Stephen A. Smith told Rich Paul to ‘get the f–k’ out of his face after saying LeBron James is No. 2 to Michael Jordan

Peter Dewey
3 Min Read
Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

During a recent appearance on Paul George’s podcast, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith recalled a fiery exchange that he had with Rich Paul over Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James’ place in NBA history.

Smith revealed that Paul took umbrage to the fact that he had James as the second greatest player in NBA history.

“I got him as the second best player in the history of basketball,” Smith said of James. “I got him ahead of Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. I got him behind no one but [Michael] Jordan. … I said, ‘You act like that’s an insult.’ This dude, ‘It is an insult.’ I said, ‘Get the f— out of my face.'”

The debate surrounding James and Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan is one that has lasted for a long time, and there are people – like Smith and Paul – who fall on opposite ends of the debate.

Both James and Jordan have a ton of accomplishments to their names, and James can still add to them in the 2023-24 season with the Lakers. The superstar became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer during the 2022-23 season.

James could have a few more seasons left in the tank, and if he does, he’s going to make the debate with Jordan even closer based on the numbers that he’ll be able to put up in virtually every statistical category.

A 19-time All-Star, James has averaged 27.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game for his career while shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Over his lengthy career, James has won four NBA titles and gone to the NBA Finals 10 times. He most recently led the Lakers to the Western Conference Finals as a No. 7 seed in the 2022-23 season.

The argument for Jordan certainly stems from his dominance in the NBA Finals, where he won six titles and six NBA Finals MVPs in six tries.

Jordan was a 14-time All-Star and five-time MVP. He is a Hall of Famer and won 10 scoring titles. For his career, Jordan averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game while shooting 49.7 percent from the field.

It’s possible to list accolades and statistics that can help both players’ cases, but the debate ultimately comes down to people’s opinions.

Smith and Paul are respected figures in the NBA world and on separate sides in the debate. Clearly, Smith believes that James should still be honored to be the No. 2 to Jordan’s No. 1, as both have made everlasting marks on the NBA.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.