Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James for an NBA title? It could happen in real life, just not quite the way you want it

You know you want it.

You know you want it.
Image: Getty Images

It’s the 2043 NBA Finals. The erosion of the east coast is impossible to ignore, and it will be illegal to hold summer football activities outdoors because the average temperature in most places will be 115 degrees. But indoors, the matchup the world has been waiting for will finally take place. That June, four months after Michael Jordan’s 80th birthday, he will be taking on LeBron James with the NBA Championship on the line.

On the court? Possibly? If, long after bailing on his failed hyperloop, Elon Musk can fund a team of scientists that can put together a real fountain of youth. It might be placed on a space station that he, or one of his kids with equations for names, will charge for the space shuttle ride, the fountain’s content, and overpriced freeze-dried food since the space station will have the only 7-Eleven within 300 miles…of the Earth’s surface.

Most likely, Jordan and James would be matching up against each other from the front office. James — recently declared a billionaire by Forbes — expressed on the newest episode of The Shop that he wants to own an NBA team one day. He even wants to start from scratch.

“I want a team in Vegas,” he said on the program.

One of the topics constantly churning in the NBA rumor mill is expansion. At Adam Silver’s press conference prior to the beginning of the NBA Finals he said that no discussions have taken place yet, but “at some point the league will invariably expand.”

NBA Insider Marc Stein said that the owners won’t consider expansion until 2024 at the earliest, after the new national television contracts are negotiated. That being said, Seattle and Las Vegas are the undisputed frontrunners whenever the league decides to add new franchises.

Let’s say the NBA starts taking bids in 2027 for teams in both Seattle and Las Vegas to keep the conferences even. Then the new team owners are decided on in 2029. Currently, James maintains that he wants to play alongside his oldest son, Bronny, who graduates high school in 2023. With the NIL money Bronny — currently the 34th ranked high school player in America — will surely be offered, there’s no rush for him to turn pro unless he’s one of the best five players in the nation early.

So say Bronny graduates and shares the court with his dad. LeBron then retires in 2028 at 43 years old. Far from a definite scenario, considering Bronny is only 6-foot-2 and LeBron would have to play 25 seasons of NBA basketball. Still, even if LeBron hangs on until there’s not a single jump left in his legs, he will almost certainly be out of uniform and ready to bid by the time expansion talks get serious. He’s already put investors together to start a production company — SpringHill — and they recently sold a minority share at a valuation of $725 million, according to Forbes.

Is it a rush to say James will have his Las Vegas Jackpots or Bellagio Fountains in the Finals in 14 seasons? The Orlando Magic went to the NBA Finals twice in their first 20 seasons and the Miami Heat won a championship in that amount of time. We don’t know how James will manage a roster that he isn’t on (he’s certainly left a lot to be desired with the current Los Angeles Lakers) but we’ve seen Jordan’s work. He only got a year with the Washington Wizards before taking the court for his final two seasons, but he’s been the owner of the Charlotte franchise for 12 years. The Hornets finally became watchable in the 2020-21 season. Now Jordan finally has a promising young team, and news keeps popping up about the Hornets buzzing around Russell Westbrook.

What Jordan does have for his first time working in the front office is a player like LaMelo Ball. LaVar’s youngest still has some work to do on defense, but he’s a star. Ball is the Hornets’ power line when he is on the court. He can make any play that’s required, and is clearly working on his game. His 3-point shooting improved from 35.2 percent to 38.9 percent with increased volume. New coach Kenny Atkinson will improve Ball’s defense as well as the entire team’s, and also work closely with on all of the attention-to-detail improvements a player of his caliber must make from Year 2 to Year 3.

If all goes well with Ball, by 2043 he could be in the final year of an all-time NBA career as the one Queen City legend with a title under his belt. The Hornets use their championship guile to scrap their way to the finals against James’ up-and-coming Vegas squad, coached by Bronny.

By then Sportscenter will be able play out full games in the Metaverse of Jordan’s Bulls’ championship teams vs. James’. That’s how they’ll preview the series, releasing episodes one by one on streaming giant Disney+ — cable television will have gone obsolete 10 years prior. James’ 10-part documentary on his career will be featured on the landing page alongside Jordan’s now 11-part The Last Dance that he turns into the “living breathing changing creative expression” that Kanye West was going for with The Life of Pablo once Jordan adds the Wizards years and the Hornets’ 2031 championship.

Malika Andrews, Richard Jefferson, and Kendrick Perkins — with a distinguished salt and pepper beard — will be on the call. The action on the floor is compelling, but cameras keep flashing to the opposing owners boxes as Jordan rapidly puffs on a Cohiba vape, and the viewers will see James on the 4K cam anxiously chewing on his fingernails.

MJ vs. LeBron in real life, what a June that would be as Nevada and North Carolina are both melting outside the arenas. The debates would be ferocious as sports talk radio will be broadcast on Meta Quests and callers get to argue on set with Stephen A. Smith and J.J. Redick.

We’ll likely never get the flying cars from the Jetsons, or robust affordable housing, but Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James for the NBA Championship one day is a real possibility. Then the G.O.A.T. title will be earned in the absolute best way, by two multibillionaires who won at life, tortured in their suites having to watch other people besides themselves decide the outcome, both furious that they allowed Musk to dupe them with that outer space fountain just so they can lace up the sneakers against each other and find out for themselves who is better. 

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