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Retracing the Histories of “The Next Michael Jordans”

Ever since Jordan took his place at the top of the NBA, basketball fans have been clamoring for a successor. A few players have come close, but many—and we mean many—have had to deal with the moniker.

Getty Images/AP Images/Ringer illustration

How many times have you heard about The Next Michael Jordan? Depending on your age, your memory, and your level of basketball fandom, that answer may vary. Chances are you don’t remember Kevin Madden, Toney Mack, Matt Marquart, or Cliff Rozier, but they were all, at least once, written about as having the potential to be the “next Jordan.” To really be the “next Jordan,” though, came to mean a whole lot more than just playing like him. It became about replicating Jordan’s attitude, his aura, his face-of-the-game marketing potential, and most of all, his winning.

As we saw in Sunday night’s episode of The Last Dance, the late Kobe Bryant was one of the many who were influenced by Jordan, but also one of the very few who actually achieved a level of success similar to Jordan. Case in point: In a search of more than 16,000 newspapers and magazines, 2009 was the first year when “next Kobe” was used more than “next Jordan.” And 2008 was the first year when there were more “next LeBron” mentions than “next Jordan.”

In searching for a complete catalog of every “next Jordan” reference, I found more than 120 players who, from 1983 on, were referred to by the description. Here are the most notable finds, what happened to their careers, and where they are now:

The (Un)Lucky First Big Name

Grant Hill

First mention: On a Friday the 13th back in December 1991, Virginia Daily Press columnist David Teel wrote that Hill may eventually become Duke’s best player. Teel also quoted St. John’s head coach Lou Carnesecca as saying Hill could be “the next Michael Jordan or Julius Erving.” And so it began.

Career arc: Hill had a transcendent college career at Duke (two titles, multiple program records, his jersey retired), and he was the first player seen by many as a worthy successor to Jordan, who had recently retired to play baseball. Hill went no. 3 in the 1994 draft, like Jordan had 10 years prior, and as I waded through past newspaper clippings, it’s safe to say that no one got the comparison more (at least until Kobe Bryant). Hill was burdened by it before he was even drafted and fought back against the comparisons multiple times, but the expectations stuck. It seemed like he was constantly trying to meet an impossible standard, only to get derailed by injuries. By 2002, he was referred to as the “hobbled star” who was supposed to be the next Jordan, but now would settle for a pain-free day.

Where are they now? Hill is a TV analyst at CBS and a part owner of the Atlanta Hawks.

Quote: “There have been so many Michael Jordans, I think we’ve all lost count. I think I’ve been pushed aside now and it’s Kobe’s turn. I can tell him how it is; it’s too much for one man. We’ve got to gang up on Michael’s image if we hope to match what he’s done.” —Grant Hill in January 1999

The Worthy Successor

LeBron James

First mention: LeBron’s first national crowning as the next Jordan came in a 2002 Sports Illustrated cover story that hailed him as “the Chosen One.” But LeBron was already being linked to Jordan in local newspaper articles all the way back in February 2001, when he was just 16 years old.

Career arc: While other NBA stars replicated Jordan’s playing style more directly (like Kobe), only LeBron has reached an equal footing with the player considered to be the best of all time. Take LeBron’s three championship rings and three team changes, and add in the internet age and social media, and it’s like adding rocket boosters to an already unstoppable locomotive. LeBron has unquestionably lived up to the teen Jordan comparisons, and he’s surpassed some of those expectations with his unprecedented longevity. He won’t end up matching Jordan’s ring total but, in terms of impact on the league and on culture as a whole, only LeBron and Jordan belong in the highest tier.

Where are they now? Well, you can find him on Instagram working out, in Space Jam: A New Legacy next summer, or hopefully coming soon to a basketball court near you.

