Every week on NBA.com, we'll unveil a new bracket with daily matchups to vote on. By the end of the week, we'll crown a champion and determine a winner based on fan voting. Up next for this week? The best one-on-one scorer in the post-Michael Jordan era.
Who is the best one-on-one scorer since Michael Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls in 1998?
We picked out 16 of the best one-on-one scorers of the post-MJ era and seeded them 1-16. Each day your votes will help us narrow the field until only one remains.
Here are the quarterfinal matchups (click each one to skip down to vote):
KD vs Steph | LeBron vs T-Mac | Harden vs Kyrie | Kobe vs Iverson
A reminder: this isn't just about who has the highest scoring average or the most 50-point games or even the best scorer in actual NBA games. We're talking strictly one-on-one scoring ability and nothing more.
The first round - as determined by fans voting on NBA.com - featured some blowouts, a few close calls and one major upset:
- 1 Kevin Durant def. 16 Dirk Nowitzki: 86% of vote
- 2 Kobe Bryant def. 15 DeMar DeRozan: 94% of vote
- 3 James Harden def. 14 Gilbert Arenas: 87% of vote
- 4 LeBron James def. 13 Paul Pierce: 84% of vote
- 12 Tracy McGrady def. 5 Carmelo Anthony: 64% of vote
- 6 Kyrie Irving def. 11 Derrick Rose: 65% of vote
- 7 Allen Iverson def. 10 Joe Johnson: 92% of vote
- 8 Stephen Curry def. 9 Kawhi Leonard: 59% of vote
To see the entire field listed in order along with eight of our biggest snubs, you can click here to skip down.
1 vs 8 - The Warriors
1 Kevin Durant vs 8 Stephen Curry
It's only fitting that the two former MVP teammates face off. This is about their overall ability in a vacuum, not about what happened during the three years in Golden State. But for what it's worth, Curry ranked higher than Durant in terms of isolation efficiency during the three years they played together. Here are their overall percentiles by season.
Durant was a scoring champ by the age of 21 and can literally do it all. Drives in either direction, unblockable pull-ups and a sweet stroke from downtown, Durant's size and fluid mechanics make for a complete scorer that's almost an impossible cover one-on-one.
Curry's a wizard with the ball on a yo-yo and even if the handle might not be as airtight as a few others, he needs almost zero space to get off any shot and is a creative inside finisher as well who knows how to play angles.
4 vs 12 - The do-everything bucket getters
4 LeBron James vs 12 Tracy McGrady
Perhaps the two most complete do-everything forwards of the last 20 years (in the case of James, all-time).
It's actually somewhat crazy that James only has one scoring title to his name when he ranks fourth in NBA history in career scoring average. Let's be honest... if LeBron wants to get to the rim, LeBron is getting to the rim. Sure, he can fall in love with jumpers, but he's also won games in big spots doing exactly that. While writing this, he just hit another step-back 3 on Festus Ezeli and five more fadeaways on the Toronto Raptors.
T-Mac gets slept on as a scorer - except here on NBA.com where he upset Carmelo Anthony handily in the first round! - in part because of how well he could do everything else. He won back-to-back scoring titles - during Kobe Bryant's and Allen Iverson's prime - and his 2002-03 season ranked fourth in NBA history at the time in usage percentage.
3 vs 6 - Lounging on an island
3 James Harden vs 6 Kyrie Irving
Two ball-dominant guards at their absolute best on an island going to work one-on-one.
If we're going off of pure numbers, Harden might be the number 1 overall seed. Nobody is better at getting to the line. Nobody is better at hitting step-back 3s. Nobody comes close to matching Harden's volume as a one-on-one bucket getter. While some of it is certainly explained by Harden's heliocentric role in Houston, right now it's Harden and then everyone else when it comes to isolation scoring in 2020.
Irving's handles might be the best we've ever seen as he keeps the ball on a rope-like few - if any - can match. Add in his ridiculous ability to finish in and around the rim over taller defenders with crazy amounts of english, and there's a decent chance that Irving is the most under-seeded player in this entire bracket.
2 vs 7 - Rehashing to the 2001 NBA Finals
2 Kobe Bryant vs 7 Allen Iverson
The most famous game of Allen Iverson's career is Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals when he erupted for 48 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to an upset over the Los Angeles Lakers, a game that Bryant scored just 15. Kobe ultimately got the last laugh, however, winning the next four games and also sweeping their only other postseason meeting in the 2008 1st Round.
Every trick that Jordan had, Kobe had. It's for that reason why Jordan himself declared that Kobe is the only player who could have beaten him one-on-one in his prime.
"I don't think I'd lose, other than to Kobe Bryant because he steals all of my moves."⠀- SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 22, 2020
-Michael Jordan on the players he'd love to play one-on-one (via @NBA2K ) pic.twitter.com/rB0zggYYpE
A four-time scoring champ despite standing a generously listed 6'0", Iverson never backed down from any challenge, no matter how big or small. Whether it's crossing up Michael Jordan as a rookie or taking it to Kobe and Shaq in Game 1 of the 2001 Finals, Iverson never hesitated at the slightest opportunity to go one-on-one.
- Tuesday: First Round
- Wednesday: Quarterfinals
- Thursday: Semifinals
- Friday: Championship
- Saturday: Winner announced
|1.||Kevin Durant||9.||Kawhi Leonard|
|2.||Kobe Bryant||10.||Joe Johnson|
|3.||James Harden||11.||Derrick Rose|
|4.||LeBron James||12.||Tracy McGrady|
|5.||Carmelo Anthony||13.||Paul Pierce|
|6.||Kyrie Irving||14.||Gilbert Arenas|
|7.||Allen Iverson||15.||DeMar DeRozan|
|8.||Stephen Curry||16.||Dirk Nowitzki|
Some of the hardest omissions:
- Wizards MJ. He could still get 50 and had a bag of tricks deeper than anybody.
- Chris Paul. One of the most efficient one-on-one scorers of the last decade with a killer pull-up jumper.
- Damian Lillard. Will casually drain 38-footers without a care in the world.
- Jamal Crawford. You can't have a conversation about best crossovers without mentioning his name.
- Brandon Roy. He had the complete toolkit before injuries robbed him of reaching his prime.
- Russell Westbrook. He settles for too many ill-advised shots to make the cut but his ability to overpower and explode is unmatched.
- Ray Allen. He was picked to play Jesus Shuttlesworth!
- Zion Williamson. Yeah, I said it. How do you stop him one-on-one? No seriously, I'll wait.
We'll admit... it's biased towards guards and perimeter players. But that's the way it goes!
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.