Michael Jordan played in two of the greatest basketball eras in NBA history and left his mark on the game through his will and attempt to win every game he ever played. If you did not know already, MJ has a competitive drive that is not comparable to any human being. I am talking about a guy that made it to the greatest honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame and still dwelled upon not being able to play.
No one likes losing but there are guys out there who hate losing more than others. I personally hate losing to my brothers in anything; it is just the competitive drive in me. After losing a basketball game when I was younger, my brother told me I had Michael Jordan Syndrome.
To define that term… it is a rare disease that only a few athletes in the world attract. “MJS” is a serious syndrome that only relates to one thing: winning. There is no need for any scientific reasoning to understand some suffer from the rarity, such as Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. These are the guys that do whatever it takes to win games and losing at any cost is not an option.
Here the 10 players that suffers from the “Michael Jordan Syndrome”. Note: while it is similar, this is not the most competitive players in the NBA ranking.
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10. Kemba Walker – Charlotte Bobcats
It is only right to start this list with one of MJ’s own products. As Al Jefferson was plagued with a plantar fascia injury, Kemba did everything he could against the Miami Heat in this year’s first round of the playoffs. He showed glimpses of what he did at UConn with putting the team on his back. Walker was the Bobcats only option on offense with Jefferson hurt, and with being a handful for Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, Erik Spoelstra sent double-teams and LeBron James to cover him.
In the final game, Kemba put up a solid stat-line with 29 points on 11-for-15 shooting (four threes), five rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks. The Bobcats lost the series but in his first playoff series as a pro, Kemba held his own and received rave reviews around the league.
The next step for Walker, who is only 23, is to reach the elite plateau in the point guard hierarchy. Kemba is a natural born leader and his mental approach in games is incredibly unique. He is on attack mode relentlessly and is one of those guys that you want on your team to go to war with. MJ has spoken glowingly about Kemba and sees a lot of him in him, as they both play(ed) with an extreme determination.
9. Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors
Back in 2012, the Raptors pulled off a huge gamble when they traded away a first-round pick to make Kyle Lowry their starting point guard. Lowry was always known for his gritty play and his ability to make plays for himself but for years, he battled his own teammates in both Memphis and Houston. In his seventh year, he has certainly found a home in Toronto and is finally showcasing elite play. Lowry has become the unquestionable leader for the Raptors this season and is one of the main reasons why the team is pushing to go really far in this year’s playoffs.
After Rudy Gay was traded, the Raptors took off in the Eastern Conference, winning the Atlantic Division and becoming one of the best stories of the year. Under Dwane Casey, Lowry has grown into a star even after an All-Star snub, and is averaging his best career numbers with 17.9 points and 7.4 assists per game. Lowry has even led the emergence of wings DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross this season. He is as tough as they get and his tenacity on defense has caused havoc all season for rival guards.
Lowry’s competitive edge is what lands him on this list, as he stands only 6-0 feet tall but has the will to take on anyone who guards him. Raptors Gm Masai Ujiri has a big decision to make this summer when Lowry is a free agent.
8. LaMarcus Aldridge – Portland Trail Blazers
To start off, I am amazed by the play of LaMarcus Aldridge so far in the playoffs this year. In the first four games, he put up historic numbers:
Game 1: 46 points, 18 rebounds
Game 2: 43 Points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks
Game 3: 23 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists
Game 4: 29 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 assists
His midrange jumper has grown into his signature go-to. Aldridge has scored 32 points from midrange jumpers alone so far in the first round against the Rockets. Aldridge told Grantland earlier this season: “My midrange shot is good for our team because that’s my shot. I drill it all summer, I work on it, I’m known for it, and I can make it consistently. It puts pressure on the guards and the bigs to guard me in the midrange, which makes the defender in the corner come to me on pick-and-pops, which gives Wes or Nico that open shot in the corner. Or, the big doesn’t want me to get that open shot, so he doesn’t help when Dame attacks the basket. So, by me being so good in the midrange area, it gets us corner 3s or it gets our guards open drives to the basket.”
Combine his midrange jumper with his ability to be a force in the paint, Aldridge has become a beast.
Now let’s talk why Aldridge deserves to be on this list for a case of (MJS). With Blake Griffin and Kevin Love receiving the majority of the recognition throughout the years, as far as All-Star power forwards go, Aldridge has been the most important player on his team this season. The Blazers faced a lot of uncertainty before the season and there were reports that LMA wanted out. But with the emergence of a budding star in Damian Lillard, Aldridge and the Blazers made their mends and were one of the best teams in the NBA this season. Aldridge and Lillard are arguably the best pick-and-roll duos in the NBA.