Quote: “I don’t want to be the next Michael Jordan, I want to be LeBron James.” —LeBron James in 2005

The Carbon Copy

Kobe Bryant

First mention: In a scene that resembles the coverage we now see on TV—hundreds of fans waiting to watch a highly touted prospect in a seemingly meaningless high school game—Ira Berkow of The New York Times goes to Lower Merion High to write about the “high school hoop phenom causing a stir.” It’s Kobe Bryant, of course, and his coach tells Berkow that he could be the next Michael Jordan.

Career arc: Kobe’s legend as the next Jordan grew from that first mention. As part of the prep-to-pro trend, people had their initial doubts about how Kobe would fare in the NBA, but once he started playing like Jordan and winning, the comparisons overflowed. Kobe seemed determined to meet Jordan’s benchmarks, both in how he played and what he achieved, and he more or less did. Sure, Kobe was often considered a shot-hungry, inefficient player, especially late in his career, but he became the NBA’s figurehead in the early 2000s and his résumé is undeniable.

Quote: “NBC thinks that because they show the Lakers every weekend they’re a championship team. And y’all think because y’all tell Kobe he’s Jordanesque he’s going to be the next Michael Jordan. They’re not and he’s not.” —Charles Barkley in March 1999

Here’s a classic Kobe moment in a Q&A:

The Sacramento Bee

The Curse of Chapel Hill

“At North Carolina, they used to call it the Michael Jordan syndrome. Every basketball recruit who ever came in there had to be the next Michael Jordan.” —Mack Brown in 2004, talking about recruiting at Texas.

Jerry Stackhouse

First mention: If you’re a Florida State fan, you are probably one of the few people who remember the first time Stackhouse was called the Next Jordan. That’s because it happened in the Tallahassee Democrat in 1992, when Stackhouse was expected to commit to play for FSU. Sorry, Seminoles.

Career arc: Stackhouse, of course, ended up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he spent two seasons and led UNC to a Final Four appearance. Eventually, like Hill and Jordan before him, Stackhouse became the third pick in the draft in 1995. Though he never quite lived up to the Jordan name in terms of star power (and Stackhouse himself was aware of how high that bar was), Stackhouse’s career is nothing to downplay. He spent 18 years in the league, was a two-time All-Star, and averaged nearly 30 points a game (!) in the 2000-01 season.

Where is he now? Stackhouse has remained married to the game, rising up the coaching ranks as an assistant in Toronto and Memphis. Just last year, he took his first top coaching gig at Vanderbilt. It probably won’t be too long before he’s an NBA head coach.

Quotes: “If he’s half a Jordan, the Sixers are twice as good.” —Robes Patton of the South Florida Sun Sentinel in June 1995 after the Sixers drafted Stackhouse.

“The sad thing is that being half as good doesn’t count. If you’re not there, you’re considered a failure.” —Jerry Stackhouse said of his comparisons to Jordan at the 2000 All-Star Game.

Chicago Tribune

Vince Carter

First mention: It didn’t take long for Tar Heel fans to move on from Stackhouse to the Next Next Jordan. A 1994 article talking about college recruits described Carter as “The Next Michael Jordan?”—a player who UNC, FSU, and Florida were all fighting to recruit. By going to Chapel Hill, Carter simply invited more talk.

Career arc: Carter was a McDonald’s All American and parlayed two Final Four appearances into the no. 5 overall pick in the 1998 draft. It is perhaps a backhanded compliment to suggest that Carter’s greatest NBA moment came in his legendary dunk contest performance in 2000, but it is the most well-known feat of his career. Carter left Toronto and bounced around to a number of NBA teams, carrying the Next Jordan moniker until at least 2004, before settling into what’s been an impressive veteran role player position. At 43, he’s the oldest active player in the league, has played across four decades, and is still getting buckets. Oh, and that’s just his day job.

Quote: “There’s only one me, there’s only one Stackhouse, there’s only one Vince Carter. You may see some similarities in games, but in terms of someone being the next Michael Jordan, there’s only one.” —Michael Jordan in 2002, when asked about Vince Carter saying he wanted to be the next Jordan.

