Jabari Smith Jr. still thinks he beats Michael Jordan in one-on-one games

Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. caused a stir during last year’s NBA All-Star Weekend when he said he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one.

Returning to the Rising Stars event this year, the former Auburn standout hasn’t bounced back from last year’s statement, but with the same caveat: He’ll be facing off against incumbent Michael Jordan, who turned 61 on Saturday birthday.

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“Michael Jordan, 61, couldn’t beat me one-on-one,” Smith said. “Never. …

“I’m going to crowd his space. I don’t think he’s going to score with me. I think he’s going to score, just out of respect for him. I’ve seen him still play. I’m sure he’s probably going to sneak in if I Very generous words.”

Jordan was selected to the NBA All-Star Game 14 times, won the NBA scoring title 10 times, won the NBA championship six times, and won the NBA MVP five times.

Smith was even more generous toward his father, who played 108 NBA games over five seasons.

“He can score on me right now in the paint,” Smith said of the 47-year-old Jabari Smith Sr. “He’s bigger than me, so he can score in the paint.”

Smith Jr. is in Indianapolis for NBA All-Star Weekend for the Panini Rising Stars event, which brings together the league’s top first- and second-year players in a Friday night championship game.

In his second season, Smith averaged 13.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 49 games.

After joining the Rockets as the third overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Smith averaged 12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 79 games as a rookie.

Houston entered the All-Star break with a 24-30 record and had more wins than the Rockets had in the 2022-23 season, when the Rockets were 22-60.

Houston’s record still keeps it out of the current playoff standings — 3.5 games behind the Golden State Warriors for the final playoff spot.

The Rockets return to the court on Thursday at 6 p.m. CST when Houston travels to take on the New Orleans Pelicans. Houston’s next 11 games will be against Western Conference teams, including eight against teams leading the Rockets in the standings, including the first six games.

Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter: @AMarkG1.

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