getty Images / Bettmann