By 2005, Carter was warning up-and-coming young players not to get caught up in expectations or try to be the next Jordan.

Rashad McCants and Antawn Jamison

First mentions: The aforementioned duo didn’t get nearly the same number of Next Jordan mentions as Stackhouse or Carter, but as the post-Jordan years passed, the term got thrown around to virtually any recruit that showed a modicum of guard talent. McCants started his hype himself with stories about how he wrote he wanted to be the Next Jordan in a book when he was just a kid. His father helped further the narrative. Jamison got his comparison from ESPN and Dickie V.

Career arcs: Jamison had the better pro career of the pair, amassing more than 20,000 points in 16 seasons, making two All-Star games, and winning the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2003-04. McCants had a more tumultuous career, eventually going overseas after five seasons in the NBA. McCants ended up playing stints in the Philippines, France, China, Brazil, Lebanon, and finally Venezuela in 2015.

Where are they now? As recently as this year, McCants was playing for the Big 3 (he was the no. 1 overall pick in 2017!). Jamison, meanwhile, has stayed around the NBA and is currently the director of pro personnel for the Wizards.

The Talented Shooting Guards

Penny Hardaway

First mention: While at Memphis, Penny actually got compared to Magic Johnson first. But as soon as he was taken third overall in 1993 (that third pick again!) Penny was seen as Orlando’s missing piece next to Shaquille O’Neal—and naturally, the next Jordan.

Career arc: Penny and Shaq made an immediate splash, leading the Magic to three consecutive 50-win seasons and a Finals appearance in 1995. Things dropped off quickly once Shaq signed with the Lakers in 1996, though, and the Magic never neared 50 wins again during Penny’s tenure. By 1998, writers were poking fun at Penny for not fulfilling the lofty Jordan expectations, but his career résumé is still impressive: He appeared in four All-Star Games, made three All-NBA teams, and spent 14 seasons in the league.

Where are they now? Penny recently became the head coach at his alma mater, Memphis, and has been a polarizing figure in NCAA to say the least.

Quote: “Penny can do things I only dreamed of doing in terms of scoring. I don’t think you should compare him to me. He’s more of a scorer than I was. His game is more like Michael’s … instead of the next Magic, I think he’ll be the next Michael Jordan.” —Magic Johnson, in 1996.

Ray Allen

First Mention: As a junior at UConn, Allen was emerging as one of the best players in college basketball—and people were taking notice. In 1995, an article in the Detroit Free Press said he was being “hailed as the next Michael Jordan,” and that an anonymous Detroit Pistons player watched him for five minutes and called him the best player in the country. Not bad.

Career arc: Allen never really became the Next Jordan, but because the moniker didn’t follow him as closely as it did other players, he was able to stand out. His skill from 3 eventually landed him spots on two title teams, on which he hit countless clutch shots, including one of the biggest shots in the history of the game. Before Steph Curry came along and broke the way we think about the 3-point shot, Allen was considered maybe the best shooter ever. Though Allen largely forged his own path in the league, he did follow Jordan in one way: movies. In 1998, he was Denzel Washington’s costar in Spike Lee’s He Got Game and gave a performance that was commended by Roger Ebert.

Where are they now? In 2018, Allen wrote a biography and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Aside from appearing in a few Uncle Drew commercials, he’s stayed away from the spotlight … except when discussions of the beef between him and the rest of the 2008 Celtics pop up.

Quote: “Connecticut’s Ray Allen is the next Michael Jordan. He can score, he can run, and he can defend. From what I saw of the Bucks on my satellite dish, all are areas where we need help.” —Chris Ford, head coach, Milwaukee Bucks in 1996.

Dwyane Wade

First mention: Similar to Penny, Wade didn’t get referred to as the “Next Jordan” until he was already in the NBA. And the first direct mention came in March 2005, just before he faced off against another “next Jordan”—his future teammate and best friend, LeBron James.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

I love the need to put “far left” here. Long live newspapers.

