The thump that echoed through ESPN studios in New York on Wednesday was of Stephen A. Smith dropping, perhaps, the biggest name in sports: Michael Jordan.
“I have to read you a text I got this morning at 5:54 a.m.,” Smith told co-host Chris “Mad Dog” Russo.
The topic was the best point guard in NBA history – something the two men debated earlier in the week, with Russo preferring LA Lakers legend Magic Johnson and Smith alongside the Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry.
But before the pair could continue the argument on Wednesday afternoon, Smith claimed he was woken up by a text message from Jordan, who was firmly on Magic’s side.
“Hello sir,” Smith began, without revealing the sender of the text message. “While the greatest of all is still up for debate, I disagree on ‘the greatest point guard of all time.’
It may not come as a complete surprise that Jordan (right) chooses his longtime friend Johnson (left)
Stephen A. Smith (left) argued Stephen Curry (right) had the greatest impact of any PG
“Magic Johnson is by far the greatest point guard of all time,” the post continued. “Steph Curry is very close, but not ahead of Magic. You have to define the point guard to really have a serious debate.
The problem, from Jordan’s perspective, is the role of a playmaker.
Traditionally, point guards were counted out to deal. But with the arrival of Isiah Thomas in Detroit in 1981, the position began to evolve. In 1998, the NBA’s top scorer was Philadelphia 76ers point guard Allen Iverson, and in recent years James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Curry have followed suit.
In the case of Curry — the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history — the term “point guard” might not even apply.
Johnson, meanwhile, retired as the all-time leader in assists. And although he averaged 19.5 points per game in his career, he only averaged the Lakers three times in his 13-year career.
His 138 career triple-doubles, more than any other player outside of Westbrook and Oscar Robertson, also demonstrate Johnson’s all-around game.
“Steph Curry is hands down the best shooter of all time,” Jordan’s text message continues. “His movement created a lot of shots for his teammates, he’s a career 43% 3-point shooter, but Magic invented the triple-double.”
Curry and Smith embrace after the former won NBA Finals MVP after beating Boston in 2022
Jordan then backtracked on his earlier statement: “It’s not true…but (Johnson scored the triple double) more visible in terms of impact on the game.”
“That’s a leading stat to be honest,” Jordan continued. “Magic was the best. We can go on, but I don’t want to take too much of your time. I know you understand.
“By the way, Magic has five NBA championships.”
Smith then dramatically revealed the sender of the text message: “This quote, at 5:54 p.m., was from Mr. Michael Jeffrey Jordan.”
Russo was in disbelief and exclaimed, “Wow, what about that?
Smith went on to explain that Jordan asked him to read the on-air text message.
“He said he was tired of this argument that Magic Johnson wasn’t the greatest point guard in the history of the game,” Smith continued. “He’s the best point guard in basketball history. It comes from Michael Jordan.
Jordan has, of course, been friends for decades with Johnson, his former rival and member of the Dream Team. And he previously revealed his belief that Johnson was the greatest point guard of all time in the ESPN documentary, The Last Dance. In fact, he also listed Thomas as the second-best at that position, behind Magic.
Jordan previously said Team USA teammate Johnson was better than Isiah Thomas (far right)
But Smith isn’t entirely convinced.
Giving himself some leeway, Smith explained that Curry is the biggest impact of any point guard, while Johnson gets the superlative if the position is defined by traditional standards.
“What I’m thinking about is the modern game and the word ‘impact,'” Smith said.
“And I think of Steph Curry’s extraordinary shooting skill and movement without the basketball, and how that forces a defense to have their head on pivot, and therefore it makes it easier for others like Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole when he was there, to do what (James) Worthy, Byron Scott and others could do, statistically, for the Los Angeles Lakers, while Magic Johnson was point guard.
Johnson and Jordan faced off in the 1991 NBA Finals as the Bulls won their first league title.
“If you go by the true definition of a point guard, there’s only one, and that’s Earvin Magic Johnson. But I think about the impact – the impact you have on an offense Yeah Steph Curry is really running for the ball but the offense is circling around him He’s listed as a point guard the offense is circling around him it’s just half the time the ball ends up between his He shoots about nine 3-point shots per game.
“Given the current state of the game and the type of impact Steph Curry is having, what I’m saying is I can say that in terms of offense, Steph Curry has had just as big of an impact as magic.”
Of course, Johnson also retired as the NBA’s all-time leader in interceptions, and at 6-foot-9, was a significantly better defender than the 6-foot-3 Curry.
Either way, four-time NBA champion Curry will eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame, which will keep this debate going for quite some time.