Stephen A. Smith: Kawhi Leonard, not LeBron James, is Most Like Michael Jordan

Garrett Chorpenning

The argument as to who is the NBA's greatest player of all time — the GOAT — is seemingly never-ending. Many will point to Michael Jordan, but in recent years, that discussion has started to shift. LeBron James' name is thrown around just as frequently, and there are a few wild cards like Magic Johnson and Bill Russell that find their way into the debate as well. But when it comes to which player is the most similar to Jordan, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith has a different answer: L.A. Clippers star Kawhi Leonard. 

On Friday's episode of First Take, Smith made his claim for why Leonard is the closest player to Jordan.

"[Kawhi Leonard] is the closest athlete to Michael Jordan right now," Smith said. "He either scores or he defends. He doesn't necessarily make players around him better, he's just about putting the ball in the hole. And as I watch him, from a style perspective solely, how he approaches the game and what he does on the basketball court, I think right now he's a lot like Michael Jordan."

Smith isn't alone in his judgment. In fact, his comment is very similar to one that Clippers coach Doc Rivers made last May just before the NBA Finals began.

"[Leonard] is the most like Jordan that we've seen," Rivers said. "Not that he is Jordan or anything like that, but he is the most like him. Big hands, post game, he can finish, great leaper, defender, in-between game."

At 28, Leonard isn't quite at the same level as Jordan was in his prime — but it's fair to suggest that he's one of the three best players in the NBA right now. Already a two-time NBA champion and Finals MVP, the two-way star has achieved more than most ever will in their careers. That's still four short of Jordan, but if Leonard can stay healthy, he's got as good a chance as anyone else to reach him.