Career arc: Beyond Jordan and Kobe, Wade is the only shooting guard who has a résumé that lives up to certain parts of the Jordan model. The peak of the Wade-Jordan comparisons came during 2005 and 2006, when Wade broke through and won the 2006 Finals and the Finals MVP. That made him a local Heat legend. Then, not long after, the superteam he formed with LeBron and Chris Bosh gave him two more titles. After joining forces with LeBron, any Jordan comparisons disappeared quickly, but that partnership led to more winning, a Hall of Fame career, and a retirement tour that will likely become the norm for players of his caliber going forward.

Where are they now? Wade is the most recent retiree on this list, and he’s entered into a broadcasting career with TNT. He’s quite good on TV and will probably be able to call games for a long time if he wants to.

Quote: “Don’t want it. I didn’t even want to wear his number. Nobody should ever wear his number. He was the greatest player ever. I want to be my own person, my own man.” —Wade in 2005 on the Jordan comparisons.

The Potential Faces of the League

Shaquille O’Neal

First mention: Shaq was never going to be the next Jordan on the court, but many thought he could become a similarly larger-than-life figure within the league. The first mention of Shaq as Jordan’s possible successor came in 1993, a year after he was drafted (and includes a terrible aside in which the writer says Shaq would have a hard time being the face of the league because he didn’t speak English properly—don’t write this way about people!).

Career arc: Shaq may not have gone on to become as big as Jordan from a marketing standpoint, but he came pretty damn close. After partnering with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles and winning three titles, plus one more in Miami with Dwyane Wade (not to mention 15 All-Star appearances, two scoring titles, 14 All-NBA team appearances, a Rookie of the Year award, and three Finals MVPs), Shaq parlayed his Hall of Fame career into a multifaceted cultural emporium. You name it, Shaq did it: music, acting, commercials, businesses, police work, mixed martial arts, wrestling, and hosting Inside the NBA on TNT. According to Forbes, he’s worth $400 million.

Where are they now? You can find Shaq often on your TV, either on Inside the NBA or on a commercial for the latest cleaning/grooming/medicinal product.

Quote: While Shaq was in college at LSU, Larry Bird called him “the second-best player in the world—next to Michael Jordan.”

Yao Ming

First mention: Like Shaq, this wasn’t a basketball comparison. After Yao arrived in the NBA in 2002, The Manhattan Mercury wrote that phrases like “the next Michael Jordan” and “advertising icon” had begun to stick to Ming—as it simultaneously discussed the TV numbers he was bringing in from China.

Career arc: Yao played only nine seasons in the NBA, and though his best stints came in his early years in the league, he was an eight-time All-Star (shout-out fan voting) and a five-time All-NBA selection. At 7-foot-6, Yao is one of the tallest basketball players ever, yet that height set him back in the latter years of his career as he suffered from a number of lower-body injuries. He retired in 2011, but his popularity in China helped the NBA become a more international sport and business.

Where are they now? Yao has become a successful businessman following his basketball career. He owned the Shanghai Sharks and and is now the president of the CBA. He also has his own winery in Napa (the wine has been called “brilliant”).

Kevin Garnett

First mention: In July 1995, just two weeks after he was drafted by the Timberwolves and became the first prep-to-pro player of the modern era, an article in the Asbury Park Press said Garnett was “not strong enough to be a power forward and not skilled enough to be a small forward.” The piece was skeptical of Garnett’s age as well as the scouting reports that theorized he could be the next Michael Jordan. By 1996, Flip Saunders himself was saying Garnett could be just that. And by 1997, the Wolves as a franchise were leaning into it.

