Potential hidden scrimmage tape could reveal young LeBron James beating Michael Jordan

Written By Dan Bernstein
LeBron-James-Michael-Jordan-031820-getty-ftr
(Getty Images)

A throwback image of LeBron James and Michael Jordan competing in an early-2000s scrimmage emerged this week, sparking discussion of how that matchup went down.

James was in high school at the time. Jordan was on the final legs of his NBA career and approaching 40. No tape from the contest is widely available — though it's quite possible one is collecting dust in an attic somewhere — so we can only imagine the duel.

While Jordan would have been the favorite, James held several advantages that could have given him an edge.

MORE: NBA Draft prospect board

Here's why there's a chance LeBron got the better of MJ, even though he was still in high school:

There's a reason a potential tape never reached the public

Michael Jordan was the king. If he didn't want something to see the light, it didn't see the light. James beating him in a scrimmage, then, could have been quietly brushed under the rug.

James, of course, once tried to make a camp video of him getting dunked on by a high school kid disappear. Jordan could have tried to avoid a similar public embarrassment.

Or no video was taken. That's the simplest (but least fun) explanation. In 2002 (when the game in question likely took place), video was not yet as ubiquitous as it is now.

LeBron had springs

I mean . . .

LeBron had the size advantage

James hadn't reached his full football linebacker build yet, as evidenced by his slender arms in the viral photo, but he was probably already taller than a 6-6 Jordan. James is 6-9 now, though it's possible he hadn't finished his growth at the time of the scrimmage. When he wasn't trying to jump over Jordan (or other opponents), he had the size to operate in the paint.

LeBron had preternatural passing abilities

It's important to note that this scrimmage probably wasn't a one-on-one battle. Jordan was still putting up 20 points per game in the NBA and powered by an all-time great competitive spirit, but even if he carried a personal edge over James at his advanced playing age, perhaps James could have made up for it by whipping the ball around the court to open teammates (who likely were in the league). The completeness of James' game is what made him so good even back then.

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