LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade are probably pretty tired of the Michael Jordan comparisons. How about MJ himself? His Airness spoke with Mad Dog Sports Radio’s Stephen A. Smith Tuesday about, among other things, what it’s like being on the other end of every fan and analyst’s favorite question: “Is he better than MJ?”

MJ on getting compared to modern-day stars

It’s what it is. It’s a standard of measurement that’s me being compared to different eras. When I came in, I was being compared to Dr. J or David Thompson … I think it’s unfair comparisons because LeBron plays the game totally different than the way I play. Kobe plays against different competition than what I played against. Even Dwyane Wade. So it’s unfair comparison.

MJ on Kobe’s spot in ESPN’s player rankings (40th)

It’s hard to rank players, and in all honesty, I think that’s a bad ranking. I think it creates conversation, just you and I talking about it. If it was left up to me, there’s no way I’m going to rank Kobe Bryant 40th. Now to me, I think he’s definitely taken a step back because he’s gone through a couple of injuries. But all the way down to 40? I have a tough time. And if I’m Kobe Bryant, I’m not going to pay attention to it; I’m gonna let it fuel me as a basketball player to prove, and that’s a great challenge for him. It’s not what we think, it’s what Kobe thinks. And I think Kobe knows he’s not ranked 40th.

Does MJ still mix it up on the court with his Charlotte Hornets?

I do more verbal instruction as opposed to physically getting down there. I used to, but I feel like I’ve gotten away from that a little bit, and rightfully so … I take this business very seriously. Not that I didn’t take basketball, or me getting down there and teaching and educating the guys, I take that seriously as well, but I’m more verbal now than physical.

MJ on the Hornets’ expectations this year

There’s a lot of energy down here. The name change kind of got everything going, along with the playoffs, then some new acquisitions, so it’s an exciting prospect year for us. So let’s see what happens, let’s get it started, and hopefully, we can stay healthy. If we stay healthy, hopefully we can make some noise in the East.

MJ on Big Al Jefferson

The thing I like about Big Al is that he creates a demand for us. And once you create the demand, it’s up to us to build pieces around that demand to lessen some of the focus a little bit, and give yourself a better balance. Even with the focus that Big Al had last year, he was a 20 and 10 guy. He’s done it for years; you can count on that, as long as he stays healthy. If we can figure out the other components around him, it makes us a little more well-round basketball team. I love what he does. He has an old-school approach. It used to be that way – Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, all these guys, Patrick Ewing – they all played that type of game. And it’s kind of disappeared a bit, but Big Al brings it back.

MJ on Lance Stephenson

He could be a glue, a facilitator. If you get enough pieces around, he knows how to play all aspects of the game … I think Lance can connect all these dots, and with MKG, can set a defensive presence at that 2-3 position that gives us a good staple for who we are.

Listen to Smith’s complete interview with Jordan below, and tune into The Stephen A. Smith Show, weekdays at 1 pm ET on Mad Dog Sports Radio.

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