Career arc: In his 20 years in the league, Garnett’s accomplishments never came to mirror Jordan’s. But they didn’t have to. By 2003, Garnett was wowing both Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley and leaving the Jordan comparisons to Kobe Bryant. Garnett, of course, didn’t pair his talent with winning until he left Minnesota and landed in Boston, where he won a title with the Celtics in 2008. Garnett was a pioneer of the prep-to-pro wave and has both an MVP and DPOY award to go with 15 All-Star appearances and nine All-NBA selections. Perhaps because of his style of play and reputation as a trash-talking iron man, he largely avoided the Jordan expectations—but he did succeed at becoming his own thing.

Where are they now? Garnett has consulted for the Clippers and Bucks, appeared on TNT’s basketball coverage, and recently starred in Uncut Gems with Adam Sandler.

Quote: Naturally, Hubie Brown, who was coaching the Grizzlies in 2004, summed up Garnett perfectly: “This guy plays to his potential most nights. He has the respect of coaches and opposing players because he doesn’t take nights off with small injuries. It doesn’t matter which of the four positions you play him at, he would be all-league, OK? That’s how talented he is and how unique he is, because Duncan can’t do that and neither can Shaq.”

Allen Iverson

First mention: Sixers fans were already calling Iverson the next Jordan before the team even drafted him in 1996, but those comparisons had more to do with the thirst for finding another league-leading face than Iverson’s game.

Career arc: In 1998, when Reebok signed Iverson to a deal, a spokesperson for the company said they wouldn’t try to turn him into the next Jordan because that wasn’t Iverson’s “style.” He was right. Iverson became a cult figure in his own right, a polarizing character who exposed some of the league’s shortsighted choices such as instituting a dress code. And that style wasn’t just unique; it was also effective, and it fueled quite a career. He was a four-time scoring champion, Rookie of the Year, MVP in 2000-01, and Hall of Famer.

Where are they now? You can often find Iverson sitting courtside at a Sixers game, and the franchise retired his jersey after he bowed out of the NBA.

Quote: As good a time as any to watch this:

The Well-Known Busts

Harold Miner

First mention: Jordan hadn’t even won a title yet when guys who you probably don’t remember—like James Blackmon, Wayman Tisdale, and Mike Porter—were being compared to the eventual legend. And USC’s Harold Miner joined that list in 1990 when he was dubbed ”Baby Jordan.”

Career arc: The cute moniker hurt more than helped. Miner went no. 12 in the 1992 draft and won two dunk contests, but he lasted just four years in the league, in large part due to recurring knee injuries. Just one season in, Miner was already the butt of bad jokes, and his name quickly became a cliché for sportswriters who wanted to warn against dubbing any up-and-coming player the “next Jordan.” George Raveling, Miner’s coach at USC, said the nickname was the worst thing to happen to Miner.

Where are they now? Miner has remained out of the spotlight, but did have his USC jersey retired in 2011.

Quote: “I’m sort of getting tired of it. I can’t be the next Michael Jordan. I just want to be the next Harold Miner. There’s only one Michael Jordan.” —Harold Miner in 1990.

Felipe López

First mention: Unlike most of the players on this list, the Jordan hype machine reached López as early as his high school days. In 1993, a Lincoln Journal Star writer said López—then just a rising senior at a high school in the Bronx—was being called the next Jordan. A few months before that, López was profiled in The New Yorker by Susan Orlean. There was no Jordan mention in the piece, but last time I checked, David Remnick didn’t go long on Zion Williamson when he was in high school.

Career arc: López was on a Sports Illustrated cover just a few days after his freshman college season began. But after his time at St. John’s, things began to decline quickly. After being selected 24th in the 1998 draft, López was traded twice early in his career. He never stuck with a team, left the NBA after 2002, and ended up signing with a franchise in Spain. Like Miner, López became the go-to example for what a bust looked like.

Where are they now? López has stayed involved with the game from a distance. In 2014, he did an interview with Sports Illustrated in which he talked about starting a foundation to help at-risk kids in the South Bronx and working with USA basketball to establish clinics around the world.

