KEY POINTS

  • John Salley revealed that Michael Jordan once considered Oscar Robertson the greatest of all time
  • The NBA legend recalled Jordan saying that the GOAT title was more of a publicity stunt
  • Jordan rarely says he's the best ever but has flirted with the idea on a few occasions 

Four-time NBA champion and former Chicago Bulls forward John Salley revealed that Michael Jordan doesn't believe he is the greatest player of all time.

During an interview with VladTV in August, Salley, a member of the then-record-setting 1996 Bulls team, said Jordan once downplayed his dominance and stardom.

“He [MJ] started getting more and more popular and I was like ‘dog, they say you’re the greatest player to ever play’,” Salley recalled “He goes ‘come on Sal stop’. I said no, people are saying you’re the greatest player to ever play. Ever. Forget everybody else MJ, they saying you.”

The conversation happened sometime between 1989 and 1990, roughly four years after Jordan entered the league. At the time, the then-Bulls superstar was at the pinnacle of his NBA career, averaging almost 34 points per game. Jordan could have easily acknowledged the title, but according to Salley, he chose to bestow it to another NBA great.

“They only watched you play for four years, [and now] you’re the greatest player ever. He was like ‘you know that’s how they do s---, you know they put things together. They want to sell sneakers, they want to sell the league.’ He don’t believe he the greatest player to ever play to this day…He would say, Oscar Robertson [was the greatest],” he recalled.

Michael Jordan during a game between Chicago and Seattle in March 1997 Michael Jordan during a game between Chicago and Seattle in March 1997 Photo: AFP / VINCENT LAFORET

Jordan rarely bragged about being the greatest player to ever play the game. In fact, in 2009, he said, “If you ask me, I would never say that I am the greatest player. That’s because I never played against all the people who represented the league prior to Michael Jordan.”

However, there were some accounts in the past in which the six-time NBA champion flirted with the idea.

In 2013, Jordan admitted that he once told OJ Mayo that he’s “the best player in the game” to teach him a lesson for being cocky at his camp. He also said that he could have beaten all the top guys from the past and current eras aside from the now-deceased Kobe Bryant, whom he accused of emulating his game.

“I don’t think I would lose,” Jordan said of playing against an array of NBA all-time greats. “Other than to Kobe Bryant because he steals all of my moves.”

Last year, Jordan made the ultimate hint on social media when he responded to Twitter’s challenge – describe yourself “in emojis.” Unsurprisingly, the 57-year-old tweeted a goat emoji.