As a competitor, Aldridge has not been afraid to battle against anybody and has emerged as one of the best players in the league. With Aldridge as their anchor, this is going to be a very scary and competitive team present and in the future.
7. Victor Oladipo – Orlando Magic
His rookie season just ended but Victor Oladipo has already shown enough competitive drive to be on this list. Oladipo is a self-made basketball player and pushed himself from being an unheralded prospect in high school to becoming one of the brightest young stars in the league. In his final season at Indiana, there were scouts who compared him to a young MJ due to how he played the game. I could understand the comparisons, as Jordan himself was a talented shooting guard with a questionable jumper and had a knack for getting to the rim with ease. It doesn’t hurt that both are similar in size as well.
Magic Johnson, while calling a Michigan State versus Indiana game on ESPN, stated: “To me, he’s a combination of (Michael) Jordan and Dwyane Wade.”
While Oladipo is not Michael Jordan and never will be, you have to respect when someone as great as Magic Johnson gives his dues on a young player.
Oladipo had a standout rookie season and will probably finish second to Michael Carter-Williams in the Rookie of the Year award. He is a relentless basketball player that brings it on both sides of the ball and never gives up. He had a couple great games this season when he put up huge numbers around the board that showed how versatile he is on the court. In a game against the New York Knicks this season, he scored 30 points, with 14 assists, and grabbed nine rebounds. He and Carter-Williams also put on one of the best rookie duels in recent NBA history when both became the only pair of rookies to record triple-doubles in the same game.
The Orlando Magic is a young, budding team and with Oladipo as a cornerstone, this team will be really good in the near future. Oladipo is also down with the Jordan Brand… good move, Mike.
6. Rajon Rondo – Boston Celtics
Rondo automatically gets a spot on this list for playing 12 minutes with a torn ACL last year against the Atlanta Hawks. He has shown that he is one of the toughest players in the league and is, without a doubt, a player that displays a supreme amount of confidence. He has faced adversity throughout the years for his attitude, his suspect jumper, injuries and his run-ins with teammates but none of that has bothered him. Rondo has not been quiet when it comes to how much he wants to win and has even called out his teammates during losing streaks.
Per The Boston Globe last year when the Celtics were on a losing streak, Rondo said, “The frustrating part is just losing. I’m a sore loser. It’s tough to lose.
“Everybody isn’t. You’ll learn that everybody isn’t a sore loser. Some teams are OK with losing. Some guys are OK with just getting a check. But everything I do, I compete. So, this four-game losing streak is frustrating.”
He also has not been afraid to go against some of the best in the league in getting into a couple scruffs over the years with Kobe and Dwyane Wade. After Kobe called him an asshole, and meant it as a compliment, Rondo stated, “But I think that’s what separates guys like Kobe and I. We’re great competitors, whatever it takes to win. I don’t like to lose in anything I do, whether it’s on the court or off the court. I hate to lose. I think that’s the way he approaches life or the game.”
It will be interesting to see how the Celtics continue their rebuilding process with Rondo as their cornerstone.
5. Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls
There is not a basketball player that can compare to Joakim Noah on what he brings to the court every night. He is one of the most complex NBA players in the league. Everything he does will never be taught at a skills academy but he just has a gift of making things happen. His awkward jump shot somehow falls, his sloppy ballhandling somehow gets through defenders and his coordination is terrible. But Joakim Noah does possess an amazing passing ability as a big man and accomplished a feat that took 35 years to do when he became the first center to record 14 assists in a game. He has joined a legendary trio in Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only centers in history to have over 1,000 points, 400 assists, and 900 rebounds in a single season.
Noah’s ticket to success has been his outstanding ability on the defensive end, where the Bulls’ defense has been No. 1 in the league the past few seasons. He also became the first player since MJ to win the Defensive Player of the Year for the Bulls.
A free-spirited warrior is the only way to describe him. The emotion he brings on the basketball court is astonishing and it has been a gift for the Chicago Bulls as they have suffered heartbreak after heartbreak. Noah has elevated his game to become one of the centers in the NBA and the road did not come easy. From being a role player to working his way to become the best defensive player in the league, Noah has been a winner on every level of basketball.
4. Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers
After his third full season in the NBA, whether it is devastating ankle-breakers or his crafty layup package, Kyrie has been one of the most exciting players in the NBA to watch. He came into the NBA thinking that he was the best point guard in the league and has become close to that. His competitive nature has been displayed at the highest levels, such as becoming the new King of All-Star Weekend. Irving was not ranked very high throughout his first three years in high school and the slap in the face made him the ultra-competitive player he is. In an interview with ESPN the Magazine in the “Next” issue, Irving talked about how he kept a journal before every game and indicated he would write a personal note to himself that boosted his confidence.
Irving wrote this in December 2008, upon transferring to St. Patrick High in Elizabeth, N.J.: “The lights are on, baby. Time to show the world what you’re really about and who the best is in the country.”
This was from June 2009, amid a pivotal AAU summer: “I’m going to make it, even if I have to run through a ton of walls … F– being friends. I’m going to destroy these dudes.”
November 2012 (Second year in the league): “Unleash everything you have and never look back. You are the best point guard in this league, so act like it. Let’s go.”
This is a guy that created his own killer mentality and has brought it into the league. The journal has turned into an iPhone now but that does change a thing. The Cavaliers had another lackadaisical year, but just imagine when they are good and what they can do with Irving as their point guard. I cannot wait to see him in the playoffs.
3. Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers
It is very hard to find a young player with a superior clutch gene like Damian Lillard. During crunch time, it seems the arena becomes as silent as a library and he becomes more focused than ever. Lillard has been a cold-blooded assassin in his first two seasons in the NBA and has been the man at the end of games for the Blazers. This December, he had an epic two-night performance in which he hit back-to-back game-winners against the Detroit Pistons and the Cleveland Cavaliers that solidified his status as a star in this league.
The clutch shooting has people labeling him one of the most clutch players in the Association already, which is not hard to believe. According to NBA.com, Lillard ranks fifth after Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Monta Ellis in points in clutch time with 148 points in the last five minutes of close games, even though the Trail Blazers were really good this season and blew a lot of teams out.
He is excelling in his first playoff series and, before last night, was second to Kevin Durant in clutch points with 26 in the closing five minutes in games. Last season he surpassed Stephen Curry’s rookie record for 3-pointers in a season, finishing with 185, and became just the third NBA rookie with at least 1,500 points and 500 assists, following Oscar Robertson and Allen Iverson (per nba.com). Another take on how competitive he is, he decided to participate in every single All-Star event at All-Star Weekend. His killer mentality is going to take the Blazers really far.
2. Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers
Do not let CP3’s smile and his generous efforts off the court fool you–he is one of the meanest and nastiest players on the court. His competitive streak on a scale to 1-10 is probably a 50. He has widely acknowledged how competitive he is and stated how bad he wants to win in this league. Even Gregg Popovich, who is not a fan of the media, gave his praise to Chris Paul in an L.A. Times interview last year when he described Paul’s competitive personality: “He’s a mean, nasty man. And he’s a pain in the [butt]. I don’t know if there is anybody more competitive in the league than that little dude. He’s one of those guys that they must have stole his toys and everything when he was a kid. He’s getting back at the world, because he’s mad at everybody once he steps on the court.”
CP3 plays like the world is against him and I will be surprised if he does not end with at least one ring before it is all said and done.
1. Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder
I mean this in the best way possible but there is something really wrong with Russell Westbrook. If there is any one player that suffers from Michael Jordan Syndrome, Russell Westbrook is definitely it. It seems like in order to have “MJS” you have to be one of those guys that was doubted on just how MJ was early in his career. Westbrook was not a hyped recruit at UCLA, but proved critics wrong in his sophomore year when he broke out. The Sonics/Thunder then made him a lottery pick to co-exist with Kevin Durant to create one of the best dynamic tandems in the league.
Westbrook has made it clear he is no one’s sidekick and is capable of leading a team on his own will. At the age of 25, Westbrook has a long list of accomplishments that he does not get a lot of credit for, including an NBA Finals appearance, Olympic gold medal, three All-Star Games, and three Second Team All-NBA nods.
Westbrook is, without a doubt, one of the few players that goes over the edge and leaves everything on the court every time he plays. He just never gives up. He receives a lot of backlash for the way he plays and he can be erratic at times but without him, the Thunder would not go as far. He is tremendous in the open floor and has become one of the best on-ball defenders in the league. You are not going to find a better competitor than Russell Westbrook.
Who else should be on this list?
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