Quote: “The guy scored 16 points per game in the best league in the country and people are complaining. It’s not fair. … Felipe’s not overrated. Being told you’re the next Michael Jordan when you’re 17 is tough.” —Bevan Thomas, a small forward at Boston College, in 1996.

The WNBA Stars

Tynesha Lewis

First mention: The comparisons wrote themselves: As Bill Barnhart pointed out in a story from 1999, Lewis, like Jordan, was from eastern North Carolina. Both were shooting guards with some size, athleticism, and a strong all-around game. Both led their respective college teams (Lewis went to NC State) to the Final Four.

Career arc: Lewis went on to be drafted by the Houston Comets (21st overall) in 2001 and played for the Charlotte Sting and Minnesota Lynx before retiring in 2007.

Where are they now? After she retired, Lewis started a nonprofit organization called Itsdoable Inc. aimed at motivating and preparing kids via programs and motivational speakers.

Seimone Augustus

First mention: Less than a month after Lewis was called the next Jordan, a Sports Illustrated cover asked whether Augustus, then in eighth grade, was the next Jordan.

Orlando Sentinel

Career arc: Augustus actually lived up to the billing throughout high school: She averaged 28 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, and five steals a game as a senior, was a Gatorade Player of the Year, and a member of the Louisiana All-State team four times. She didn’t stop when she got to LSU. There, she became a two-time All-American and won the Naismith Player of the Year, the Wooden award, and the Wade trophy in 2005 and 2006. She was the no. 1 overall pick in the 2006 WNBA draft and has filled up her trophy case with four WNBA titles, a Rookie of the Year award, and two EuroCups while playing in Russia and Turkey.

Where are they now?: Augustus is still in the WNBA, and she just signed with the Los Angeles Sparks, ending her four-title, 14-year run with the Minnesota Lynx.

Quote: “It was a long time ago. I was 9. There was a free throw contest and I won and I was going to the nationals.” —Augustus in 2006, talking about the first story ever written about her.

Chamique Holdsclaw

First mention: Unlike Augustus, Holdsclaw was dubbed the “next Jordan” while in college, after she had already helped the Tennessee Volunteers to three consecutive national titles under Pat Summitt.

Career arc: Holdsclaw was the top pick in the 1999 WNBA draft. She was a six-time All-Star, as well as the 1999 Rookie of the Year, and she became the first female basketball player to land on the cover of Slam magazine. Though she never won an WNBA title, she did win two gold medals at the Sydney Olympics and the 1998 FIBA championships.

Where are they now? Since retiring, Holdsclaw has written an autobiography in which she discusses her history of depression, and a film has been made about her career and her experiences with mental illness.

The Millennials

Kevin Durant

First Mention: On June 28, 2007, otherwise known as the day of the 2007 draft, Durant got the “Next Jordan” tag in multiple places. In one article, he was said to be the next Kevin Garnett and to possess Jordan-like potential. And another—one that’s aged extremely well—argues that he should be the no. 1 pick because “you never want to risk passing up the next Michael Jordan.”

Career arc: Durant’s story is still being written, but he’s already a Hall of Famer. And while he did have a considerable claim to the title of best player in the world after overwhelming LeBron in two consecutive NBA Finals, LeBron’s longevity has kept him atop the mountain. Still, it’s hard to argue against Durant’s impeccable résumé (two titles, two Finals MVPs, four scoring titles, 10 All-Star appearances, and six-time All-NBA first-teamer) and his scoring style, which is both effortless and unstoppable. Durant’s post-Achilles-tear chapter with the Brooklyn Nets and Kyrie Irving may be his most fascinating yet.

Where are they now? Besides Brooklyn? Probably on Twitter.

Quote: This Wisconsin State Journal writer … sort of nailed this?

Wisconsin State Journal

Kawhi Leonard

First mention: A 2015 Los Angeles Times article makes one of the first references to Jordan when discussing Leonard, who at the time of this piece had just buried the Clippers in the playoffs with a 32-point game. Bill Dwyre opines: “It’s strange how we have been looking for so long for the next Michael Jordan and haven’t spent enough time checking out San Antonio.”

