Pat Riley Says Magic Johnson Could Beat LeBron James One-on-One

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Miami Heat president Pat Riley and Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson may be management rivals now, but they have a special bond that endured the success and breakup of the “Showtime” Lakers.

On Monday night, the two living legends met at the Conga Room in Los Angeles for a discussion moderated by Cari Champion of ESPN and they reminisced on their dynasty of the 1980s. They also shared insights about champions in the current era and one three-time champion was brought up multiple times: LeBron James.

Specifically, Riley said that Johnson would beat James in a game of one-on-one, and his reasoning is interesting to say the least:

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“You wanna know why? He (Johnson) would never call a foul … and LeBron would respect him as an elder,” Riley said.

Johnson and Riley both praised James for his accomplishments profusely, but Riley emphasized while James’ seven consecutive trips to the NBA Finals was impressive, it was still a bit shy of Johnson’s nine trips in 12 seasons.

Then, Riley, the former Lakers head coach who had won four NBA championships in nine seasons with Johnson on the team, called the legendary point guard the “greatest player of all-time.”

Johnson is a contender for that lofty title, but the biggest takeaway from Monday night’s discussion came from a joke Riley told about possibly executing a trade with Johnson.

“It depends on who calls who,” Riley laughed. “If I called him first, then he ain’t gonna say anything. And if he calls me first, I’m going to say, ‘I know that I can make your team better.’ Let’s have a conversation. Let’s do this, forget about the cap ramifications and start talking about player personnel … and before you know it, I get a treasure of players.”

Riley and Johnson are larger-than-life figures who will battle to get free agents this summer, but their longstanding friendship was on full display at this event.
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Atreya is currently attending Purdue University and loves to watch and follow the NBA. He grew up in Alabama so he loves his Auburn Tigers just as much as he does the Miami Heat. He’s been a huge fan of the team since that magical 2006 title run and still believes Dwyane Wade can drop 50 on any given night. He’s extremely excited to be writing about the team he loves and keeping Heat Nation up to date on all things Heat. You can follow him on Twitter @atreya_verma.