Pat Riley said Magic Johnson—not Michael Jordan or LeBron James—is the greatest NBA player ever. 

By Tim Kiernan
June 07, 2017

The debate over the greatest basketball player of all–time tends to revolve around LeBron James and Michael Jordan, but occasionally someone offers a different opinion.

Basketball Hall of Fame member Pat Riley believes Magic Johnson—not Michael Jordan or LeBron James—is the greatest player of all–time, he said.  

Riley made the comments Monday in an interview at an American Express event, where he was joined on stage by Johnson. He praised Johnson for his unique set of skills, comparing him to LeBron James. 

"LeBron is the closest thing to Earvin that we've ever seen because of his size, his speed, his acceleration, his vision—everything that he can do," Riley said. "He just had more pressure on him to have to score all the time...[Johnson] could've scored 30 points a game if he wanted to."

Riley was the head coach of Johnson's Showtime Lakers, and he later became team president of the Miami Heat, where he helped bring LeBron James to South Beach. 

"[Magic] didn't have to score because of Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and James [Worthy] and everyone else we had," Riley said. "He was a winner. LeBron is a winner. But the way that LeBron plays the game now, coast to coast, handles the ball, runs the offense, it's just like Earvin."

SI's Jack McCallum ranked Michael Jordan as the No. 1 player of all-time in early 2016. 

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