Career arc: Unlike a lot of the players on this list, the talk of Kawhi being the next Jordan did not ramp up until the middle of his career. Kawhi wasn’t supposed to be a star. Throughout high school, college, and the early part of his career, experts projected him as an elite role player. Then the 2014 Finals happened. Kawhi was Finals MVP, and our eyes started to open and see the similarities between Kawhi’s style and Jordan’s— namely that they’re both midrange maestros.

Kawhi’s legend—and the comparisons to Jordan—grew after his 43-point performance against the Grizzlies in the 2017 playoffs. By then, Leonard had honed in his style further, and last season he seemed to have complete control of it, leading the Raptors to a Finals win. The Clippers are now hoping he can do the same for them.

Where are they now? You know where Kawhi is, so I’ll just leave this here:

Quote: “He was a Dennis Rodman that could score.” —Tim Sweeney Jr., Kawhi’s high school coach.

The Ones You Probably Forgot About

After sifting through years of mentions, it’s obvious how quickly the “next Jordan” moniker became a crutch to try and describe any young basketball players who showed any kind of upside. Some, like Roy Marble (who played only two seasons in the league) and Ron Henderson (who never made the NBA), got it more than others. Dikembe Mutombo got it once. Latrell Sprewell got a couple of mentions, as did Glenn Robinson, Ron Mercer, and high schooler Ronnie Fields. At some point, Scottie Pippen felt it was necessary to say he wasn’t trying to be the next Jordan. Ron Harper was called the “next Jordan” when he was entering the league and eventually became Jordan’s teammate in Chicago. Jordan, of course, teased him about the nickname. And Antoine Walker made it a point to say that he thought the Celtics’ style wouldn’t help him become the next Jordan. During the 1998-99 lockout, one writer in Detroit quipped that the best part about no basketball was no daily “next Jordan” story.

As the NBA entered the dark ages of the late ’90s and early 2000s, desperation to find the next big star set in. Here’s a list of other notable names who got called the next Jordan at least once during that time: Steve Francis, Corey Maggette, Elton Brand, Gerald Wallace, Michael Redd, Darius Miles, Tracy McGrady, Richard Hamilton, and Ricky Davis (three separate times, all by Cavs coach John Lucas). My favorite might be Ben Gordon, who after a run of clutch shots in 2005, prompted this paragraph, from an AP piece:

Associated Press

Around 2003, Sebastian Telfair (then in high school) was called the next Jordan once, but then the conversation began to shift slightly. As ESPN the Magazine called O.J. Mayo “the next LeBron,” David Stern came out against that type of media coverage. “It used to be the next Michael Jordan, now it’s the next LeBron James. Now it’s down to 14-year-olds and ninth graders being focused by the sports magazines. Elementary school, here we come. It’s not the proudest moment in sports overall.”

The Non-Basketball Comps

The Jordan comparison quickly expanded beyond basketball borders. Other sports saw their up-and-coming talent being described as the Michael Jordans of their respective fields. Some of them—like Venus and Serena Williams and Tiger Woods—made more sense than others.

Ken Griffey Jr., was touted as baseball’s Jordan, as was Mark McGwire at one point, and Kerry Wood also got the comp because he was the Chicago Cubs’ potential phenom pitcher. In football, Randy Moss, Michael Vick, and Ki-Jana Carter were the three players who were dubbed the “next Jordan,” while in soccer, both Alexi Lalas and Mia Hamm were once called that, too. In the NHL, Vincent Lecavalier’s Jordan comp followed him for most of his career. It happened in other sports as well: see Jeff Gordon in NASCAR, Vitaly Scherbo in gymnastics, and the Sheckler family in skateboarding. The funniest “next Jordan”? Golf’s John Daly.